Last week, the Metro Board of Directors finally took action on its repeatedly-extended, repeatedly-about-to-expire contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
Metro approved a $44.44 million 6-month extension of the $83 million annual contract covering policing for its entire bus and rail transportation networks. This is the eleventh modification of the contract; most of those modifications have been to extend the current contract, which has been in place since 2009.
The extension kicks the ultimate contract decision down the road to a new set of Metro directors, as supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina will be replaced by Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, respectively. There will also be a newly-elected L.A. County Sheriff: former Long Beach police chief Jim McDonnell.
The extension also, for better or for worse, puts some time between contract deliberations and the recent LASD audit. Ostensibly, it gives the LASD six months to fix problems identified by the audit, or perhaps enough time for any heat generated by the audit’s criticism to dissipate.
In April 2014, Metro received the results of its audit of LASD policing work. Both Metro and LASD’s Transit Services Bureau (TSB) wrote official responses to the audit; the agency responses were included as attachments in a June 2014 final report. Though a 4-page board report summarizing the roughly 200-page LASD audit document was soon made available, it took some persistence to obtain the actual public document. Transit advocate Dana Gabbard obtained and posted the audit here. Gabbard also penned this article previewing Metro’s September 4 board meeting to receive and file the audit.
At that September meeting, Metro’s Inspector General staff asserted that the audit, not yet posted to Metro’s website, was publicly available, as anyone could file a public records request to obtain it. The Metro board differed, directing staff to post the full public document online. After that meeting, Metro posted a revised version [PDF].
Though there was media coverage at the time, much of it more-or-less summarized the summaries, rarely going into detail regarding issues raised. Largely missing was LASD TSB’s responses on items where they differed with auditors. Press included:
- The L.A. Register stated, “Auditors made 50 recommendations to correct or improve deficiencies in nearly every performance area, including staffing, billing, strategic planning, communications, oversight, and achievement of goals.”
- In July, the L.A. Times ran highlights of audit findings regarding crime statistics, fare evasion, and staffing issues.
- After the September Board meeting, the Times ran a follow-up article stating, “Their blistering [LASD Audit] report found a host of management and safety problems over the last five years of contracted service” and that “Sheriff’s Department officials […] are working to correct the issues raised in the audit.”
- July coverage at County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s website outlined that the audit “faulted the Sheriff on a number of fronts, including lack of a community-policing plan for the nation’s third-largest bus and rail system, perennial staff vacancies, tardy responses to citizen complaints, and inadequate records to support its billings” but assured readers that “reforms already are underway.”
Metro staff reporting on the audit have been similarly opaque about audit responses. Here is a chart showing how the agency is complying with audit recommendations:
The brief September staff report shows various percentages of work completed and in progress, with no supporting documentation indicating which audit items have been completed and which remain.
So, what’s in that audit? Read more…