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Tue, Mar 16, 2010

Congresswoman Takes 19 Staffers On Helicopter Ride

"Staff Training" Flights Tied Up Two Emergency Services Helos For Several Hours

A Democratic Congresswoman from Long Beach requested the use of two Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopters in order to take both her local and D.C. staffs on an aerial tour of the region.  Congresswoman Laura Richardson (pictured) said the tour was to provide training for the staff on transportation corridors and homeland security issues at the Port of Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the fire department accommodated the request, despite what the congresswoman's aide admitted in an e-mail were concerns regarding compromising emergency services, and a price tag that could reach $25,000. "This level of expenditure ... possibly opens both L.A. County Fire and our office to public scrutiny," Richardson's district director Eric Boyd said in his e-mail to Fire Department Air Operations Chief Anthony Marrone.

In the end, two helicopters were supplied for the congresswoman and her 19 person staff, one from the county and one from the city of Los Angeles. The county helo reportedly was out of service for about 6 hours due to refueling, a weather delay, and travel to and from Long Beach. The actual aerial tour lasted just under two hours.

John Tripp, the chief of emergency operations for LA County told the Times that he deemed the trip to be worthwhile to provide an understanding of the infrastructure in the community. He was not directly involved with granting the request.

Richardson said she considered the tour necessary to train her staff in what she said were the district's "unique complexities" to better be able to obtain funding for local projects.



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