LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Los Angeles County supervisor took aim at an agency responsible for administering more than $6 billion in healthcare funding for low-income residents, charging that much of the nearly half-million dollars the agency spent on meals and catering was unnecessary.
L.A. Care, which manages health care plans for about 1.7 million low-income residents, spent $476,000 on meals and catering for work-related meetings, travel and training from October 2013 to January 2015, according to a county audit.
That sum included $10,900 for 115 people to attend a retirement party for the agency’s then-CEO with valet parking and an open bar and another eight farewell lunches for that retiring executive.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who joined the L.A. Care board this year as the Board of Supervisors’ representative, said 2013 news reports that the agency spent lavishly on liquor and food were met with promises of reform.
“Do your findings say that the wasteful practices continued?” Antonovich asked Auditor-Controller John Naimo.
“There was no evidence that any reforms were made,” Naimo told the board. L.A. Care Board Chairman Thomas Horowitz issued a statement that pointed to the audit’s more positive findings.
“The report by the county auditor-controller found that L.A. Care is a well-run and fiscally responsible organization,” Horowitz said. “The report also mentioned that L.A. Care’s overall financial performance and administrative costs are favorable when compared with similar plans in California.”
The spending was within the agency’s policy guidelines, but Naimo’s report suggested that L.A. Care establish “more detailed guidelines” on discretionary spending given its “high visibility within the community” and rethink its policy allowing alcohol at agency events.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she was “torn” about the results, pointing to the big drop in spending from 2013 to 2014, but acknowledging that even small expenditures can add up and optics matter.
“If I want to throw a birthday party for myself, I pay for it,” Kuehl said.
She said she was confident that the L.A. Care board had “gotten the message.”
Horowitz said his board was “committed to implementing best practices for public agencies.”
Antonovich said he expected some representatives to the L.A. Care board might be replaced in the wake of the audit.