LA seeks donations to pay for Jackson memorial tab
As the final cost of Michael Jackson's memorial service was being calculated, city officials cast about Wednesday to find ways to have others help pick up the multimillion-dollar bill, Associated Press reported.
City attorney Carmen Trutanich said his office was investigating how the financially troubled city can legally press third parties to pick up at least some of the tab, which could total as much as $4 million for police overtime and other services.
Trutanich aims to have a report ready for the City Council by Friday, said spokesman John Franklin.
The city has also set up a Web site urging fans to make tax-deductible donations through credit cards, PayPal or check to help defray costs.
Fans have thus far donated $17,000, but contributions have been hampered by technical problems, Matt Szabo, a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said in a statement.
The site received so many hits that the servers crashed Tuesday night and several times Wednesday, Szabo said. The city's information technology department is working to rectify the problems.
Jackson's public memorial service Tuesday at Staples Center was attended by a total of more than 17,000 fans at that arena and nearby Nokia Theatre. It was watched by tens of millions of people around the world.
Anticipating about 250,000 people would converge on downtown streets, the Police Department deployed 3,200 officers starting at 2 a.m. When only about 1,000 fans showed up, police brass let about 1,000 officers go early, slashing the estimated $2.5 million cost to $1 million.
AEG Live, the owner-operator of Staples Center, has not committed any money to the Jackson memorial, which it organized and promoted. Company spokesman Michael Roth did not return messages on Wednesday.
City Controller Wendy Greuel is calling on the City Council to create a policy declaring who should pay for city services associated with such events.
In a letter to the emergency management department, Greuel criticized the nearly $49,000 expense for police officers' lunches, which were ordered from a restaurant located 80 miles from Los Angeles.
Greuel said her office called a local sandwich shop that could have provided box lunches for less than $17,500. The purchase would have had the added benefit of supporting a local business, she said.
The Jackson memorial was the second recent event that resulted in extraordinary costs at a time when the city is a half-billion dollars in debt and facing employee layoffs.
Last month's victory parade for the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers cost an estimated $2 million.
AEG Live gave $1 million to the city for that event and other private donors stepped in.