Did Mayor Choi Commit Reward Money Without Council Approval?


Irvine Mayor Steven Choi apparently committed $100,000 of Irvine taxpayers dollars for the $1 million reward at the height of the Christopher Dorner manhunt without the approval of the rest of the City Council.  At next week’s council meeting, this matter will likely be on the agenda, but there are sources close to city hall that suggest the council majority might try to find a way to wiggle out of the commitment.

The Register reported this last Friday but what seems to be missing is who decided to put Irvine on the list for $100,000.

From the Register story:

Before the Irvine City Council could vote to approve contributing $100,000 to the reward fund, though, authorities cornered Dorner, who died in a Big Bear cabin in the San Bernardino mountains after a deadly standoff with law enforcement.

Now, the council is expected to vote on the reward contribution at a March 12 meeting.

The Irvine Police Department is among 30 or so individuals and agencies that agreed to contribute, according to the L.A. mayor’s office, which coordinated the reward.

Those contributors ultimately will decide collectively how to award the funds or whether to distribute them at all, said Vicki Curry, a senior press secretary in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office.

If the reward is ultimately distributed, “I think we’re obligated,” Choi said. If it’s not, then it may not be necessary for Irvine to pay in, he said.

Councilwoman Christina Shea said she was told that the reward money would come out of the city’s public-safety budget, not its general fund. “If there was the commitment made, then we’ll have to make sure that is fulfilled,” she said.

Lt. Pat Rodgers, a former Irvine Police office and former city council candidate (and a frequent apologist for Irvine Republicans) offered a platform for the city to back out of Choi’s unauthorized commitment in a comment to the Register story.  Rodgers wrote: ”

  • There seems to be a question as to if there was a legitimate tip which led to Dorner’s demise, or if the persons reporting the matter were just victims of a crime. If it is determined that they were reporting a crime and were not legitimate tipsters, the reward is not merited and the City should not contribute.”
    The Register story the day after the press conference announcing the reward, Mayor Choi seemed to be on board with Irvine’s share.  From the story:Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and Irvine police Chief David Maggard attended Sunday’s news conference to inform the public of that city’s continued efforts in the investigation.“Seven days ago our community lost a wonderful, young couple that was preparing to get married soon,” Choi said. “The offer of this $1 million reward is a clear demonstration that we are collectively committed to solve this tragic case as quickly as possible.”

    Council member Christina Shea suggested that the reward money come from the city’s public safety budget which doesn’t have a line item for rewards (you’d think she’d know that after her previous terms as mayor and on the city council).
    In a March 4 memo from Choi to City Manager Sean Joyce, Choi writes:  “Although the manhunt has come to a conclusion, I feel the City of Irvine should be a contributor to the reward given the direct impact on our community.  
    On February 10, I joined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, the U.S. Marshall’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Police Chiefs from Irvine, Los Angeles, and Riverside for the announcement of a multi-agency reward. I believe the City Council should approve Irvine’s participation inthis reward…I will suggest the funds for the reward be appropriated from the City’s public safety budget.”
    The Mayor needs to offer an apology to the rest of the City Council and the taxpayers for acting on his own here.  The full council should have been consulted before he drove to Los Angeles.  Now, it looks just like it looks — a backwards attempt to do the right thing after you did the wrong thing.  It looks like Choi was more interested in getting in the Spotlight of Media activity than good governance.

  6 comments for “Did Mayor Choi Commit Reward Money Without Council Approval?

  1. Ltpar
    March 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Dan, if you are going to use my quotes, at least have the professionalism to print the entire thing, not just that which might mislead the reader. My full quote on the Dorner reward was as follows:

    “There seems to be a question as to if there was a legitimate tip which led to Dorner’s demise, or if the persons reporting the matter were just victims of a crime. If it is determined that they were reporting a crime and were not legitimate tipsters, the reward is not merited and the City should not contribute. If the group decides to pay, then Irvine should ante up it’s share. Reading a comment that the money should come out of the Public Safety Budget, I would take strong exception to that. Public Safety does not budget for rewards and making them pay $100,000 would mean budget cuts in other areas. That much money pays about three quarters of the salary/benefits of a Police Officer and we need more of them on the streets and not less. The Council made the decision to contribute, so let them take the money from one of their contingency accounts.”

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    March 8, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I’m sorry Pat but you regularly mislead people with your continued insistance on things like Daigle and Chemers being Agran plants in spite of actual evidence that proves otherwise. And Irvine’s Dear Leader committed $100,000 of taxpayer funds without council approval. But nary of word of criticism from you on this. If Agran did this (and every dollar he ever committed was voted on by the full council), you’d have kittens. You’re a hypocrite Pat.

    • Ltpar
      March 9, 2013 at 9:55 am

      First off I don’t like cats, so there will be no kittens. Secondly, I have never pretended to be the enlightened one with all the answers. I just call things like I see them, pretty much the same as you do. Obviously, you see things through your rose colored glasses and I through mine. I am at the same time an equal opportunity critic and have been as vocal about misdeeds of Orange County Republicans as Democrats. For that sin, the Republicans blacklisted me and removed me from their Christmas card list. Now you know that I have lost a lot of sleep over that action.

      While I agree with most of what the new Council majority are doing, there are several issues where we part company and that is ok. They don’t ask me for my advice and I don’t give it to them. On the reward, Steven was in error for not bringing it up and getting Council approval before committing the money. Hopefully, he will learn a lesson, that being don’t jump into things unti all the facts are present and the process has been followed. I also disagree with Steven on wasting money on a Great Library at the Park, but will save those comments for another day. Bottom line is that Larry and the gang ran through a couple of hundred million dollars at the Great Park with most of it going to his special interests. In Steven’s mistake, he had no dog in the hunt and made the reward offer because it was the right thing to do, at the time. Big difference in intent, which is always present in the body of a misdeed.

      • March 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm

        I’m hearing the sort of library Choi wants will cost in excess of $100 million. How does he plan to pay for it without taxpayer dollars?

  3. David Westbrook
    March 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    It takes a cynical, hateful individual to condemn Mayor Choi’s sincere effort to find and capture a serial killer before he strikes again. You, Chmielewski, try to insert your wretched liberal politics where everyone should come together. You’re down in the cesspool, Chmielewski. Down deep in the cesspool, with no way out.

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    March 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

    David — Mayor Choi’s move may have been more politically motivated than sincere; he’s already come down hard on public employee unions and the Irvine police endorsed his opponent in the last election cycle. But allow me to spell it out for you — he has one vote. Irvine doesn’t have a strong mayor system. But this was an opportunity to get on stage and be on TV to show how tough the Mayor is on crime. He can’t blame being new to the job or a language barrier as a reason; he was on the city council for 8 years before this. He has no power or authority to commit $100,000 in taxpayer funds without the knowledge and/or support of the rest of the city council. My post isn’t about liberal politics — its about a politician who made a large financial committment without the authorization of the entire city council or the majority of the city council. And if he went up there knowing he had the support of the other two Republicans, that is called a Brown Act violation. Didn’t these guys run on a platform of government transparency? Why don’t you call the police and ask what programs will be cut to pay for Choi’s unbudgeted committment; Choi wants the funds to come from public safety.

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