LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — While the city of Los Angeles is looking into raising taxes in order to fix potholes, CBS2’s hidden cameras captured what repairs were really being made on the streets.
Peter Genovese knows about potholes firsthand.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was a flat tire immediately,” he said.
Last February, Genovese’s tires were ripped after he hit a pothole, which he estimated to be two or three feet long and a few inches deep, on Plummer Street in Northridge.
“I was a little bit mad at myself for not seeing it at the time, but also mad that there was a pothole that big in the street,” he said.
The pothole on Plummer Street was eventually repaired, presumably by a repair crew.
The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services said there is only enough money in the budget for 12 crews to cover the entire city.
CBS2 investigative reporter David Goldstein, however, said some crews didn’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to fix the streets.
A camera captured a truck leave a yard in South Los Angeles. The crew’s only assignment that day was to fix an uneven sidewalk in the Melrose district, where someone tripped and fell.
Instead of heading directly to the job site, two male workers stopped for breakfast at Nick’s Cafe in downtown Los Angeles.
The men left 40 minutes later. They arrived at the job site three hours after their shift began.
They worked for 30 minutes before one of the men went home sick.
In another instance, one of the same workers got into a city truck after stopping for breakfast again.
Goldstein then followed the workers around town, where they worked, stopped for lunch, and then worked some more.
The men only filled potholes for about two hours and 20 minutes of their eight-hour day.
A week later, Goldstein ran into Kelly Miller, one of the workers.
Asked why he went to breakfast while people are driving over potholes, Miller remained mum.
Miller then went into his truck, where he made a call on his radio before coming back out.
“I’ve just been advised that I can’t talk to you. There’s a media, there’s a media procedure, and they just told me I can’t talk to you, so,” Miller said.
Goldstein obtained Miller’s worksheets for both days. It never mentioned stopping to eat before starting to work.
The video of Miller was shown to Nazario Sauceda, the head of the Bureau of Street Services, who couldn’t say if going to breakfast on taxpayer money before fixing a pothole was a violation of policy.
Asked if workers are supposed to note when they take a meal break on their worksheet, Sauceda said, “Typically, yes, they do that.”
He added, “I really need to check what happened at that location. I really need to perform an investigation, and then at that time, I will let you know if indeed they were in violation of policy or procedures.”
Goldstein followed another repair crew who was supposed to fill potholes in West Los Angeles.
While Goldstein said they did work to fix the street, they only worked for two hours of their eight-hour shift.
Goldstein said he saw them at the yard at 12:50 p.m. and saw them leaving in their personal cars before 2 p.m.
On the workers’ daily worksheet, however, the crews claimed they began repairs at 10:25 a.m., they were at their last location at 1:05 p.m., and they arrived back at the yard at 2:30 p.m.
Asked if the worksheets were supposed to be fairly accurate, Sauceda said, “They are supposed to be extremely accurate, so if they are not accurate as per your comments, we will take the necessary actions.”
Goldstein also saw some crews sitting and reading the newspaper or taking the long way to and from their locations.
Goldstein said his investigation comes at a time when Mayor Eric Garcetti is pushing for street repairs. The city council is also contemplating a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot to fix a crumbling infrastructure.
Garcetti said that he will be looking into what Goldstein uncovered.
“City time should be for city business and I’ve asked the department to investigate this,” he said.
Political watchdog Jack Humphreville now calls the proposed tax a recipe for disaster.
“If they can’t figure out how to manage filling potholes, how the hell are they gonna figure out how to fix 40 percent of our streets?” he said.