SAN PEDRO (CBSLA.com) — The Port of Los Angeles has been spending more than $1 million of public money on renovating a yacht, according to CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein.
In Feb. 2012, the port announced plans to modernize the Angelena II, a 73-foot yacht, with a new hybrid system that was supposed to be completed by last spring.
The port installed 50 batteries, along with other high-tech gear, to make the yacht all-electric.
So far, the technology hasn’t been given approval by the Coast Guard, so the Angelena sits while the costs add up.
The original estimate for renovations was $700,000.
Goldstein, however, reported that the actual cost is more than $1 million and counting. He said more than $435,000 comes from the port, while the rest—$571,681—is federal taxpayer stimulus money that’s supposed to be used to create jobs.
Asked how many jobs were created for the yacht, Cynthia Ruiz of the Port of L.A. said, “I’ll be more than happy to get back to you.”
While Ruiz never answered that specific question, she did defend the amount of money being allocated for the yacht.
“We stand by our need to have a tour boat to show our stakeholders the port,” she said.
Goldstein said the stakeholders are companies that use the port, which is a city agency.
The port uses the yacht, which it has owned since 1988, on two-hour, free public relations tours of the harbor for just about any group.
Goldstein obtained ship logs from previous years, which showed the names of thousands of people who have been on-board. Some do business with the port, but many are just there for a free ride.
When Goldstein first reported on the Angelena II, Congressman Darrell Issa, R-San Diego, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, shot off a letter to the port and launched an investigation.
Ultimately, he found that no laws were broken, but he said he doesn’t agree with how the taxpayer money is being spent.
“This was an awful use of taxpayers’ money from the get-go. This yacht was simply going to give tours and demonstrate that it could be done with an electric motor, when in fact, that’s not really what the Port of Los Angeles is selling,” said Issa.
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he’d look into how the Angelena is being used.
“I’m going to be comprehensibly reviewing whether or not it’s being used for city business or for junkets, whether it’s being used for serious sales that need to happen at a port and whether it’s being used as a recreational vehicle,” he said.