Saturday, February 11, 2006

Munitz Resignation At Getty Shows True LAT Investigative Instinct

The resignation in what amounts to disgrace of Barry Munitz as head of the J. Paul Getty Trust shows once again the true instinct displayed by L.A. Times editors in choosing their subjects for major investigative pieces.

Congratulations to the authors of these pieces, which began back in June. They are Jason Felch, Ralph Frammolino and Robin Fields.

I should acknowledge at the outset that I personally did not show that true instinct when first commenting on the reports on Munitz.

Initially, I took the position that there had not been enough concentration on whether the heavy spending by Munitz was justified by the quality of acquisitions for the Getty.

As further reports, and an attorney general's investigation, verified, however, the spending was not justified, and that was the position taken by the writers from the beginning.

It demonstrates that leaders of these charitable institutions do offend the public when they live high off the hog and, as in the Munitz case, hire unqualified people to do the good work with which they are charged.

Los Angeles is surely entitled to have responsible direction of an organization as important to the community as the Getty, and just because these organizations are private does not absolve their directors of acting correctly. Tax and other laws on philanthropic institutions restrict the way such organizations can operate, and the Munitz affair shows the validity of thosee laws.

In the denouement of this affair, Munitz, while not admitting wrong doing, nonetheless has agrered to pay back $250,000 and forfeit any severance.

Now, if only Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of the Tribune Co., gives back some of his exorbitant salary while headed out the door, this will really be a great week.

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