Rick Caruso has been touting his service on the Los Angeles Police Commission as one of his top qualifications to become mayor of the city, but the billionaire developer had a poor attendance record during his tenure on the volunteer panel two decades ago.
Caruso, who served on the commission from 2001 to 2005, missed 53 of 139 regular and special meetings, an absentee rate of 38 percent, the Los Angeles Times reports. He also arrived late for at least a dozen meetings.
Compared to his fellow commissioners who served during the same nearly four-year period, Caruso’s attendance is particularly lackluster. According records reviewed by the Times, Commissioner Rose Ochi skipped 17 (or 12 percent) of the meetings while David Cunningham III missed just four (less than 3 percent).
The Times notes that the public record has a gap of about two months at the start of Caruso’s tenure, so the picture of his service is incomplete, but the record does show that his attendance decreased sharply over the course of his tenure on the panel. In his first year, when he served as commission president, he missed five of the 30 sessions. In the final year for which public records were maintained, Caruso missed more meetings (22) than he attended (21).
“Your most basic responsibility is showing up every week and showing up on time. There are just no shortcuts to properly doing the work of a police commissioner,” Matt Johnson, who served as Police Commission president under Eric Garcetti and now supports Rep. Karen Bass for L.A. mayor, told the Times.
Steve Soboroff, who is currently on the panel, told the Times that police commissioners have greater powers under the City Charter than members of other city panels, which ultimately brings “the responsibility to do the best that you can for the citizens of Los Angeles, to make Los Angeles a safer city.”
He added, “Every one of these meetings is impactful to the citizens of Los Angeles.”
In response to the report, Caruso defended his record, saying he consulted with other members including then-Chief William K. Bratton to ensure that he never missed a meeting where his vote was critical or progress would have been halted by his absence.
“We had a good commission, things were in good shape, the department was rolling forward,” Caruso, 63, told the Times. “So I was there when I needed to be there… I never missed a critical meeting. I worked too hard to get the department to where we were.”
He added that even when he missed meetings, he spent 15 to 20 hours a week at community gatherings, police roll calls, and other significant events to monitor the police department.
Caruso also said that his service as commission president amounted to a “24-7 job,” stating that beyond sessions, “You’re rolling out to crime scenes at night, you’re doing a lot of town hall meetings. So you take the first two years, it was effectively a full-time job for me on top of my other full-time job” as a real estate developer.
The report comes a week after Caruso took the lead over Bass in the mayoral race, according to a poll conducted by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and sponsored by the Times.
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