Investigators looking into the chain of events that led City Hall to spend an estimated $1.4 million for police protection and other services at Michael Jackson’s memorial have turned up possible criminal wrongdoing, the city attorney said Tuesday.
The disclosure two weeks after Jackson’s lavish farewell came amid a public backlash over the taxpayer bill, which included more than $48,000 for sandwiches brought in for police from 70 miles away.
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been reviewing the procedures that led the city to deploy thousands of police and other city workers for the star-studded tribute at the downtown Staples Center, hoping to identify a way for taxpayers to recoup at least some of the money.
“Our investigation has taken an unanticipated turn that raises both civil and criminal aspects,” Trutanich told the City Council. The investigation is continuing, but he said he could not reveal any further details about possible criminal activity.
Trutanich later told the Council his office had exchanged correspondence with AEG, the company that owns the Staples Center. Subsidiary AEG Live was the promoter behind Jackson’s planned comeback concerts in London.
“That letter is an investigative-type letter,” said Trutanich spokesman John Franklin. “He’s asking questions and wanting them to produce certain things.
“His main goal here is to recoup the taxpayers’ money. When you are dealing with the civil aspect, that’s basically it,” Franklin added.
Staples did not reply to an e-mail sent to its media office. AEG Live spokesman Michael Roth did not return a phone call.
The city attorney’s office prosecutes misdemeanors, but the office could also pass on any evidence it uncovers of more serious violations to the county district attorney.
The city’s involvement in the Jackson event, which was broadcast worldwide, has been marked by confusion. An attempt to collect donations from Jackson fans to help cover the costs was later abandoned by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who at first supported the idea.
The Police Department deployed 3,200 officers after projecting that as many as 250,000 people would converge on downtown streets for the service. Beyond ticket holders, only about 1,000 fans showed up.
The City Council is seeking a full accounting of the taxpayer dollars committed to Jackson’s tribute. Councilman Dennis Zine has said the cost of the event could far surpass the estimate.