LOS ANGELES — After accusing his predecessor of misspending discretionary funds, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu last week released an online tool the public can use to track his spending in a move he said was about creating transparency at City Hall.
“I am excited today to announce the release of our CD4 Checkbook,” Ryu said. “This interactive data shows how my office has disbursed it’s discretionary funding since 2015 — delivering on a pledge to open up our books and bring a new standard of transparency to City Hall.”
Ryu was elected in 2015 to represent the Fourth Council District, defeating Carolyn Ramsay, who had been the chief of staff to former Councilman Tom LaBonge.
During the campaign, Ryu accused LaBonge — who had represented the district since 2001 but was prevented from running for re-election due to term limits — of misusing his discretionary funds and said the accounts serve as “secret personal slush funds for the council member” to hand out favors in the district and pad staff salaries.
Each council member gets access to discretionary funds through several sources, and the total amount available varies by district because it includes the sale of surplus property in the district and other sources that can fluctuate.
Although there are guidelines on how the funds can be spent, they can still be used in a variety of ways, including staff salaries or neighborhood improvement projects.
The available funds per council member can reach several million. After taking office Ryu successfully asked the City Council to rescind more than $600,000 of last-minute discretionary expenditures LaBonge made before leaving office for about 40 neighborhood projects and community organizations.
“I’m working to shed light on how my council district spends taxpayer dollars and to get community input on our priorities for our district,” Ryu told the council at the time. “Some of these projects are good projects and with the proper review we will fund them — some are not.”
LaBonge denied misusing the funds and said he had always followed the rules, but the issue was one of the key ones that helped propel the outsider Ryu, who had been a health center public affairs director, into office.
The online tool released by Ryu gives an accounting of all of the $2.5 million in discretionary funds his office has distributed since he took office.
Most of the funds went toward infrastructure, traffic, transit and beautification projects.
After taking office, Ryu also formed a Discretionary Funds Task Force citizen panel to review discretionary spending.
Ryu said he worked with City Controller Ron Galperin’s office to develop the online tool, which can be found at http://davidryu.lacity.org/cd4_checkbook.
“I want to thank City Controller Ron Galperin and his office for turning our data into clear and understandable graphs, creating a new way for Angelenos to understand how their government works,” Ryu said.
“Let this be a model for our city and our elected officials to make spending more transparent and empower citizens to have a voice in how taxpayer dollars are spent.”
Galperin, who took office in 2013, has made the use of technology to aid in city transparency a prime focus of his work.
“As we put tools in the hands of Angelenos to help them understand and engage with City Hall, we’re also putting tools in the hands of other city leaders to help them share information with their constituents,” Galperin said.
“Through our new partnership with Councilmember Ryu, we’re taking transparency to the next level by making it simple for anyone to view — and understand — how his office spends its discretionary funds.”