Former Inglewood employee says city lied about finances to woo the Rams

Inglewood Mayor James Butts and a rendering of the Rams' stadium (credit: Planning Report, HKS Architects)
Inglewood Mayor James Butts and a rendering of the Rams' stadium (credit: Planning Report, HKS Architects)

Inglewood’s former budget manager is suing the city, alleging that the Inglewood government fabricated its accounting books in order to woo the NFL to fill a $1.8 billion stadium development.

The former city employee, Barbara Ohno, said in her complaint that before the Rams agreed to come to the under-development stadium, Inglewood Mayor James Butts ordered staff members to “create a facade of financial responsibility and well-being for the city.”

Her federal lawsuit alleges that Inglewood officials took federal and state money from unrelated funds, such as police funds, to cover  the expense of competing with other Southern California cities like Carson to house the football team.

Butts said these accusations are “totally baseless,” the L.A. Times reported.

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“The city undergoes rigorous and thorough audits by an outside audit firm,” he said in a statement. “We are proud of the improvements made during my tenure in not only improving its reserves, but our financial reporting procedures.”

In her complaint, Ohno claims she was told to look the other way when she voiced her suspicions to other city employees. She is suing  for compensatory and punitive damages because she alleges the city violated her free speech and wrongfully fired her. She was terminated last June after working for 10 months.

NFL team owners decided in January that the Rams would return to L.A. and play in a new stadium on the site of Inglewood’s old Hollywood Park racetrack. The Stan Kroenke-developed stadium will be the league’s largest when it opens in 2019.

The Rams’ relocation to their hometown could bring up to $400 million to L.A.’s residential real estate market, Partners Trust head of sports division Lee Mintz told The Real Deal earlier this year. [LAT]Cathaleen Chen