Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Trutanich in Slip & Fall Nightmare - A Legacy of City Officials' Abuse of Toll Roads?

Former City Attorney Carmen 'Nuch' Trutanich has kept a low profile since exiting the Los Angeles political scene in 2013. He is an occasional guest on KABC 790AM's popular Peter Tilden Show where he recently declared himself to be "a better lawyer than a politician."  

On Monday, February 2, 201, the Peter Tilden Show moved up in KABC's estimation and was given the more prestigious time slot 6-10PM, and Tilden received a surprise call from Trutanich.

Although Trutanich originally called to congratulate Tilden on his promotion, the conversation quickly switched to what can only be described as a Slip and Fall Nightmare.

Trutanich related how, in November 2014, he tripped and fell on the curb at Figueroa St. and 5th in downtown Los Angeles. Trutanich said he "cracked his hip but didn't know it," X-Rays apparently did not reveal the injury. The pain must have continued because Trutanich said he underwent hip surgery on January 21, 2015, returning home two days later.

The following day, Saturday, Trutanich went for a "one hour walk," after which he showered. It was then that the nightmare began. While in the shower he said his "hip became displaced" and was just "hanging there," rendering him unable to put his foot down.

Trutanich said he went into "shock and atrial fibrillation," while paramedics rushed him to the ER. It was there that the nightmare got worse. His ambulance became bogged down in Saturday afternoon gridlocked freeway traffic; "Kings Hockey Traffic" as he described it.

The freeway toll lanes were apparently wide open, but as Trutanich lay in the ambulance watching the monitor recording his heart rate reaching 198 beats per minute, the paramedics refused to use the toll lane, saying a law prohibited them from doing so. "I'll pay for the ticket," Trutanich says he told the paramedics, but to no avail, they said they "couldn't do it" he said. Trutanich made it clear that he had no criticism of the paramedics, crediting them for "saving his life."

"Did you know," Trutanich told KABC listeners, "and I didn't know this, as a City Attorney of LA, I found this astounding, that when the Los Angeles paramedics are running the freeway, going Code 3, to a hospital, they cannot take the toll road because it is not allowed under state law." he said.

"It's the most asinine thing I've ever heard in my life," Tilden said. Trutanich said that it was "something that should be looked into by the City Council."

The rule preventing emergency service vehicles from using toll roads certainly seems illogical. Most people in Trutanich's situation would surely be horrified to find their life-saving dash to hospital delayed even for a minute by this rule. One reason for the rule could be past abuse of toll roads by elected officials.

In 2013 CBS2 Investigative Reporter David Goldstein broke the story of scandalous abuse of toll roads by city officials, including embattled City Councilmember Jose Huizar. In 2013, Huizar's taxpayer supplied hybrid SUV was photographed on three separate occasions using toll roads without paying the toll.

Goldstein showed photos of Huizar's SUV "blowing through the toll road" without a transponder, and exhibited records showing Huizar has neither paid the toll, nor the fine. Huizar claimed that his SUV is used by other members of his staff, but his office was unable to identify the drivers.

Goldstein reports that in the first 6 months that the toll roads had been in operation, as much as $50,000 in unpaid tolls and fines had been racked up by state, city and federal agencies.

So could it be that the LA Paramedics who transported Trutanich to hospital had been 'warned off' using the toll roads because of abuse by city officials?

Oddly, Goldstein reports that emergency vehicles are "exempt from tolls when going to and from an actual emergency."

It's certainly a conundrum. A potentially life-threatening conundrum. If indeed emergency vehicles are exempt from tolls, then why didn't the paramedics who transported Trutanich to hospital know that?

Hopefully, someone will look into this. In the meantime we wish Mr. Trutanich a speedy recovery and offer our thanks for sharing his harrowing experiences and making us aware of this problem.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rick Orlov, Veteran Los Angeles Political Reporter - Dead at 66

With much sadness, we report the passing of Rick Orlov, one of the greatest and most respected political reporters in Los Angeles.

Rick worked for the LA Daily News, and was generally found in and around "the horseshoe" - the inner sanctum of Los Angeles City Hall. Rick privately fought a battle with diabetes, but never let it interfere with his work.

Remarkably, when a certain politician felt aggrieved by something Rick had written and insisted on a 'face to face' meeting, Rick responded by saying "I'm having dialysis at the moment, so if you want a meeting, you'll have to come here [the dialysis center]."

The politician and his entourage indeed descended on Rick who listened attentively to politician while attached to a dialysis machine. Despite the politician's remonstrations, Rick was unmoved and declined to bend to the politician's will.

Rick was a king amongst princes, and will be sorely missed. RIP Rick Orlov.

Please read Rick's obituary at the Los Angeles Daily News.

Monday, February 2, 2015

District Attoney Jackie Lacey honored at Person of the Year Awards Dinner

The Los Angeles Metropolitan New-Enterprise hosted its 27th 'Persons of the Year' dinner awards at Los Angeles' exclusive California Club, Friday night, and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey topped the list of those honored for their contributions to the legal community.

Metropolitan New Enterprise Co-Publishers Jo-Ann and Roger Grace presented District Attorney Jackie Lacey with the Person of the Year award after Editor Roger Grace expressed some surprise that Lacey had won the race, noting that the Met News had endorsed Lacey's opponent in the 2012 election.  Jo-Anne Grace was less surprised, noting that, notwithstanding the endorsement, Roger had not asked which way she had voted.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey receives the Person of the Year Award
from Met News-Enterprise Co-Publishers Jo-Ann and Roger Grace

In her acceptance speech, Lacey graciously credited her award to the hard work and commitment of the Deputy District Attorneys and support staff at the Office.

DA Jackie Lacey presents Metropolitan News-Enterprise Co-Publishers Jo-Ann and Roger Grace
with the District Attorney's Commendation for their contributions to the legal community.

Lacey, in turn, presented Jo-Ann and Roger Grace with a commendation from District Attorney's Office, recognizing their contributions to the Los Angeles legal community. In accepting the commendation, Met News Editor Roger Grace remarked that the last time he had received a paper from the DA's Office was in 2002; when District Attorney Investigators served a search warrant at the newspaper's premises.  

Los Angeles County Bar Association President Linda Curtis Esq. (left) presented
Attorney L. Ernestine Fields, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and DA Jackie Lacey with awards.

Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Dependency Court Attorney L. Ernestine Fields joined Lacy in receiving Person of the Year Awards, with Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, the Hon. Carolyn Kuhl, complimenting Lacey for her professionalism, Fields for her commitment, and McDonnell for his integrity.

Many past recipients of the Person of the Year Award were in attendance, including former District Attorneys Steve Cooley and Robert Philibosian, who emceed the event.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Shockwaves and Fallout follows AFSCME-ADDA Disaffiliation

On January 7, 2015, the organized labor world received a shock upset; the ADDA succeeded in breaking free from AFSCME, the overwhelming, under-performing and overly-expensive big labor group that promised much, but delivered little.

The shotgun marriage that brought the ADDA under the control of AFSCME was always an embarrassment to DDAs; it was a legacy of the duplicitous self-serving 'leadership' of disgraced former ADDA President Steve Ipsen, who was subsequently fired by the DA's Office for misconduct.

If the marriage was uncomfortable and embarrassing, the divorce has been acrimonious. Upon hearing the results of the vote that kicked AFSCME out, AFSCME officials retaliated by obstructing and preventing the ADDA Board from conducting any further business on AFSCME premises.

The following day, ADDA President Marc Debbaudt sought to update the ADDA website,, only to find that the AFSCME-supplied 'business representative' who is responsible for such things, was "out of the office until February 2, 2015." As we go to press, the ADDA website remains unchanged. Until the ADDA manages to gain control of its website, a series of email messages has informed members of developments.

Hell hath no fury than a big labor group scorned, it seems, and AFSCME is apparently no exception. The loss of the ADDA's $340k annual 'union dues' is, perhaps, not the main reason for AFSCME's shabby conduct and acrimony.

It seems more likely that the failure by AFSCME's local officials to prevent the ADDA from breaking free has caused major embarrassment to the Washington DC based national union. Sources suggest the AFSCME may be bracing themselves for more disaffiliation/decertification moves others who are less than satisfied with AFSCME and will view the ADDA breakaway as a signal for similar action.

Meanwhile at the ADDA, Executive Vice President Jeff McGrath who fronted the pro-AFSCME movement, tendered his resignation on January 14, 2015. Directors Stuart Lytton and Loren Naiman have also resigned, leaving three positions open on the ADDA Board. With many of the Ipsen-era old guard now gone, the opportunity exists to reshape the ADDA into being more representative of its members' interests and concerns. Those interested in serving are invited to contact ADDA President Marc Debbaudt by email the address of which appears in the comments section.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

ADDA Kicks Out AFSCME - Big Labor Group "Reeling" In Defeat

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys delivered a crushing and resounding blow to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), when ADDA members voted 143 to 65, to oust the under-performing, expensive and corruption-tainted big labor group. AFSCME had promised much, but delivered little in return for the $1M in members dues that had been paid over the past three years.

Participation in ADDA votes has traditionally been low, but when independent CPA firm Haynie & Co announced that 208 ballots had been received in the disaffiliation election, an audible gasp filled the meeting room at AFSCME headquarters.

Representatives from CPA firm Haynie & Co. announced that 208 ballots had been received
before the ballots were verified and counted
 Of the 396 ADDA members, 53.25% had voted, a participation level previously unheard of. It was a sign that members were motivated, and that was bad news for AFSCME who, like most unions, thrive only when member participation is low.

When the ballots were counted, the overwhelming majority vote to disaffiliate from AFSCME (almost 70%) was not only unimpeachable, but a crushing blow to embattled AFSCME Executive Director Cheryl Parisi, who faces a humiliating career setback as a result of loosing her grip over the ADDA. It is a rainy day in hell when a big labor union is trounced to defeat, and ADDA President Marc Debbaudt deserves the credit for bravely leading the charge against "the nation’s largest and fastest growing public services employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members."

The counting of the ballots was not without some drama. ADDA Executive Vice President Jeff McGrath, who supported remaining under the heel of AFSCME, tried to halt the count by insisting that signatures on envelopes containing the ballots be verified before the ballots could be counted. ADDA Vice President Michele Hanisee promptly dismissed McGrath's challenge and ordered the count continue upon the assurance that it was the ballots that were to verified, not the envelopes.

McGrath, however, was not satisfied and insisted that the vote was not "secret." Indeed, as Haynie & Co conducted the vote, McGrath was conducting his own count, using a list of ballot numbers and recording which ballot numbers had voted to "withdraw" (i.e. disaffiliate from AFSCME) or "stay" with AFSCME. McGrath was somehow able to determine members' identities by the ballot numbers, and is currently the only ADDA Board Member who has a list of members' names, and how they voted. ADDA President Marc Debbaudt commented that if the vote was not "secret," it was McGrath who had violated the secrecy requirement, not the CPA firm.

It is unknown whether McGrath will be required to surrender the list as the ADDA was unable to conduct any further proceedings inside AFSCME headquarters. The ADDA Board were due to discuss how to handle the McGrath situation in an Executive Session where the vote was also to be ratified. However, AFSCME promptly expelled the ADDA Board from AFSCME premises; a move that was not only childish, but futile, as it is understood that the Board convened at a local restaurant to conduct their remaining business.

The ADDA's decision to dump AFSCME is unlikely to face any legal challenge. The magnitude of the margin of victory and the high level of voter participation dispels any suggestion that the "non secrecy" of the vote deterred full participation - an argument often cynically used to by union activists to undermine and obfuscate what should be a democratic process.

Some might argue that the employment of an independent firm of CPAs actually encouraged voter participation, because many DDAs might  have been deterred from voting their conscience if AFSCME had been allowed to conduct the ballot count. Other unions keen to rid themselves of affiliation from AFSCME, will likely follow the ADDA's lead in using independent CPAs to conduct their elections.

If AFSCME was unsurprisingly less that gracious in defeat, McGrath had the decency to issue an email message acknowledging defeat.

As a result of the vote to dump AFSCME, a new era dawns on the ADDA. The specter of disgraced former ADDA Presidents Steve Ipsen and Hyatt Seligman self-interested leadership would seem to be well and truly exorcised, and the enforced, unwelcome and unholy alliance with anti-public safety big labor groups is thankfully over.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Disaffiliation Vote - Live Update

The counting of ballots in the ADDA disaffiliation vote has started at AFSCME headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. 

According to the CPA firm hired specifically for the election, 208 ballots have been received.

The task of verifying the ballots is underway, and we will publish the results as soon as possible.

The ballots have been verified and counting has commenced. 52.25% of ADDA members cast votes, an exceptionally high turnout that likely favors Debbaudt's disaffiliation campaign. 

7:55pm The process of counting the ballots is quite simple and transparent. The CPA looks at the verified ballot and announces whether it's a vote to "withdraw" or "stay." So far approximately half the ballots have been counted, and it looks like the word "withdraw" is heard twice as often as "stay" suggesting a landslide for disaffiliation.  

8:05pm. ADDA votes to disaffiliate! 
Of 208 votes cast, 143 were for disaffiliation and 65 were to remain with AFSCME. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Which Way ADDA? Pt 10 Countdown to Disaffiliation

With no official figures being released as to how many ballots have been submitted by ADDA members for the all-important decision on whether to end the ADDA's troubled relationship with big labor group AFSCME, fears mount that a low turnout will favor retention of AFSCME. The deadline for ballots to be counted is 5pm on Wednesday January 7, 2015. That effectively means that if DDAs do not mail their ballots by Monday night, January 5, they will have no say in which way ADDA?

 In the Dragnet's opinion, a correctly completed ballot should look like this:

The vote to disaffiliate from AFSCME is probably the most significant vote in the ADDA's history since the appallingly low voter participation in the vote to join AFSCME three years ago. A vote to disaffiliate offers DDAs a chance not only to be independent, but to send a powerful message to "big labor" groups like AFSCME. That message is a simple one: You may crave DDAs membership dues and bragging rights over representing a respectable law enforcement oriented organization, but if you abandon promises, if you renege on agreements, and if you deliver piss-poor performance, there is a price. Disaffiliation.

Since giving AFSCME over $1M in member dues, AFSCME has failed miserably. It was incapable of delivering any results in terms of pay increases, and simply rolled over and accepted the offer that was made to all LA County employees, regardless of whether they were represented by unions or not. DDAs got the same cost of living increase as Public Defenders, yet the PDs got that increase without having to give $1M to a big labor group like AFSCME.

AFSCME also ignored the values and interests of DDAs with their foolhardy and politically motivated support for Prop 47, despite assurances that AFSCME would not become involved in a political campaign that "does not have a labor related impact." There is no labor related impact arising from Prop 47.

Given the evidence that AFSCME is philosophically and ethically wholly unfit to represent DDAs, the most troubling aspect of the disaffiliation vote is the large number of DDAs who do not vote. Apathy is AFSCME's best friend in this vote, and while some DDAs have doubtless been fooled by promises from AFSCME to improve pay and pensions, others realize that the results of the past three years speak for themselves. A vote to stay with AFSCME is tantamount to doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Worse, if the disaffiliation vote fails, DDAs will remain locked with AFSCME in perpetuity. There will not be another opportunity to leave. As an independent organization, the ADDA will be able to choose whether to remain independent or align with another organizations with views, ethics and values more akin with law enforcement.

If you have not already voted, do so. If you know anyone who is on the fence, urge them to vote.
Vote to disaffiliate before it's too late.