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LA Housing Commissioners Ordered To Pay Back Money

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — At the end of February David Goldstein’s investigation uncovered Housing Commissioners who were using taxpayers money for lavish spending — $158,000 over the past two years on travel and fine dining.

The commissioners are appointed by the mayor and have a billion dollar budget to oversee public housing for some of LA’s neediest families.

Since Goldstein’s story aired, The Housing Authority did an investigation — and found more than $12,500 was spent on unnecessary trips and double dipping. They uncovered another $12,700 in unsubstantiated expenses.  Commissioner Margarita Garr is being asked to refund more than $5,500, after it was discovered that she attended two conferences at swanky Ritz Carlton Hotels in Laguna and South Miami Beach, charging both to the Housing Authority credit card.  The investigation found the conferences didn’t really apply to redevelopment of public housing.

Last month, Garr told Goldstein if she owed any money, she would pay it back,  “I’d be more than happy to reimburse if there any monies I owe.”

Now Garr won’t back it up.

“You told me in the interview previously you’d be happy to reimburse any money. Are you going to reimburse the $5,500?,” Goldstein asked in his latest interview. She didn’t answer.

Commission Chairwoman Beatriz Stotzer also attended the Laguna Conference and was asked to pay back more than $2,300.

Commissioner Maria Del Angel was hit with a $3200 bill for unproved travel and double dipping. But she claims it was approved, “When I was looking at it I don’t think I owe the $3200. I’ll look into it and if I have to pay it I have to pay it”

Goldstein’s investigation has already caught the attention of city officials.  The Mayor said he would look into the travel. And now City Controller Wendy Gruel says she wants to conduct an audit.  The Housing Authority President agreed to have the controller look into it.  But while commissioners have been found to have mis-spent public money—according to the housing authority investigation, they have the right to overturn the president’s decision.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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