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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Report raises questions about Echo Park council spending

Echo Park neighborhood council meeting

Echo Park neighborhood council meeting under former President Jose Sigala.

A preliminary financial review conducted by the Echo Park neighborhood council has found signs of  “improper allocation of funds,”  poor record keeping and other “irregularities”  under  the watch of previous council president Jose Sigala.  The review, conducted by a committee of current board members, was released at a meeting  Tuesday night as the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood  Council struggles to regain access to its funds, which were frozen by the city last fall after it failed provide the necessary documents to show how funds were approved and spent.

The report, which was conducted under newly elected council President Ari Bessendorf,  cites a long list of problems, from missing meeting minutes and original receipts to questions about a transfer of money to a fund controlled by the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti.  “The board in the past was not acting within the guidelines of the [neighborhood council] ordinance,” said Jay Handal, who has been assigned to mentor the Echo Park council by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, the city agency that oversees neighborhood councils.

Lisa-Baca Sigala, a former council member and wife of former council President Jose Sigala, who is running in the Council District 13 election,  disputed the findings of the report. “What was presented by Ari Bessendorf tonight is HIS personal “witch hunt” against Jose Sigala that is based on innuendo using terms like “irregularities” without input or approval” of the members of the committee that worked on the financial review, she said in an email.  “There are no missing GEPENC funds or expenditures or FUNDING IRREGULARITIES.”

Bessendorf, who won last’s fall election by only two votes,  said the release of the review, which is referred to officially as a “reconciliation report,”  was “a necessary step to continue moving forward in the right direction.  There will a two week public comment period once the documents are available on CD.”

The Echo Park council will gather that public comment  before it issues a final report to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for further review. It’s then up to the department to examine the review and decide if any of the issues are significant enough to be referred to the City Attorney, according to Handal.

Meanwhile, it’s note clear when Echo Park council’s funds will be unfrozen. Many community groups and institutions are awaiting funds that had been approved but remain tangled up in the financial review.   It might take 30 to 60 days for the funds to be released back to the council once the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment receives the final version of the review, Handal said.



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44 comments

  1. I’m sorry is this supposed to be something the neighborhood didn’t already know? what color is they sky?

    this just in the sky changes color when the sun sets…get real people!

  2. You report Ms. Baca-Sigala as saying there were no funding irregularities during Mr. Sigala’s time as head of the neighborhood council and that he is the victim of a “witch hunt” by the new president Mr. Bessendorf.

    It would be helpful then to know why in Ms. Sigala’s view the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment froze the neighborhood council’s funds based on questions that arose during the time her husband was president of the council. Is it her view that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is somehow under the control of Mr. Bessendorf? Is it?

  3. I think it’s interesting (and maybe telling?) how immediately defensive and ALL CAPS-y Ms. Baca-Sigala’s response was.

    • Well, I don’t know anything about who is right or wrong here. But frankly, that a simple statement to defend is presented to defend against accusations, and that some capital letters are included, presents no grounds for suspicion at all. Gee. Consider having some facts to bring on suspicion, not just capital letters! I find that fact of your comment to raise suspicion of bias and pre-judgement regardless of facts.

      • request to see the receipts from the City Credit card that then got resubmitted by Mr. Sigala, for more reimbursement….that should do it!

        E

  4. go ari! clean house!

  5. I would like to know on Who was running DONE and the City Council When there funds were transfer? Mr Garcetti was president , Kim was still GM and City Attorney was in place. How with the vote of a whole board this becomes Jose Sigalas issue.
    What about the Treasurer ,who lost ,never turned in or specify that He did not know what todo with the JOB He ran for and won due to his been on Jose’s slate and is now VP. makes his attendace to all meetings and on time which He did not due to even his own commmittie meetings. Tender

  6. I am a member of the GEPENC Ad Hoc reconciliation Committee and did not come across any irregularities or missing funds in my compiling of the Reconciliation forms. Chair Ari Bessendorf wrote the Draft Reconciliation Report that he presented last night to the Board alone without input from the committee. It is factually incorrect by he having incomplete information but yet available at D13 or LA City Council. Ari created this scandal not the Ad Hoc Committee. Further, The report that Ari created can not be submitted to DONE because it’s not following DONE’s Guidelines nor format. And it will not be submitted without the committee’s approval. An irregularity doesn’t necessarily make something to be unethical. Presently, in our council we have many procedural irregularities but it doesn’t mean we are maliciously targeting to set meetings giving short notices or changing regular meetings to special meetings because we couldn’t post the Agenda in a timely manner due to not having created an Agenda on time, or the Board not yet approving the minute -taker even though she’s provide service at various meetings, etc. I could go on and on but I’ll stop here.
    I hope this serves to ease your anxiety. I invite you to join a Neighborhood Council in your area with good will.
    Connie Acosta, V.P. Ad Hoc Budget Committee

    • I “could go on and on” as well. Ms. Acosta was first elected as a district representative of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council in the spring of 2010, with her term ending in 2012. She was re-elected for a second term in October 2012. I would consider Ms. Acosta’s attendance record during her first term dismal at best. If she had been present during those years, she would have informed.
      The fact that Ms. Acosta did not raise any issues with President Bessendorf’s draft report (presented Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013) makes me question her motive(s).
      As a stakeholder of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, I, too, invite other stakeholders to attend the next meeting (refer to http://www.gepenc.org for further information.) And I hope Representative Acosta will be in attendance as well.

      Cindy Ortiz

  7. This is great. So happy to see the new neighborhood council getting to the bottom of this madness.

  8. I Like Good Microbrew and Grill -and Les Taix Restaurant no matter which candidate they contributed money to in CD 13! Go to the website below and click on Mitch O’Farrel and you’ll find that Ari Bassendorf, Chair of Neighborhood Council including the commentators on this blog contributed funds and/or are strongly campaigning for Mitch O’Farrel.
    What kind of world do we live in?

    http://www.theeastsiderla.com/2012/08/city-council-candidates-count-up-contributions/

  9. Seriously Paul Ryan’s PAC! check your PAC facts – Virginia ain’t Califas…different PAC hahaha former RepVP playing in EP CD 13 – RIGHT!

    Hey la loca Edina…I DID look at the former CD 13 Garcetti District Director MITCH O FARRELL’s report…surprise O’Farrell and Sigala are two peas in the SAME campaign pod.

    http://ethics.lacity.org/disclosure/campaign/browse/public_rpt_sa.cfm?showall=yes&doc_id=7111

    Horale Bob – “The new NC getting to the bottom of WHAT?” SOS! check it out…

    New GEPENC Prez Ari Bessendorf is listed with past and present GEPENC board members on Mitch O Farrell’s campaign reports including other EP champions like:

    Liza Berkovici – She destroyed Logan K-8 with her ballet charter (ask Tad Yenawine, Logan parent prez & current GEPENC member how his kid likes going to an over crowded school). Bet Liza’s money for CindyO’s Xmas parade ain’t too bad either.

    David Bermudez – runs a city contract at Central City Action (ask Highland Park how much they like him in the Avenues) and his boss Mama Hayashi is on Mitch’s website.

    highlandpark-ca.patch.com/…/central-city-defends-graffiti-response-t…
    Jul 20, 2012 – “We don’t think the neighborhood is underserved,” said David Bermudez, head of the Central City Action Committee, to the Historic Highland

    Brian Folb – Paramout Construction and Development (and other city developers listed) and our very own local EP business hero…

    EP Chamber Prez Mitch (show me the city’s Echo Park BID money) Frank – yeah the Spaceland guy who parties at the Echo leaving trash, empty vodka-beer bottles and used condoms all over the neighborhood for others to pick up…

    I like fish tacos at Senor Fish… beats deep dish carbo pizza at Masa any day – glad they’re in EP – nice windows …Chale

  10. Pocha, Pocha, Pocha:
    Sounds to me as if your CD 13 candidate isn’t doing too well. I’m sure there’s more to come……

  11. The unfortunate side of the Draft Report on the GEPENC Purchase Card for
    2010-2012 Board period has come too late for any reconing. DONE( Dept. of
    Neighborhood Empowerment) made sure that its acting the General Manager got appointed on January 18, 2013 so that the findings on DONE’s incompetence
    would not mar the occassion. DONE does not provide outgoing and incoming
    Boards and communities with an Annual Report or with a periodic reminder when Fiscal reporting by an NC goes AWOL. DONE simply waits till a year and a half goes by…this is not a Which-Hunt but a deliberate case of benign neglect by DONE that needs to be investigated as GEPENC is not the sole NC with such a record. How many other NCs are there is a question that City Hall, the Chief Administrative Officer, Controller and City Attorney need to ask.
    Jay Handal, Chair of the NC Budget Committee, needs to explain how a
    high ranking member(GEPENC President 2010-2012) of his NC Budget Committee was allowed to serve and advise the Mayor under the circumstances revealed by the Jan. 22, 2013 GEPENC Draft Fiscal Report and
    why the current Board was faced with the daunting task of accumulating evidence that it has no knowledge of, especially when it was the responsibility of DONE’s accounting division to monitor expenditure and
    administrate City fiscal compliance requirements.
    Furthermore, under the Charter document related to NCs, it clearly articulates
    that a neighborhood council can be decertified for fiscal non compliance.
    GEPENC got its funds frozen in January 2010 and again in August of 2012.
    Was anything done to remedy a repeat performance? Why was Decertification not applied then and again?
    But given the lax and dysfunctional attitude at DONE, is it any wonder that NCs
    fail, communities poorly served, and civic engagement an exclusive territory
    for only the elite within the NC?

  12. Correction:

    Apologies. Jay Handal is Chair of the NC Budget Advocates Committee.

    GEPENC now has two Budget Committees: a GEPENC Budget Ad Hoc Committee
    and a GEPENC Standing Budget Committee with four out of five members (or
    maybe now 5 if the current Treasurer appointed the (2010-2012) former
    Treasurer. Mentoring traditions and ties run deep within the NC system.
    25% of the former Board now serve on the full Board having been reelected.

  13. The duration of Mr. Handal’s appointment as mentor by DONE is unclear and
    complicates matter. What is clear is that at full Board meetings, regardless of meeting protocol, he is allowed to interupt with unlimited time given to advise the Board. Stakeholders, who are members of the community, are not given a similar opportunity and have to await their turn during the Public Comment period . Thus far neither Handal nor DONE has said a word
    related to the current GEPENC Budget Committee which is served by two former Treasurers(one from the 2008-2010 period and another from the 2010-2012 period). A third member of the five member committee served as member on the past Board.As such, three out of five members served during periods which resulted in funds that were frozen by DONE. The news of dysfunction and power plays were articulated and relayed to all levels of government but went unheeded . DONE claims it is strapped for staff but at its peak with far fewer
    NCs to manage DONE did nothing to address concerns and cannot because the current leadership structure was responsible for many problematic situations in the conduct of business. NCs have merely exploited and capitalized on the situation despite knowing better.
    The claim NCs make each year and with each new election is that it moves forward and the past is past. The past is not over and the community has the right to review fiscal records frequently with adequate time given and to demand that communities not be abandoned to lawless and irresponsible NCs as Echo Park was and may, given DONE’s lax oversight and the inadequate supervision of DONE’s operations and purpose.

  14. Ari, Cp007, CindyO, Lalala, Handal, et al:
    Lets stop politics as usual and for once tell the truth as it is: These are the facts, real facts , so eastsiderla, please print the real truth and not inventions…There are no improper allocations ? lets recap the real and truthfull facts.
    Done froze the gepenc funds due to the fact, that timely documents where not turned
    in on time, please refer to Dones notes and website on funding for all NCs. There is no mention of improper “allocations”, The past treasurer, Mr. Gustavo Moreno, now the V ice President, was responsabile for turning in all receipts that were given to him by the board, these were supossed to be compiled by him so as to reconcile the quartely reports, That he did not do…cause he was mad at the chair and board for giving the authority to use the Pcard to the president by the past board…see the minutes Mr. Ari, some minutes are missing cause there were no quorum to hold the meeting….Mr. Moreno took advantage of that….Neither Mr. Moreno or the Chair, expended monies without the board authorization…. the bad blood between Mr. Moreno and the Chair came as personal feuding on issues that finally forced Done to freeze the funds for not receiving the timely reports….refer to Done, ask the Questions, dont be railroaded by politicians…Jay Handal as to justify his salary, or else….he is far away from the knowledge of the internal feuding…..lack of Quorum etc, Please stop, the intimidation, false statements and libelious statements and refer to Done notes, and please do not blame Done for the action of personal agendas, dirty politics, and to those who want to benefit from the ignorance of some, People, their are guidelines to funding, again refer to Done on its financial website and accounting for NCs, those naysayers and old witches hunters, paperchasers, must have your facts right, libel and condemnation of a body is not right until you can really take your facts to court, Mr. Moreno is negligent as a treasurer, now vice president , Ari, watch out, hope he does not get piss off at you and try some more of the crappola, this guy is very revengefull and no one is more responsable to Done than him as the past treasurer, now if there was irregularities he and the chair are responsable for the documentation, if Done can prove that they were “improper allocations” then they should come out and prove their case…then may the Mia Culpa fall on those who are to blame, may peace and love reigns and real understanding of the issues and not “politics as usual ” and eastsiderla please investigate and set facts to the truth of your ability as a real journalist and not of a “pendejo del barrio ” dont let them use your medium to distort and twist the real facts…..there is an election coming up, so they will try to use you for personal gains…..and that is the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me god……more to come…….real issues and truth…….please lets not divide the neighborhood, united we stand, divided we fall, e pluribus unum……pax in nostrum…

    • Learn to use punctuation, learn to spell and learn to make paragraphs. Maybe then I will bother to read this load of crap.

      • There are a series of “parties” next week and “Ikare & Steakholder” were not invited. One must play “nice” to receive an invtation.

  15. Many of you have missed the point of all this…
    As President of the Council this all falls on the Sigala’s shoulders!
    The President sets the tone of the Council…
    Yes, the Treasurer did not sign-off on the P-Card Holder’s documentation nor did he sign-off on the CIO’s supporting documentation because there were irregularities… the Funds were frozen because there were irregularities… we lost the GEPENC Office space (that took years to negotiate and secure) because there were irregularities… DONE and the City Attorney will make a determination to prosecute not the new GEPENC Board; GEPENC is an Advisory Board to City Council that should be taking positions on issues that will be affecting Stakeholders so City Hall will be more responsive to local needs.

    As former Vice President of GEPENC, 2008-2010 and former D5 Rep, 2010-2012 this makes us all look bad in GEPENC but more then anything this makes City Council and Staff look incompetent for not seeing through the irregularities.

    This is not a “Witch Hunt” it is open government in action. In fact this is real “Leadership in Action” Sigala left a swath of irregularities and questionable actions since his campaign for CD13 started… so if this is how he left GEPENC…
    Well you figure it out.

    I only know that one of the new D5 Reps that Sigala handpicked on his slate he formed, “Team HiFi5; the Team that Delivers” has delivered a serious Federal indictment before the second GEPENC meeting, her case has been continued to August 13, 2013.

    “Show me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” I have worked with Sigala in the past, I know Mr. Sigala, and I can not endorse him for CD13 or any future position of public trust!

    It will be interesting to see who else will be pulled down because all these irregularities… let the chips fall where they may.

    The new GEPENC Board must now pickup the pieces and move forward to be a more transparent Council; GEPENC needs your support and your participation.
    Please folks don’t through the baby out with the bathwater; if you are outraged go express yourself at the next GEPENC meeting in Public Comment; you have 2 minutes… Empower yourself, Empower GEPENC… this only works if the good people stay involved and stay vigilant.

    • Well done, Mr. Rockello. Let’s hope that DONE or the city attorney’s office will not sweep these “irregularities” under the rug.

    • Mr. Rockello, don’t trow stones with your glass ceiling, you are not the guy in white linen, you have a terrible background, your candidate that you are backing, hummmmmm, you tried to control the elections in gepenc, do you remember your candidates? they all …….?

      You also manipulated gepenc, as a past vice chair, You just dont like Mr. Sigala cause he did not want to play your dirty games…..will you post your record online ? you are in Rampart Village ? or Echo Park, wich one will you like to control ? you are the the Chair for Rampart NC ? take care of bussines over there,

      The Bylaws of Gepenc, clearly state the responsability of the treasurer, did he do his job ? no……..he played politics just like you, stop the bs, and tell the community who you are……..and what is the final outcome that you are involved in, dont destroy Gepenc cause of paper Juggling tricks, there is no missing monies, only reconciliation of the quartely reports, Mr. Moreno should take responsability of his post, he purposely misplaced paper work and receipt for his own advantage and politics, thats why he got reelected, now as the vice chair, you are working with another candidate for cd 13, so it is in your interest to smear Mr. Sigala’s records….tell who you are backing in cd 13, you are nothing else but a opportunist, for your own self and not of the community…Show me your financial records at the NC that you chair ? MMMMM……do you see any similarity ? Stop judging other people cause you don’t like them…..be a man for once and tell the veracity with out the politics, you know…

      • You are the one who is dirty on this Ikare.

        I work well with the Treasure in the RVNC the record is out there for anyone to see.

        Shut up and color…

        Stop hiding under a fake name…

        Stop your run-on blathering!

      • Ikare:
        What ever became of the infamous bicycle racks that collected dust for so long at the community center? I heard they simply “vanished.”

  16. What this debacle only exemplifies is that Americans cannot govern themselves on the national and neighborhood level, especially when large sums of money are involved. None of this has nothing to do with Echo Park residents. I guess it says more about how Americans are socially constructed when they allow self interested slime balls rise to the top. “Democracy” at it’s finest.

  17. Echo Park Resident

    Maybe we need a fireman to put out Echo Park’s current fire!
    I like what David R stated above, “Show me who your friends are…” Your wife (or long time girlfriend) is dating another man? Is that why you don’t sit together in public meetings anymore?

    By the talk, it seems that Chair Ari appointed the 2012 treasurer who started all this BUDGET mess to the AD HOC Reconciliation Co as a mentor this year, who is also VP this year. No foresight ARI?
    Why haven’t we heard from the 2012 Treasurer on this matter since this was his elected job.
    Who trained Jay Handal? Who made him an expert? Tell us, do tell us!
    Sitting in a council for 20 years doesn’t make one an expert in finances!

    This is a hilarious political comedy and perhaps a FARCE! Let’s take it to Broadway!

    • What a nasty creature….back to the gutter.

    • My Wife Erlinda put together a slate of 7 Filipinos: 5-D5 Reps the VP and Treasurer that all lost to their opposition… The winners Team Hi-5 were hand picked by Sigala and one of them has a Federal indictment hanging over her head… Lilia Tabafunda tried to escape to Mexico and was arrested before she was sworn in earlier this year.

      Please take the time that you did not take before and read all the candidate statements at:

      http://empowerla.org/gepenc/greater-echo-park-elysian-nc-elections/

      Then you can go back down the rabbit hole and try to understand the deeper meaning of what kind of backwash Sigala wants us to drink its not kool-aid it is political poison:

      http://cis.org/north/ice-and-dol-correct-huge-h-1b-errors-made-uscis-and-dol

      Jay Handle is a very competent IEA and ran a fair Election… his expertise and spirit for volunteering and community service is rare in Los Angels.
      He has been appointed GEPENC’s mentor because he has no horse in this race and wants to see a better LA.

      Your innuendos and unfounded factually incorrect statements are so desperate that I am shocked that you thought they would work.

  18. Elementary School Cheerleader

    As I read, it sounds like this has nothing to do with a Neighborhood Council. This is a straight political tactic to downgrade one contestant while thinking that the other is going to be boosted up automatically. How vain! Ari, you should have just started with discussing your Save Elysian Park letter and the Barlow Project that you are so engaged in. As you posted in the Echo Park Library, your Executive Committee Agenda for this Friday is to vote on elimination the Barlow Project that links to the Echo Park NC. Why remove it? I sort of like it there. It tells a political story about you and explains the story above. Check Ari’s Letter below and his favorite candidate for CD13:

    http://saveelysianpark.org/ccsep-letter/

    and
    http://twitter.com/SaveElysianPark

    • What’s the problem? Are you concerned that those at Barlow Hospital will ask for the return of all those CD13 contributions? Too bad Senor Fish didn’t….

      • Ad hominem attacks are what happens when you have no leg to stand on the substance of the report! Terrible record keeping, misallocated funds, and double dipping by the previous GEPENC board….

  19. “In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious.”

    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

    J.S. Mill

  20. Connie Acosta, V.P. Ad Hoc Budget Committee?
    Do you mean Vice-Chair of the Ad Hoc Reconciliation Committee?
    You must be clear… Where is your minority report if you disagree the President Ari B?

  21. I don’t need to read or write or punctuation, when one is telling the truth, so f…off, you are one of the literate one of …….tu

  22. Thank you, Profesor, (if you are) otherwise, jmoff….

  23. sorry troy, that answer or reply is for bob wilson, the perfect human…

  24. The report is available right here:

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/415wqtlmq0470gd/ZPhLZXQKK2

    It’s three pages long – read and decide for yourself!

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