Reporting David Goldstein
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — While the City of L.A. is laying off workers and cutting back services, we uncovered one city agency spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a party. And we obtained the video to prove it.
It was like a Hollywood premiere party, complete with a red carpet and paid with public money.
Port of L.A. Executive Director Geraldine Knatz was the host.
If the attendees did not look like stars, they might have felt like them. We found thousands of dollars spent for dancers, wine to toast the party, and even miniature Oscars.
“I’m appalled,” said a fisherman, who has been at the port for 18 years and thinks some of the money should have been used for improvements in the harbor — not partying.
“That’s one hell of a party. Why weren’t we invited? We paid for it,” he said.
The Port of L.A. is the busiest port in North America and generates millions of dollars each year. But like every city agency, money is tight.
Workers have even had to give back some of their scheduled raises this year. But that did not stop officials from throwing that lavish party.
The party was held in Busan, South Korea earlier this year for 450 people.
It came during the International Association of Ports and Harbors convention. The event was called “L.A. Night” to promote the convention coming to L.A. in 2013.
We obtained the videotape from the port through the California Public Records Act, along with dozens of pages of receipts revealing a lot more.
It apparently was not enough for port officials to just show clips of Hollywood musicals. The port hired dancers dressed in character — and they were not local. Six dancers and an assistant were flown in from Los Angeles.
The cost: $18,500 just for travel and hotel, $22,500 for the performance — adding up to a total of $41,000.
But for that money they were at least around the next day to pose with some of the guests.
What’s a party without wine? Almost $12,000 was spent for 192 bottles, an average of just over $61 a bottle.
And of course there were Oscars. The miniatures cost more than $3,800!
The total cost for the party was $192,000, but that does not include airfare.
Knatz flew business class. Her round-trip ticket cost the port more than $13,000, even though she made $307,000 last year. That is more than the mayor and more than the governor.
The port is quick to point out that they do not take any taxpayer money from the city, instead generating their own income. But they did accept $23.5 million in federal taxpayer subsidized stimulus money over the past few years.
“How do you justify spending almost $200,000 on a party,” I asked?
“It was a professional promotional event,” Knatz responded, saying we got it all wrong.
“It was not a party. It was a professional promotional event,” she said.
“It was a party,” I asked?
“It was a professional promotional event,” she responded.
It was already a done deal that the convention will be coming to L.A. in 2013 before the party or promotional event or whatever you call it. But Knatz said it was all worth it because she is hoping the convention will generate $4 million in revenue.
“We wanted to give them a little bit of flavor of Los Angeles. It had a Hollywood theme,” she said.
The expenditures were approved by the Board of Harbor Commissioners.
But L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine wants to know why.
“It’s absurd, absolutely absurd. Another example of frivolous waste in city government,” Zine said.
It is money residents around the port say should be used to better serve the people, not the partyers.