Friday, October 28, 2011

L.A. mayor's ex-chief of staff has stayed on payroll

Jeff Carr has drawn pay for months after announcing his departure, even after his replacement was hired. He's just the latest official in the Villaraigosa administration to get a lucrative send-off.

October 29, 2011
Nearly four months after he announced his departure, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's top manager has stayed on the city payroll, drawing pay at the same rate as his old $194,000 salary — even after another chief of staff was hired to take his place.

Former chief of staff Jeff Carr has been working at home on select initiatives, including installation of a security fence at Getty House, the mayor's mansion in Windsor Square, Villaraigosa officials said.

Carr, whose last day is Monday, declined comment. But Villaraigosa aides said Carr worked on other issues, such as improvement of city golf courses and a plan to consolidate activities handled by personnel officials.

Deputy Mayor Sarah Sheahan said in a statement that Carr took on projects he was already handling as chief of staff — a move that allowed his replacement, Gaye Williams, to focus on "the mayor's core agenda," including job creation and public transit.

City Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for city controller, questioned the arrangement, saying he thought Carr had gone "off the payroll and on to other activities" months ago. Zine also said he did not understand why, in a budget crisis, such a highly paid official would be assigned to deal with the fence.

"I find it very … puzzling, as to why they would assign that type of work to an individual of that rank and pay structure," he said.

Department of Recreation and Parks general manager Jon Kirk Mukri said he was unclear on how much time Carr had devoted to the golf course issue since announcing he was stepping aside. Over the past four months, Carr asked three times about the completion of a consulting report on the topic.

"I only received two emails and a phone call," Mukri said.

Carr, who resides in Glassell Park, is only the latest high-level city official during the Villaraigosa administration to secure a lucrative send-off. Two years ago, Department of Water and Power general manager H. David Nahai left his post under fire yet received a three-month, $82,000 consulting contract to help with the transition.

Gloria Jeff, who was fired in 2007 from her job running the Department of Transportation, was given a $95,000 payout from the council. That same year, Emergency Services Department general manager Ellis Stanley took a $60,000 consulting gig on his way out the door.

In the mayor's office, the twin salaries have begun to add up. Carr earned more than $59,000 between June 3, the week he announced his departure, and Oct. 22, according to City Controller Wendy Greuel's office. Carr's replacement earned more than $44,000 over the same period.

Carr was hired as the mayor's "gang czar" in 2007 and elevated to chief of staff two years later. He announced his resignation after months of tension with other Villaraigosa aides, including Chief Deputy Mayor Jay Carson, who stepped down after only one year in his post.

In July, Carr disputed claims that he was pushed out and in recent weeks, Villaraigosa praised Carr as a "great manager." But others said Villaraigosa lost confidence in Carr after being advised by two subordinates — deputy chiefs of staff Matt Szabo and Janelle Erickson — to make the change.

Erickson, with the mayor's blessing, met personally with Carr on July 1 to tell him that it was time to go, said four people familiar with the situation, all of whom sought anonymity either because they were not authorized to speak or feared retaliation. That meeting was also attended by one of the mayor's lawyers.

After Erickson left, those sources said, Carr began calling Villaraigosa to demand a one-on-one meeting. The mayor could not immediately provide one because he was at the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival in Colorado.

Villaraigosa met with Carr at Getty House on July 5 but still agreed with the notion of a change in management, three of the sources said. When The Times called Carr that same day to ask him if he was leaving, Carr said he did not know how to answer the question.

Villaraigosa disputed the version of events described by the four sources, calling it "incorrect." He did not provide further explanation."I'm actually a very big fan of Jeff Carr," he added.

Jeff Carr
Former chief of staff Jeff Carr has been working at home on select initiatives, including installation of a security fence at Getty House, the mayor’s mansion in Windsor Square, officials said. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / August 27, 2009)

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