LA Times Article on Chick Audit--Ammended--II

Generally the LA Times and Daily News give nothing but positive coverage to any city department. Boks has gotten away with ineffective management for years because some reporters have wanted to go along on a "hoarder" bust and others don't want to lose access to City Hall, and neither does their employer.

But they do attack when one public official attacks another. Then they go after the attacked person, like, finally they get a chance to actually be a reporter. Unfortunately, there is no investigative reporting, only a repeating of the allegations of the attacker and maybe the responses of the attacked. Of course there is often enough corruption involved, the attacked just promises not to do it again and reimburses the City.

In any event, in the article below the reporter makes a big deal about money lost to the department through failure to collect dog license fees or fines for not having gotten them. But, these fees do not go to the department, they go to the general fund. There was no loss to the department.

How could the department be losing $11,000,000 a year of it never gets the the money? Ed would have SWAT teams on every corner if the fees went directly to the department, but they don’t. Why does the reporter and apparently Chick say it is the department's loss?

Am I missing something?

I do understand that the Department gets about $2.7 million from the General Fund out of about $3+ million license fees received by the General Fund for licenses, but does that mean for every dollar collected, the Deaprtment gets 80%. Id so, Boks does have an incentive to do better.

The article was wrong about Animal Services spending $300,000 on two X-ray machines. They paid $229,000 on three and one was installed with two in storage. Apparently $7,000 each was lots because of failure of timely installation.

Yes this could be a screwup, but we don't know the deal of the contract. Often times, just-in-time capital purchases can result in much higher costs of equipment purchased due to inflation. For example, the total cost per machine, delivered two years ago may have been $76,000, but what is the current price of the machine? If it is $85,000 each, there was no loss to the City.

Just-in-time purchases often result in a failure to purchase equipment when it can become operational due to the need to back order. I don't see much loss to the City here. Besides, that capital expenditure may have been for one budget year, after which the balance may have reverted to some other fund.

We don't know the details of this deal. We'd have to hear Ed's side.

I find that Animal Services spent $228,000 on three X-ray machines a good thing. It shows he and the vets know what is important for the health of animals. Obviously it takes trained individuals and a room set up to do it, with access to treatment and surgery rooms.

If you don’t have the personnel or can’t get them due to budget cuts, why is that the department’s or Boks’ fault? Of course, if I asked the vets they may give me a story of gross incompetence at the highest level--or not; see below.

I think the real kicker here is the consulting fee given to an alleged ex-girlfriend without an RFP and the contract was never run by all the bureaucratic crackpots. Ed has a tendency to try to go around the power brokers which gets him into trouble, but he was caught on this one. If he spends $20,000 on an ex-girlfriend, what else is he capable of when it comes to other department monies?

The article:

Lax dog licensing in Los Angeles costs $2 million, Laura Chick says

An audit by the city controller says the Animal Services Department is struggling financially, in part because of not adequately collecting on its largest source of revenue.

By Francisco Vara-Orta, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 1:14 PM PDT, May 27, 2008

Lax dog licensing in Los Angeles costs $2 million, Laura Chick says
An audit by the city controller says the Animal Services Department is struggling financially, in part because of not adequately collecting on its largest source of revenue.

The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services is struggling because of not collecting on dog licenses -- the largest source of revenue for the agency -- resulting in $2 million in losses, city Controller Laura Chick said in an audit released today.

(Comment: it is not any source of revenue for the agency; those revenues go to the general fund.)

She also claimed that the department needs to tighten spending on equipment -- citing two X-ray machines that cost $150,000 each and are sitting in storage -- and contracts with outside firms without sufficient paperwork.

"The department is not taking advantage of what they're supposed to," Chick said at a press conference at her City Hall office this morning. "I'd say this audit is a strong reprimand to the department."

Chick announced the audit in January. It is the sixth she has conducted of the department this decade.

The general manager of the Department of Animal Services, Ed Boks, who took over in January 2006, publicly supported the audit, saying on his blog it would be a "learning experience."

"I'm a strong believer in the role of an audit to serve as a benchmark for determining past performance and serving as the basis for future strategic planning," Boks said in September 2006 as the council weighed the vote.

In January, Chick said that enough time had passed for the audit to be conducted on "one of the city's most important departments . . . integral to the well-being of our animal community and to the public's safety."

Chick said that it was important to know how Animal Services used the $2.8 million generated from licenses, permits and fees in 2006, and how a financial boost from an additional $800,000 from four new shelters this year might affect the department.

(Comment: What "financial boost form the four new shelters? Is the $800,000 going directly to the department, or to the City's General Fund?)

Chick said the $2 million in losses occurred between July 2005 and this March.

Today's report wasn't Chick's first audit of the Animal Services Department, though.

In 2004, saying that Animal Services was "stuck in a time warp," Chick asserted that the department could be losing nearly $11 million a year by not enforcing penalties against people who fail to license their animals.

(Comment: This is before Boks.)

At that time, the city's Animal Services Department had been besieged by animal rights activists who accused officials of needlessly killing tens of thousands of animals in city shelters.

In 2002, Chick released a series of audits on the department's adoption, licensing, and spaying and neutering programs, and the process for hearings on problem pets. She found that the department, cash-strapped and overflowing with animals, needed to proactively collect licensing fees, shorten the complaints hearing process, which could drag on for two years, and reform its spay and neuter program.

Today's audit focuses on the fiscal side of the department, but Chick plans to conduct a performance audit this summer on the department's spay-neuter program.

There are some comments below that present really important information. Please read.


Anonymous said...

Actually 200K was spent on 3 digital x-ray machines. One has been in constant use at South Central for a year now, and has saved the Department thousands. Another will be installed soon at the new Northeast Center. The third will be installed in a room at North Central after it is refurbished, plans are underway.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's fine that they spent 300K on X-ray machines two years ago. The problem is these very expensive machines are still in the box, and the warranty's run out. Also, LAAS staff paid $3200 for shipping insurance because the people the City authorizes to spends hundreds of thousands of our money are too stupid to know the shipper should have paid it.

Not to mention the "thousands of dollars of charges made on [City] purchasing cards [with] no requisite support information."

You've also got to love the notion that if you're late with renewing your dog's registration Chick says you should pay $500. With (according to her) anywhere from 400,000 to 800,000 dogs in L.A., of which only 123,000 are registered, I think it's a brilliant idea to come down hardest on the people who actually DO register their dogs, late or not.

Anonymous said...

To save money, the department transferred the Animal License Inspectors to other departments like DOT (parking enforcement) and DWP (meter readers) twenty years ago.
Since then the department has tried to contract out the license fee collection to small cmpanies and that results in featherbedding, goldbricking and outright embezzelment. (If you don't like city workers, you should love the scam of contracting that work out to lazy thieves who plunder the treasury and do minimal substandard work.) One company employed gansters-type thugs that extorted money from homeowners and kept it.
Certain councilmembers do not want their constituents bothered by license fee collectors.

Anonymous said...

I read the report. They bought three xray machines. The shelters aren't built yet so two have not been installed. They should have waited to buy the machines until they needed them. All you need to do to use an xray machine is put steel plating in the walls so the rays don't go through the building.

Increasing licensing helps the Department because then fewer dogs will be lost, fewer will be unneutered. Fewer unneutered animals means fewer babies which means less work six months into the future.

Anyone notice that Boks made these same mistakes in Arizona and New York? He had the exact same problems, yet the City hired him anyway.

Anonymous said...

Commenter #1, are you saying that Chick's lying? Because the report says "In November 2006, the Department purchased two X-ray machines costing $150,000 that are still in storage in unopened boxes. The parts and labor warranty expired in January 2008, and the Department will incur an additional $7,000 in installation charges when the machines are
eventually placed in service."

Is Laura Chick making that up or not? And (just asking) are you Ed Boks or not?

Ed Muzika said...

She never said $150,000 was spent on each; she said on both.

The reporter made an error. Read the full audit for yourself.

In fact, $228,000 was spent on three.

I guess $7,000 will need to be spent on each for installation because of early purchse, but as I said above, the machines, because of inflation and other costs might be much more expensive now.

That it is stoage and not yet used means nothing except that the buildings were not built in time. The problem with purchasing just as needed is that the price goes up, and the machine may not be available at the time you want it.

This would not be unlike buying a $24,000 car because it was on sale with $7,000 off now and put it in storage, unused, while you ran your current car into the ground.

Two years later that same $24,000 car may be $29,000 and the manufacture and dealer discounts may have vanished due to it being a sellers market.

Also, because it is a sellers market, you may have to wait 2-3 months for the exact model with options that you wanted, fater your old car broke down.

You have paid $17,000 for a car and storage (nothing if in your garage) two years ago that you'd have to pay $29,000 today, saving $12,000 and having it available the moment it is needed and not having to rent one for 3 months untill the one you wanted comes in.

I often do that with camera equipment. I buy it now when it is available at deep discount, maybe at a sale, and even though I may not have the lenses I want at the time, in anticipation of needing both for a photo-cruise a year from now.

That camera may sit for a year, but it does not lose functionality because it is unused. It may lose resale value, but a replacement with the newer model may cost 25% more.

Anonymous said...

Why do we bother with audits? Look at the last audits that Chick did on Animal Services. Same problems and nothing changed. There is no enforcement for audits. Big deal the Department fails. There are no consequences for their failure. They still get paid. Employees and the Director are never even reprimanded. No one loses their job or gets their salary cut. Failure is rewarded in our City. They fail, they get paid.

Anonymous said...

Ed, you see those quotation marks? That means it's a quote.

From page nine of the report.

Which I read.

The fact that the X-ray machines are in storage means that the warranty expired before the machine was ever even tested. The fact that this purchase occurred two years ago makes it surpassingly unlikely that LAAS will recover our mistakenly-paid $3200.

You certainly have the right to do whatever you want with your money, but Ed Boks and his staff do NOT have the right to do whatever they want with OUR money.

Could you please stop being gratuitously rude to your readers? Increasingly lately you put a topic out there, including your own viewpoint, then abuse commenters for responding to it. I admire this blog and am a daily reader but it's becoming less and less clear why you do it if you so clearly dislike those of us who see ourselves as Muzika -- and animal -- supporters.

Thank you.

Ed Muzika said...

Page 28 of the report:

"In November 2006, the Department purchased three x-ray machines at a total cost of $228,354 ($76,118 each), including sales tax, freight, and shipping insurance.

The machines were delivered in January 2007, but two are still in storage in un-opened

I repeat, what is the cost of those machines now? Yes, $3,200 are down the drain and it will cost an "estimated" $3,500 each to install.

As I explained above, depending on the circumtamces, the late installation may have saved far more money than it cost.

You cannot always tell when there is going to be a delayed opening, and you can't wait til the last moment to buy a needed item.

Delay in buying properties and material for the new and renovated shelters sucked millions out of the bond funds allocated for the new shelters.

Now people can complain that the delayed purchase cost the taxpayers millions wasted. You can't have it both ways.

I assure you, just in time purchases can cause many more problems than purchasing equipment before it is needed.

About gratuitous insults.

I insult those who send me the same email over, and over and over with only a few sentences different. I have posted many, many of these posts in the past so their oft repeated opinions are well noted and commented upon.

All of those I have "insulted" are naysayers, those who say no-kill will not work and Winograd is a monster. The others are of the "poor ferla cat variety, how much they suffer, how their guts are torn out and they are abandoned" with no other soultion than saying rescuers need to be more responsible.

These are the two classes of comments I have "insulted." Those who give me some new insight or opinion are welcome even if their opinions disagree with my own.

I do not think this is a major screw up vs. the $20,000 Pia contract thing.

I get a whole lot of nasty, atacking comments sent by drunks in the middle of the night. I don't post those either.

Anonymous said...

No Ed, you insult people who are actually agreeing with you. The other day you attacked a reader for continuing on with a supposition that you started that Tara Derby was suffering from depression.

Like I said, I like this blog because I feel like it shines a light where there is a lot of abuse. But when I say I'm a supporter, yet I've felt insulted by you, you dismiss my words and say you only insult people who attack you, or send repetitive emails, or long feral cats emails. But I'm not one of those readers. And I'm certainly not an opponent of no-kill.

It makes me pessimistic that you, or maybe anybody in the rescue community, are genuinely interested in ceating coalitions, (which is the ONLY way no-kill will ever succeed in City shelters). Just because you care about animals it doesn't mean you can treat people any way you want.

Ed Muzika said...

No Ed, you insult people who are actually agreeing with you. The other day you attacked a reader for continuing on with a supposition that you started that Tara Derby was suffering from depression.

I felt Tara was being unreasonably attacked and told what she ought to do. I feel for her if she is depressed, as I would be in her sutuation, but as I stated, this was merely suposition on my part and not fact. The commenter was attacking her personally assuming she was depressed and irresponsible. I also mentioned the "if" part.

I've felt insulted by you, you dismiss my words and say you only insult people who attack you, or send repetitive emails, or long feral cats emails.

Which one are you? When did I insult you? Are you talking about the Tara comment?

In any event, I am sorry if you felt offended. Please feel free to submit.