Just back from a vacation in South Africa, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is not happy about the cash-strapped city's $1.4 million tab for police overtime and other services from last Tuesday's Michael Jackson memorial. And, according to the Los Angeles Times, what really got him worked up about the event is that his employees set up a Web site to solicit donations from the public to cover the city's bill for the event.
Villaraigosa was in the middle of a nine-day vacation when the Jackson memorial took place, and when he returned, he criticized a member of his staff who set up a PayPal account soliciting donations from the public to help defray the costs of city services for the event.
"This is a world-class city, and we provide fire and police protection. Period. The idea that we would charge the family for a funeral is nonsensical," Villaraigosa said, noting that event producer and Staples Center owner AEG and the Jackson family should not have to reimburse the city for the private event.
The city-launched Web site — which was plagued by a series of long service outages in the days after it was launched — had raised $35,000 by the time it was taken down on Friday. It is not known yet if the money will be returned to donors.
"I thought it was ridiculous, and that was the word I used when I called my staff from South Africa," the mayor said. On Thursday, the mayor's office issued a press release in his name in which the top city official solicited public money, which read, in part, "Michael Jackson's music touched millions of fans across the globe. Donations will help the City of Angels provide the extraordinary public safety resources required to give Michael the safe, orderly and respectful memorial he deserves." The paper reported that the mayor's staff posted on Villaraigosa's page encouraging donations.
A spokesman fro the mayor said the idea of soliciting donations came from the public, and the plan to use the city Web site to collect them was suggested by Councilwoman Jan Perry, who served as acting mayor when Villaraigosa was out of the country.
"Mayor Villaraigosa's staff moved forward in support of Acting Mayor Perry's effort with an enhanced online credit card donation site," said the mayor's spokesman, Matt Szabo. "Mayor Villaraigosa did not support that effort but allowed the site to remain online until he resumed his official capacity as mayor upon his return to Los Angeles on Friday."
For complete coverage of the life, career and passing of the legendary entertainer, visit "Michael Jackson Remembered."
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