Los Angeles City Council candidate David Ryu took aim Tuesday at what he called “secret slush funds” for Councilman Tom LaBonge, vowing that if elected he would seek reforms in how council discretionary money is spent.
Ryu, one of two candidates vying to replace LaBonge, said he would create a task force of community leaders to identify and prioritize projects worthy of council discretionary funds, which have drawn a recent flurry of scrutiny from neighborhood activists.
Such funds “should not be spent secretly, arbitrarily or wastefully,” Ryu said in a statement, adding, “Instead of being used to pad staff salaries or bankroll pet personal projects, they should be used for the benefit of the community.”
Each council member is allowed to use discretionary money, which includes multiple funds that come from different sources, to use on community needs as they see fit.
LaBonge said Tuesday that he had used such money for the good of District 4 and the city. “Transparency is very important to me, which is why I have followed all rules and procedures to the letter of the law, without exception. Funds used within City Council offices must be approved by the City Clerk and Controller’s office,” LaBonge said in a written statement.
Ryu, a community health center development director, is competing against former LaBonge Chief of Staff Carolyn Ramsay to represent an area ranging from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile.
As they gear up for the May runoff, Ryu has positioned himself as a City Hall outsider, saying that a vote for him is a vote against the status quo. Ramsay, in turn, has played up her experience in the community and the council office as an asset for getting things done.
In the insider-versus-outsider race, the question of how LaBonge spent council discretionary money has pestered Ramsay on the campaign trail, with some critics complaining that the soon-to-be termed-out councilman she worked for devoted $100,000 to stringing holiday lights around the Los Angeles Zoo, among other disputed expenditures.