Prexy Cluff accused of misappropriating public funds
Amid a criminal probe over lavish spending and political donations, the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. has pulled the plug on a pair of $500-a-plate fundraisers for Los Angeles City Council candidates.
The EIDC announced Wednesday it had postponed receptions for councilman Nick Pacheco and state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando). No reason was stated for the delays and no new dates were given for the events, which had been set for Sept. 23 and 26, respectively.
The EIDC — which replaced the city and county film offices in 1995 –has donated about $200,000 to numerous political candidates, including $1,000 to Pacheco. The agency’s board includes the entire City Council and Board of Supervisors.
A search warrant affidavit filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney alleged that EIDC prexy Cody Cluff had misappropriated public funds by charging more than $500,000 in personal expenses for travel expenses, tickets to concerts and sporting events, tabs at exclusive bars and restaurants, monthly payments for phone, cable and satellite TV bills and donations to the high school attended by his children. “Although one may consider joining the Havana Club a step towards furthering the entertainment industry, it cannot be considered justified spending since the EIDC is a government agency,” DA investigator Kimberly Michael said in the affidavit.
The EIDC offices and Cluff’s two homes were raided on Sept. 4 after county auditor-controller investigators were blocked from accessing expenses.
EIDC attorneys have insisted the only dispute on access was over identification of third parties such as producers, but Michael painted a far different picture in the affidavit, which stated the EIDC’s final response was, “EIDC’s expense reimbursements of its executives as well as EIDC’s payroll are irrelevant to the Auditor-Controller’s audit.”
“EIDC is cooperating with the investigation, which appears to be based on a fundamental misconception that we are a governmental agency, which we are not,” EIDC senior VP Kathleen Milnes said in a “colleagues and friends” memo issued Wednesday.
“We are still in business, still moving forward on all fronts, and still committed to keeping Los Angeles and California the entertainment capital of the world,” she said.
District Atty. Steve Cooley has called on the City Council and the Board of Supervisors to review their oversight of the EIDC; both bodies called for legal reviews on whether the EIDC is a public entity.
“There is ample probable cause that crimes were committed,” he added.
Cooley also said they need to decide whether Cluff should step down. “My opinion doesn’t matter,” he added.