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Los Angeles County, California

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning Y
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Audits Y
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Contracts Y
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Lobbying P
Public records Y
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Local taxes Y
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County websitesGuide.png
Transparency grading process

Los Angeles County is one of 58 counties in California. The county is the most populous county in the United States: figures from the California Department of Finance lists a July 1, 2010, estimate of 10,473,535.[1] The county seat is the city of Los Angeles, the largest city in California and the second-largest city in the United States (after New York City). The county's population is greater than the populations of 42 states. The county also has more residents than the 11 least-populous states in the country added together. It is home to more than 25% of all California residents.

Website evaluation

In 2011 Los Angeles earned a Sunny Awards for having a perfect website transparency score.

Main article: Evaluation of California county websites

This website was most recently evaluated on March 7, 2013.

The good

  • Budget
    • Current county budget is published.[2]
    • Budgets are archived to 1997.
  • Audit
    • County annual financial audit is posted.[3]
    • Audits are archived for at least three years.
  • Elected Officials
    • Contact information for county elected officials is posted.[4]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes and agendas are posted.[5]
    • Minutes are archived to 2003.[6]
  • Administration
    • The names and contact information on administrative officials is provided.[7]
  • Permits and Zoning
    • Building permits are available.[8]
    • Zoning information is published.[9]
  • Contract
    • Information on contracts, including open and awarded bids, is published.[10]
  • Public Records
  • Lobbying
    • Lobbying ordinance[12] and payments from lobbyist organizations[13] are provided
  • Taxes
    • Information on taxes is provided.[14]

The bad


The county operates on a fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending on June 30 of the next year. A recommended budget is presented to the Board of Supervisors by the Chief Executive Officer in April, and that form of the budget is adopted in June. The budget is then sent to the Auditor-Controller's Office, which calculates revenues and expenditures for the year, before the final budget sees Board review and is adopted in September or October.[15]

In November of 2010, the Public Works Financing Authority sold a combined $700 million in Build America and Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds. The bonds are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and over $156 billion have been sold thus far.[16]

Wasteful spending

A recent audit on the Los Angeles County's child welfare department found over $514,000 in "wasteful or inappropriate" charges to cellphones.[17] 1,400 of the department's 5000 phones were not used by employees, but were activated and accumulated charges of $330,000. The same department came under fire earlier in 2010 for purchasing $5.9 worth of portable computers that were put into storage or used as desktop computers instead.[17]


Los Angeles County maintains a website for tracking funds granted to the county through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.[18] The county was awarded nearly $500 million in federal stimulus funds.

Elected officials

Los Angeles County is governed by a Board of Supervisors, as well as the city councils of the county's 88 different cities.

Board of Supervisors

The five-member Board of Supervisors, created by the state Legislature in 1852, is the governing body of the County of Los Angeles. The Board appoints all department heads other than the assessor, district attorney and sheriff, which are elective positions. As a subdivision of the state, the County is charged with providing numerous services that affect the lives of all residents, including law enforcement, property assessment, tax collection, public health protection, public social services, elections and flood control. There are 88 cities within the County, each with its own city council. All of the cities, in varying degrees, contract with the County to provide municipal services. The Board of Supervisors acts as the "city council" for unincorporated areas. There are separate governing boards for air quality, water, sanitation, transportation, and education.[19]

The five members of the board are:[19]

District Supervisor
District 1 Gloria Molina
District 2 Mark Ridley-Thomas
District 3 Zev Yaroslavsky
District 4 Don Knabe (Chairman)
District 5 Michael D. Antonovich

Each supervisor represents over 2 million people.

The five county supervisors drink water during board meetings out of water bottles with customized labels. An employee is paid $9.92 an hour to peel the labels off water bottles, print new labels that depict the county seal and affix those new labels to the water bottles.[20]

Other elected officials

Voters also elect the county's sheriff, assessor, and district attorney. They are elected by all voters in the county, and the positions have no term limits.[21]

Position Official
Sheriff Lee Baca
Assessor John R. Noguez
District Attorney Steve Cooley

Administrative officials

There are 37 administrative departments in the county, most reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. The county's administrative structure was redesigned in 2007, giving more supervising authority to the Chief Executive Officer.[22] The administrative organizational structure can be viewed here.

The 5 main departments are:[22]

Department Head
Department of Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe
Chief Executive Office William T. Fujioka
Chief Information Office Richard Sanchez
Human Resources Lisa M. Garrett
Internal Services Tom Tindall

Public employee salaries

Main article: Los Angeles County employee salaries

A recent investigation revealed that 199 public employees in the county collected more than $250,000 annually in total compensation. Most of the employees were physicians, but there were also a significant amount of emergency service personal and public officials.[23] In the past three years the top paid officials in the county received salary increase from 12 to 45 percent. Over 17,500 public employees are earning more than $100,000 annually in total compensation, and six making more than $400,000 annually.[24]

County supervisors pay

Los Angeles County has five supervisorial districts with 4 year terms. Supervisors' salary is $178,789 a year.[25]

District Name Term limit
1 Gloria Molina 2014
2 Mark Ridley-Thomas 2020
3 Zev Yaroslavsky 2014
4 Don Knabe 2016
5 Michael D. Antonovich 2016

City Manager pay

City managers make an average of $200,000 in taxable income. Taxable income includes the city manager's base salary and taxable components such as housing, car and cellphone allowances; bonuses; and cashed-out sick leave and vacation time. A report by the LA Times ranged from $106,600 in tiny Bradbury to about $315,000 in Santa Monica.[26] More than three quarters of the cities in Los Angeles County found the pay range between $160,000 to $263,000.[26]

LA County City Manager salaries
The following information is based on a report from the LA Times.

Other county positions and pay

The following includes other key county positions:[25]

Position Name Salary
Assessor John Noguez $190,901
District Attorney Steve Cooley $297,859
Sheriff Lee Baca $284,183

Information on Southern California employee salaries is available through the Contra Costa Times database.[27] Los Angeles County provided an Excel-format database of its more than 100,000 employees' compensation in October 2010 to the Bay Area News Group.[28]


Main article: California public pensions

The Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA) administers defined retirement plan benefits for Los Angeles County employees.[29]

According to LACERA, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy currently serving three years in prison for stealing over $400,000 in towing fees is currently collecting over $82,000 a year in pension benefits.[30]

Los Angeles County has almost completely neglected to fund retiree healthcare benefits for public-sector employees, according to a new report from a Civil Grand Jury, which in California investigates the county and municipal governments on an annual basis. The report Whoa! The State of Public Pensions In Los Angeles County found that at least 56 of L.A. County's 88 cities have not funded retiree healthcare at all. The Grand Jury states that the combined unfunded retiree healthcare liability for L.A. County and its cities is about $33.9 billion. With only $3.7 billion in combined assets, the retiree healthcare plans are only 10.8% funded. The largest portion of that liability — about 71 percent — is held by the L.A. County government, which has an unfunded benefit benefit obligation of $24 billion.[31]


Main article: California government sector lobbying

Federal lobbying

Los Angeles County spent $720,000 on lobbying the federal government the in 2010.[32]

State lobbying

For 2007 and 2008, Los Angeles County spent $5,818,581 on lobbying the California legislature.[33][34]

Subsidiary Amount
Los Angeles County $2,787,112
County Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County $216,500
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office $516,011
Lost Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority $1,910,243
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department $388,715
TOTAL $5,818,581


Los Angeles County collects a property tax through the Office of the Auditor-Controller.[35]

Transparency and public records

All departments are required to post letters and memos sent to three or more supervisors online. The county does not maintain a centralized public record keeping system. Rather, requests to view public records that are not immediately available are handled by the relevant departments and committees, as directed by the Public Affairs Office of the Chief Executive Office. All records must be made available within ten days of request, unless extended to fourteen days by a relevant department of committee head.[36]

External links


  1. County population estimates
  2. Budget and Audits
  3. Budget and Audits
  4. Board of Supervisors
  5. Meetings
  6. Meeting Archives
  7. Administrative officials
  8. Permits
  9. Zoning
  10. Contracts
  11. Public Records
  12. Lobbying
  13. Lobbyist payments
  14. [1]
  15. Budget
  16. Bloomberg News, L.A. County May Pay `Punitive Yield' as Bond Issues Rebound: Muni Credit, Nov. 7, 2010
  17. 17.0 17.1 LA Times, L.A. County's child welfare agency wastes $514,000 on cellphones, audit finds, Dec. 22, 2010
  18. Stimulus
  19. 19.0 19.1 Board of Supervisors
  20. Los Angeles Times, "L.A. County supervisors sip from customized water bottles," March 31, 2009
  21. Elected officials
  22. 22.0 22.1 Administrative departments
  23. LA Times, 199 L.A. County workers made at least $250,000 last year, Oct. 5, 2010
  24. Whittier Daily News, L.A. County workers see major pay increases, Oct 31, 2010
  25. 25.0 25.1 Los Angeles County - Salary and tenure
  26. 26.0 26.1 LA Times, Comparing city managers' pay in L.A. County, Aug. 8, 2010
  27. 2009 Public Employee Salaries, Southern California, Contra Costa Times
  28. FOIA to LA County, March 9, 2011
  29. LACERA
  30. "San Gabriel Valley Tribune," L.A. County sheriff's deputy collects $82,000 a year pension from behind prison bars, June 23, 2011
  31. Business Insider, WHOA! 56 L.A. County Cities Have No Money To Pay For Retiree Healthcare, July 7, 2011
  32. Los Angeles County on Open Secrets, 2010
  33. Sacramento Bee, "Local government lobbying costs soar in California," February 10, 2009
  34. State-Level Lobbying and Taxpayers: How Much Do We Really Know?, Pacific Research Institute
  35. Property tax
  36. Public records