$300K LA Homeless Administrator Out Earns U.S. HUD Secretary
March 22, 2021
With a staff of 737 and a $55 million payroll, one might think the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) would have homelessness under control in L.A.
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found that LA’s HCIDLA director, Rushmore Cervantes, took home $254,937 in 2019, out earning the Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson who was paid $199,700 that same year. With benefits, Cervantes' compensation package exceeded $300,000.
Four of Cervantes' assistant general managers also out earned the HUD secretary.
The agency aids people in poverty by administering Section 8 federal grants, rent stabilization policies, the housing code, and services to the homeless population.
Despite the high pay and good intentions, the number of homeless people living in LA continues to escalate. Numbers from the city’s own census show 41,290 homeless in 2020, a figure up 16.1 percent from 2019.
Homeless encampment complaints to the City’s 311 hotline—which we plotted in an eye-popping map—reached nearly 100,000 calls between January 2019 and August 2020.
The City reports it placed 23,000 people in homes in 2019, but blames an influx of homeless for exacerbating the problem along with “the failures of the economy and effects of institutional racism[,]” according to LA Homeless Services Authority Commission Chair Sarah Dusseault.
A voter-approved $1.2 billion bond issue in 2016 promised 10,000 new apartments for the homeless. However, the projected units dropped to around 7,600, as construction overruns and consultant fees pushed the cost of some housing units to over $700,000 apiece.
Whenever we open LA’s books, the city consistently ranks among the worst tax-and-spend offenders. It appears its homeless office is no exception.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.
4,350 Earmarks a Year Costing $13 Billion Proposed by House Democrats
March 23, 2021
Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, up to $13 billion in earmark spending will be allowed on the House appropriations bill, 10 per member, for a total of up to 4,350 earmarks for fiscal year 2022.
Former U.S. Senator and OpentheBooks honorary chairman, Dr. Tom Coburn must be rolling over in his grave with the announcement that House Republicans voted 102-84 via secret ballot to bring back political pork spending aka earmarks. Coburn was responsible for helping eliminate earmarks altogether a decade ago. "Restoring earmarks in today’s Congress would be like opening a bar tab for a bunch of recovering alcoholics," he said in 2014.
Democrats have coined a new term to refer to earmarks, pork projects, and “member-direct spending.” Rep. Rosa DeLauros (D-CT) introduced the new term: “Community Project Funding.”
Earmarks in History - by the Numbers:
- $207 million – Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) used this transportation earmark on the “Prairie Parkway” to make a multi-million-dollar profit.
- $80 million – Senator Ted Stevens’ (R-AK) “Bridge to Nowhere.”
- $50 million – Indoor Rainforest in Iowa.
- $3.4 million – Turtle Tunnels in Florida.
- $1 million – Woodstock Museum in New York.
Further Reading on Earmarks:
$18.2 Million Congressional Slush Fund for #MeToo Claims
March 24, 2021
Since 1997, the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights has paid out $18.2 million to settle 291 cases of workplace disputes for Congress, the Capitol Police, the Architect of the Capitol, and the Library of Congress.
When news first broke of the settlement account, Congress was accused of having a veritable #MeToo slush fund to secretly pay off victims of sexual harassment. Reports surfaced that then-Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) negotiated a secret settlement with a female staffer who accused him of sexual misconduct, and the 88-year-old quickly resigned from Congress.
It turns out Conyers’ Congressional office budget paid out his sexual misconduct settlement, meaning that total wasn’t even included in the multi-million-dollar “slush” fund’s reported total.
Slowly, it has emerged that the fund, appropriated annually by Congress, includes payouts for workplace safety and pay disputes, in addition to sexual harassment claims, though many specifics are not reported.
Until June 18 of fiscal year 2018, two Senator’s offices and five House member’s offices had claims filed against them. An additional House member’s office had a case filed against it from June 19 through December 2019, out of the total 20 filed. Though 32 allegations of “Sex/Gender/Pregnancy” discrimination were filed in FY2018 and 28 were filed in FY2019, it is not known if those types of discrimination or harassment cases were against congressional offices or other offices under the fund.
A 2019 report noted 16 employees were paid a total of $600,363 in settlements, and while 20 claims were filed, just 16 appear to have been filed by protected class: three under “Sex/Gender/Pregnancy,” three under “National Origin,” four under “Disability,” and six under “Race/Color.”
After 23 years and $18 million in payouts from the Workplace Rights office, it seems like taxpayers might have a right to know more details.
Let’s open the books.
EPA Spent $92 Million on High-End Luxury Furniture
March 25, 2021
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent a whopping $92.4 million over ten years to purchase, rent, install, and store office furniture ranging from fancy hickory chairs and a hexagonal wooden table, worth thousands of dollars each, to a simple drawer to store pencils that cost $813.57.
That was $6,000 in furniture for every one of the agency’s then-15,492 employees.
In 2015, OpenTheBooks.com reported EPA purchased $48.4 million from Herman Miller, a retailer known for its high-end, modern furniture designs, and also spent $5 million on designer Knoll, Inc. modern office fittings.
The agency justified its furniture spending, during a location move to the D.C. suburbs by noting its old furniture didn’t fit in the new building. It also justified the furniture spending by noting savings from its new lease.
Examples of EPA furniture purchases:
- One executive desk for a “right handed executive” ($3,959)
- One “Wood Racetrack Conference Table” from Herman Miller ($15,751)
- Four “Park Ave Arm Lounge Chairs” ($4,083)
- Five “Computer work stations” ($28,290)
- One “five drawer multi-lock file case” ($13,304)
- One “Herman Miller chair with adjustable arms, swivel, lumbar, caster and tilt” ($4,047)
- One hexagonal table ($5,539)
- Multiple hickory chairs ($6,391)
- One “Galerie lounge chair” with “Galerie settee” ($2,641)
- “Ethospace” furniture ($30,707).
Update: The EPA is moving again. To save $12.7 million in annual lease payments in northern Virginia, the agency is scheduled to move employees back to D.C. this year.
$1.3 Million Paid to Put Running Shrimp on Treadmills
March 26, 2021
The National Science Foundation (NSF) caused an uproar five years ago in the media and in Congress after funding an experiment that tested how sickness impaired shrimp mobility by putting the crustaceans on a treadmill.
Yet the NSF continued to fund the experiments with your tax dollars through June 2018.
Through the College of Charleston, researchers measured the crustaceans’ responses to low oxygen and high carbon dioxide environments in a variety of ways. They also tested the shrimp’s reactions "when performing energetically demanding activities," according to the award abstract.
NSF awarded $761,978 to the College of Charleston in 2012 to investigate “how high levels of carbon dioxide in coastal waters interfere with the health of shrimp and crab species,” NSF spokeswoman Jessica Arriens told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This will help us understand how these animals – important both ecologically and economically – can adapt to environmental change.”
"The energetically demanding activities will be conducted with the aid of a treadmill, as the technique is effective and will help to make the data comparable to previous studies," Arriens said.
The NSF started funding experiments with shrimp and treadmills in 2007 with an initial $560,000 grant.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.