Worst expenditure award goes to...

By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

We’ve all seen the negative headlines in recent years announcing that another newspaper chain has closed a community paper, or that a large TV news network has slashed more jobs.

As a journalist, it’s worrisome because these reporters and editors are often the ones watching the watchers. They’re the journalists who hold our congressmen, powerful appointees, police departments, agencies and others accountable.

That’s why I enjoy reading a story like the one where a California reporter uncovered wasteful spending even as one city slashes employees and limits bonuses.

(Special words of advice to politicians, leaders, and other stewards of public dollars: If you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on any party, you’re begging to be mocked.)

During one of the worst recessions in U.S. history, the port spent $200,000 entertaining port leaders from around the world at the International Association of Ports and Harbors convention in South Korea earlier this year.

The bill included $12,000 for wine, nearly $4,000 for miniature Oscar awards handed out to all in attendance, and $41,000 to fly in dancers from California.

Port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said the party was intended to give a Hollywood theme and preview a 2013 convention that will be held in Los Angeles.

CBS Los Angeles skewered Knatz over the lavish party, and Knatz’s own $13,000 business-class airfare.

Knatz, CBS Los Angeles pointed out, made $307,000 in 2010 – more than the city’s mayor and more than the California governor. The station noted that Los Angeles has slashed jobs.

These facts were obtained after the TV station filed several requests under California freedom of information law.

Back to Los Angeles. The 2013 port convention may bring in as much as $4 million in revenue, some reports say. 

I’m hopeful that the hardworking journalists there will track that party’s expenditures in the future as they did in 2011. LL