The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2006 · Page 21
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 21

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Page 21
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ME_B_1_B1_LA_1_12-05-06_tu_2_CMYK 2006:12:04:23:31:01_ CALIFORNIA Q Tuesday,December5,2006 LOS ANGELES EDITION B Governor, Democrats promise cooperation GOP dims bipartisan glow as Legislature starts session with majority party promising to work with Schwarzenegger. B3 Gnatcatchers return The songbirds appear to be back on the Palos Verdes Peninsula after a decade of efforts. B2 Pellicano case Former SBC employee asks for new indictment to be dismissed, claiming double jeopardy. B3 Missing people found Kati Kim and two daughters were OK in an Oregon hospital. Search for husband goes on. B4 Lottery.......... B4 Obituaries... B8 Only in L.A.. B4 Weather..... B12 INSIDE Rick Loomis Los Angeles Times PURIFYING PORTS: At the Port of Los Angeles, shipping containers are stacked on the APL Singapore, which is being retrofitted with an experimental fuel system that mixes gas and water to reduce nitrogen oxide in the exhaust. B4 By Duke Helfand Times Staff Writer Incoming Los Angeles Fire Chief Douglas L. Barry pledged Monday to end a frat-house culture that has allowed hazing and discrimination to fester in fire stations, even as he insisted that the problems were limited in scope. “I know that we can stop haz- ing and horseplay,” Barry, a 31- year Fire Department veteran, said during a news conference at afire station in South Los Angeles. “I know that we can address the department’s history of discrimination and exclusion.” Barry, 53, an assistant chief, will be the first African American to lead the department when he takes over as acting chief Jan. 1. He will serve for as long as a year while city officials conduct a search for a permanent replacement for Chief William Bamattre, who resigned last week amid an uproar over harassment and racial discrimination in the department. Bamattre had complained that he did not possess the au- thority or the tools to discipline rogue firefighters or to change the culture of a department that has faced repeated criticism over its treatment of minorities and women. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa named Barry to the interim post to do just that, calling him a change agent who can hold the line on hazing — a practice with a long tradition in the department but one that some firefighters say has led to harassment. Former members of the Fire Commission predicted that Barry, as a short-timer, would face the same difficulties as Bamattre in trying to revamp a department beset by discrimination lawsuits and city audits calling attention to issues of racism and sexism. Last month, Bamattre told City Council members that the maximum punishment he could impose was 30 days’ suspension. That, he argued, did not give him sufficient authority to root out persistent problems. “The chief can simply cajole, plead and hope that a bunch of the guys will go along with him,” said David Fleming, a former Fire Commission president. “His hands are tied. The public just doesn’t understand what goes on in that department.” Villaraigosa also faced criticism in the African American community over his choice of Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times NEW DIRECTION: Assistant Fire Chief Douglas L. Barry, left, appears with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at Fire Station 66 in South L.A. on Monday at a news conference naming Barry acting chief. He will take over Jan. 1 for ousted Chief William Bamattre. Mayor names acting fire chief Douglas Barry, a 31-year veteran of the Los Angeles department, pledges to end ‘the hazing and horseplay.’ [ See Chief, Page B7 ] By Evan Halper Times Staff Writer SACRAMENTO — State tax authorities defied lawmakers Monday by reviving ReadyRe- turn,a program that allows some taxpayers to have the state do their returns for them, and expanding it from a tiny pilot project to a service for 1 million Californians. The move was engineered by outgoing Controller Steve Westly and his successor, John Chiang, both champions of the program. Intuit, the Silicon Valley manufacturer of TurboTax, spent $1million trying to defeat Chiang on Nov. 7 and stop the program. ReadyReturnis designed to ease the burden of filers with the simplest returns: single taxpayers with one employer and no complicated deductions. Despite rave reviews by most of the 11,000 taxpayers who used it last year, the Legislature over the summer yielded to an intense lobbying campaign by Intuit and let the program die. But Chiang, Westly and Department of Finance Director Mike Genest,who make up the state’s Franchise Tax Board, made the move after receiving legal opinions from legislative and tax board staff suggesting that they have the authority to implement the program on their own. Chiang has a seat on the tax board by virtue of his leadership of another tax panel, the state Board of Equalization. Officials at Intuit denounced the Franchise Tax Board’s move, calling it an attempt to circumvent the law. Legislative leaders said they will not try to block the board from moving forward. “I absolutely have come to believe that ReadyReturnis the right thing to do,” Westly said just before the board voted Monday morning. The controller said that when the program was launched in early 2005, he did not know what to expect. But he said he was stunned by the response from taxpayers who used the program as part of last year’s pilot project, about 96% of whom said it is a service government should provide and one they would use again. The board’s action Monday will give about 1 million Californians the opportunity to receive areturn from the state that is already completed. They may sign it and return it with their check or refund request, or discard it and do their taxes on their own. Tax officials argue that the program not only takes the headache out of tax season for those filers, but also gives them the opportunity to see the financial information the government already has about them. Intuit and other industry critics, including the California Taxpayers Assn.and the California Chamber of Commerce, describe ReadyReturn— the country’s most ambitious government filing assistance initiative — as Big Brother run amok. Opponents ran a full-page advertisement in the Sacramento Bee last summer featuring a bulldog with a big steak in its mouth. “Would you send him to the butcher to pick up your steak?” the ad asked. “Of course not! So why would you let bureaucrats in Sacramento fill out your taxes?” Business groups say Califor- Second life for state tax program Officials expand ReadyReturn, in which government calculates what taxpayers owe. The Legislature, lobbied by Intuit, had let it die. [ See Returns, Page B8 ] By Erika Hayasaki, Richard Winton and Jessica Garrison Times Staff Writers Police and school officials Monday were investigating why three teenagers were riding with aTV actor when his Land Rover struck a tree Saturday, killing a 17-year- old Beverly Hills High School student and critically injuring the two others. Lane Garrison, 26, a costar of the Fox television drama “Prison Break,” showed signs of “alcohol intoxication” when he was questioned by police, said Lt. Mitch McCann of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Alcohol containers were found inside the SUV, he said. Garrison has not been arrested, and law enforcement sources said detectives are awaiting the resultsof the actor’s blood test. His lawyer, Harland Braun, said the actor “doesn’t remember anything about the accident....He thinks he was driving but he can’t swear to it.” Police, however, put Garrison behind the wheel when he lost Actor was driving in fatal crash Inquiry begins into why a Beverly Hills High student, who died, and 2 girls were in the SUV. [ Accident, Page B10 ] Associated Press Lane Garrison By Evelyn Larrubia and Dan Morain Times Staff Writers ACompton man was arrested Monday for flashing an official- looking state badge issued by the office of Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, Redondo Beach police said. Police said Pirikana Likivu Johnson, 27, became agitated on two occasions earlier this year when police confronted him about loud music or asked him to stay in his car while waiting for a friend in the Redondo Beach Pier parking garage after closing time at a nearby club, police said. Both times, Johnson took out a police-style wallet containing a metal badge that identified him as an Assembly commissioner. When officers told him he still had to comply with their orders during a confrontation March 18, he became belligerent, according to a police report. “You don’t know who I am,” he told an officer, according to the report. He was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.10%. “This isn’t a simple DUI,” Redondo Beach City Atty. Mike Webb said Monday. “You have a situation where somebody is allegedly using a badge and falsely identifying themselves to get special favors and special treatment.” Officers were unfamiliar with the title but arrested Johnson on suspicion of drunk driving and released him pending an investigation. State officials said there was no such title as Assembly commissioner. Johnson did not respond to telephone calls and visits to his Compton home seeking comment earlier this year. On Monday night, he was being held in the Redondo Beach City Jail in lieu of $60,000 bail on charges of impersonating a state official, Man held in DUI had badge issued by Dymally, police say Pirikana Johnson, 27, of Compton is charged with impersonating a state official and driving under the influence. [ See Badges, Page B10 ] By Christine Hanley and Greg Krikorian Times Staff Writers In a ruling that surprised attorneys and outraged investors, afederal judge Monday sentenced onetime Hollywood producer Joseph Medawar to a year and a day in prison for swindling scores of people out of millions of dollars to develop a bogus television show about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Minutes after Medawar apologized to the people he defrauded, U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real sentenced the 45- year-old con man to a prison term far shorter than the 33 months his attorney had requested, or the 57 months sought by the government. Me- dawar also was sentenced to nine months’ home detention after his prison sentence ends and 3,000 hours of community service, and he was ordered to pay at least $2.6million in restitution. Showing no emotion, Meda- war left the courtroom without comment. He was ordered to surrender Jan. 22 to begin his prison term. His attorney, Jeffrey Rutherford, later issued a prepared statement. “Joseph Medawar accepts his sentence,” the statement read. Producer gets short sentence in TV scam After bilking millions from scores of investors, Joseph Medawar gets a term of a year and a day. [ See Medawar, Page B7 ]

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