In recent weeks, Los Angeles has been witness to an embarrassing exposé involving blown money, unrestrained ego and a wasted reputation. No, I’m not talking about Charlie Sheen but about the local community college district.

The Los Angeles Times did a terrific job of documenting the problems, revealing the incompetence and nailing the offenders of the Los Angeles Community College District’s $5.7 billion building spree. The newspaper’s six-part series, Billions to Spend, was a true public service.

A good deal’s been written on the topic since, but something is troubling me: It seems that the root of the problem is not getting acknowledged. The root of the problem is clear. No business people were on the college district’s board of trustees.

Just look at the seven trustees, whose background The Times helpfully laid out. You see a onetime Green Party activist, a retired political science professor, a documentary film maker and various union boosters. Other than Tina Park, who was described as a former New York Stock Exchange auditor, not a single trustee would seem to have the background to ask an insightful question about money.

Beyond that, not one appears practiced in asking the kinds of questions business operators ask every day. Such as: What’s our goal? How much is it going to cost? What’s our financial exposure? If this project isn’t finished on time and on budget, who is the staff person who will be fired?

I’ve seen enough boards packed with activists and various do-gooders to know that most disdain businesslike queries. Instead, their questions usually begin with some dreamy statement of good intent, such as: “We should send a message of social justice to the world, so let’s do this,” or “We want to be recognized as a leader in green energy, so let’s do that.”

Since they get excited about those kinds of messages – and are uncaring about cost projections, timetables and chains of responsibility – it’s inevitable that costs and accountability veer out of control. How else to explain one official’s plan to spend up to $975 million to unplug the community colleges from the electric grid when the whole district only spends $8 million a year on power bills?

Who on the board asked, “Umm, how many years before that green energy investment would pay off?” (Answer: 122 years.)

Of course, it’s not just the community college district that’s overseen by an elected body that’s business light. The governments of California and Los Angeles pop to mind, but you don’t have to strain your brain to come up with more.

Business people could serve an extremely valuable role in public life, but in recent years they have been driven away from serving on boards of state and local governments generally. That’s in no small part because the political class has made it more difficult for them. Elected positions – most of which were conceived as part time duty with short meetings held at night – have become full-time careers with long, day-killing meetings. We’re told government is too “complicated” and “professional” today for part timers, which means busy business people generally can’t serve.

Of course, the argument that government is too complicated ignores the fact that most huge multinational American corporations are overseen by part-time directors who insist on spare meetings.

It also ignores the fact that the more “professional” the governmental bodies have become, the worst the outcome. The financial results from Los Angeles and Sacramento, like the community college district, make you wonder if Larry, Moe and Curly are in charge.

The main problem with the community college district is the same as with many other local governments: Few at the top have ever run a business. They have no clue how to manage an enterprise, define the goals, stick to a budget and hold staffers accountable. They don’t even know how to ask businesslike questions.

For that matter, we’d probably be better off if Charlie Sheen ran them all.