Your Tax Dollars at Work

Transit District Spends Tax Dollars on Talent Shows and Prime Rib. An investigation into the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by CBS LA’s David Goldstein found that the agency is spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars on things unrelated to transportation.

The MTA spent $20,000 on an after-hours talent show where employees sang and danced for colleagues. Goldstein asked MTA Chief Communications Officer Pauletta Tonilas how the talent show benefits bus and train riders, and the spokeswoman said, “This was about employee appreciation.”

Goldstein found that the MTA spent $3,000 for burgers and $3,000 for hotdogs to cater a “meet your Diversity and Economic Opportunity Department” event. Another $1,600 was spent on a sandwich buffet for a business meeting, and $1,800 for a catered breakfast for 140 people.

In total, the MTA spent $228,000 on in-house food for MTA employees from January 2017 through August 2017, an average of $940 per day.

MTA board members, who are elected officials, have receipts for 55 orders of prime rib and salmon, costing more than $1,500, Goldstein reported. A majority of the receipts were paid with taxpayer money, like the money generated by Measures M, overwhelmingly approved by voters in November 2016, ostensibly to fund transportation projects like improving freeway traffic flow and repairing potholes.

Goldstein asked Tonilas if the food and entertainment are an appropriate use of funds, and whether this is what voters thought they were supporting.

“I think the people understand that employee appreciation is a part of any good employer’s practices,” Tonilas responded.

Tonilas added that the MTA may make some changes. “The fact you have done your due diligence and brought this to our attention is a good opportunity for us to take a look and see if we have to make some changes,” she told the reporter. (Source: CBS LA, February 27.)


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