Mayor Shakes Up City Agency, Installs Deputy

By Keith Esparros
|  Tuesday, May 22, 2012  |  Updated 2:13 PM PDT
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Jaime de la Vega is taking over as general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

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Jaime de la Vega is taking over as general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

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A major shakeup at the top of the city's Department of Transportation has pushed out the acting director of the agency just weeks after an NBC LA investigation exposed a pattern of unchecked misconduct among parking officers.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa nominated Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega to take over as General Manager of LADOT, a job held on an interim basis by Amir Sedadi, who was expected to win confirmation to the post later this month.

De la Vega said the fact the mayor appointed an outsider to lead LADOT brings with it a clear message. 

"The mayor is concerned about the operation of the department and that he expects change there," said de la Vega.

De la Vega "has the leadership, management ability and dedication to ... successfully lead the Department of Transportation," the mayor said in a statement.

Reaction to the mayor's nomination was swift from both inside and outside the department. 

"This is a great thing," a source inside LADOT told NBC LA. "This shows the city is serious about cleaning up parking enforcement and the entire Department of Transportation."

City Controller Wendy Greuel concurred. She hopes de la Vega "will bring some stability to the department" and "will tackle some of the serious problems my audits and recent (NBC LA) investigations have uncovered," she said.

Misconduct within LADOT reported by NBC LA included two officers who allegedly took part in the production of a pornographic movie while on duty. Those officers were placed on administrative leave after the story broke.  

NBC LA also uncovered cases where officers had been convicted of soliciting prostitutes, convicted of shoplifting, and under investigation for assaulting a motorist.

In each case, sources said none of the officers ever faced any significant disciplinary action. All the officers remained on the job.

"We really have to look at the supervision and the discipline there," de la Vega said. "That's what the recent (NBC LA) stories have pointed to, a breakdown in supervision and discipline."

The move also comes after an audit of the department by Greuel highlighted questionable practices within parking enforcement, including the existence of a so-called Gold Card Desk, where city officials could get fast action on the parking tickets of hand-picked constituents. Often, that action resulted in dismissals, many without any justification.

The mayor also added some teeth to city investigations into parking enforcement, assigning LAPD Commander Michael C. Williams to "oversee the reformation of the parking enforcement division."

"I assure you that we"re going to put systems in place to hold everybody accountable, up and down the chain of command," Williams told NBC LA.

Friday is the last day on the job for Jimmy Price, cheif of parking enforcement within the department. He quietly announced his retirement last week after the NBC LA investigations.

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