From New York Times article:
Use of Taxpayer Money for Jackson Service Draws Criticism
Published: July 8, 2009
LOS ANGELES — The talent has exited stage left and the tears have been dried, but the discord over the cost of the memorial service for Michael Jackson held in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday appears to be escalating.
At Jackson Memorial, Music and Mourning (July 8, 2009)
Blowout Ratings for a Farewell, Online and Off (July 9, 2009) On Tuesday, the city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, took the highly unusual step of appearing during the public comment period of a City Council hearing to announce that his office was investigating how Los Angeles taxpayers came to foot a bill for police protection and other city functions at the service, at a time when the city and state are running out of money.
On Wednesday, the city controller, Wendy Greuel, sent a stern letter to the Los Angeles emergency management department demanding to know why it had spent $48,826 on sandwiches from a deli 80 miles from Los Angeles to feed police officers. (Sandwiches from Subway would have cost $17,491.25, she pointed out.)
“Rest assured our office is investigating how this whole phenomenon occurred from the get-go,” Mr. Trutanich said when addressing the council.
Two City Council members have also challenged the expenditure, and on Wednesday the radio airwaves, blogs and Twitter feeds crackled with criticism.
“I admit I shed a tear with Mariah, Queen and Paris,” said Jody Greenblatt, a pharmaceutical executive who lives in Los Angeles. “But I cry more at the thought of teachers’ pink slips, forced furloughed days, unemployment rates sky high and a state bankrupt.”
Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the city, said the final cost to the city of the memorial at the Staples Center was $1.4 million.
The unusual public outcry in the politically atomized Los Angeles underscores both the dire straits of the city — with its $320 million budget gap and 11.4 percent unemployment rate — and its difficulty in raising money from wealthy entertainment-industry leaders.
The fallout from the memorial could also prove to be an embarrassment for Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, who was out of the country during the memorial and whose efforts to stave off costs and criticism amounted to a fund-raising request on his office’s Web site . Ms. Hamilton said $17,000 in donations came in via the city’s Web site, but it has suffered prolonged server crashes.
Last month, the mayor scrambled to line up private donations to pay for a victory parade for the Los Angeles Lakers after a police union official criticized the city’s plans to split the $2 million cost of the parade between the team and taxpayers. Among those who contributed were the usual cast of generous donors to Los Angeles events, like Eli Broad, Casey Wasserman and Jerry Perenchio.
“There is a good, strong culture of philanthropy in L.A.,” said Rich Caruso, a Los Angeles developer who plays host to several public events each year. “But it is a handful of people and usually always the same people.” He added: “I think it’s an outrage that taxpayers paid for that memorial. The Jackson family should pay for it.”
Two council members have also suggested that the Jackson family help defer costs. Jesse Derris, a spokesman for the Jackson family, said the family was unavailable for comment.
The Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner of Staples Center and the promoter of Mr. Jackson’s planned concert series in London, donated the center for the event, but has also been a focus of requests for help to pay for its related costs. (Tickets were free and distributed via lottery.) Calls to the company were not returned.
A version of this article appeared in print on July 9, 2009, on page A16 of the New York edition.