Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's War! City Attorney Fights City Hall

As the Mayor and the City Council continue to spend like a bunch of three-time losers at the craps table in Vegas, virtually guaranteeing that the City of Los Angeles will continue its financial tailspin towards bankruptcy, the Los Angeles Times sheds a little light on the possible motives behind Friday's shock announcement that it will cut 100 jobs from the City Attorney's Office, as well as cutting jobs at Neighborhood Councils, libraries, parks, and planning departments. Additionally, arts programs, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Human Relations Commission, face outright closure.

Click here to read the full LA Times article. What's interesting is the Times' implicit suggestion that the actions of the Mayor's Office against City Attorney Carmen Trutanich may be related to a series of public fights he has had with the City Council.

Since taking office in July 2009, City Attorney Carmen 'Nuch' Trutanich has continuously embarrassed Councilmembers by challenging the way the City does business, the Times opines that the 100 staff member cut to his office may be the Council's way of silencing a source of embarrassment and humiliation.

Los Angelenos will remember the debacle over Billboards which saw the City Council approve a ridiculously one-sided settlement with a small group of political campaign contributing billboard companies. The settlement, brokered by former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, was recently overturned by a Judge who described the Council's settlement as "poisonous." City insiders blamed Trutanich for not covering up the deal that favored their buddies by giving them 900 digital billboards while no other billboard company could have even one of these million dollar a year cash generators.

The Billboard drama took on an even more public display of the tension between Mayoral aspirant Councilmember Jan Perry (a long time recipient of AEG/Staples Center campaign cash contributions) and City Attorney Trutanich who had denied AEG 18 digital billboards because of a citywide ban. Perry, forced a public hearing where she demanded that AEG got, and indeed received, 18 digital billboards against the advice of the City Attorney.

Trutanich also clashed with Perry over her handling of the Michael Jackson memorial show, when Perry as Acting Mayor, approved the expenditure of at least $3.4M of taxpayer funds to provide police and street services for AEG's worldwide broadcast of the show at the Staples Center. Trutanich has been the lone voice in City Hall demanding that AEG repay the City, while Perry has been going around like a bag lady asking for 'spare change' and 'donations.'

Trutanich also shamed the City Council over their inability to regulate the explosion of marijuana shops in Los Angeles. The City Council had entrusted the task of formulating a regulatory ordinance to Councilmember Ed Reyes. But while Reyes did nothing but develop a close working relationship with marijuana shop owner, Don Duncan (who may have written Reye's version of the ordinance), the number of unregulated marijuana shops jumped from 4 in 2005, to over 800 in 2009.

Reyes, and other City Councilmembers, had difficulty grasping a State law that forbids the sale of marijuana and they too initially ignored the City Attorney's advice that sales were illegal. It was not until Trutanich publicly humiliated Reyes by trying and winning a case that proved that marijuana sales were illegal, that the Reyes ceased his mantra of accusing the City Attorney of "politicizing" the issue, and agreed that Los Angeles has to follow the law. A novel concept for a City Council that thought it could make laws favoring groups of campaign contributors, only to have a slew of Federal court cases invalidate these "special" laws and "poisonous" arrangements,  passed by the Council.

Trutanich has brought yet more shame on the City Council by changing the culture of settling court cases with multi-million dollar payouts. Few in Los Angeles have forgotten the case of a Los Angeles City Firefighter who sued the City for being fed a spoonful of dog food during a prank at a Fire Station. The City Council approved a payout that cost the City taxpayers $5.5M, rather than going to trial. Since taking office, Trutanich has refused to make many similar payouts and has gone to trial and won case after case, saving the taxpayers as much as $80M in the past six months.

A discrete cadre of  expensive private law firms have long enjoyed acting as "Outside Counsel" for cases that the Council thought were "too complex" for the City Attorney. Since taking office, Trutanich has taken such cases "in house" and has slashed the expenditure of taxpayer funds on "Outside Counsel." It is notable that many of these private law firms were very generous with their political campaign contributions. With 100 less lawyers, the City Attorney's ability to handle cases "in house" is, of course, severely impacted. No connection between any pressure brought on the Mayor's Office or any particular Councilmember by an "expensive private law firm" keen to regain lucrative business is identified in the LA Times article.

Despite the apparent attempts of the Mayor's Office and the City Council to "reign in" the City Attorney and remind him who hold the purse strings, the City Hall Insider reports that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is not going to accede to the 100 staff member cuts.
Click here to read the full article at City Hall Insider.

It appears that Trutanich held a secret meeting with his executives and elite staffers on Saturday morning to discuss his strategy in fighting City Hall. If his past performances are anything to go by, it will not turn out well for the Mayor or the City Council.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Former LAPD Chief Bratton Picks Jack Weiss as Security Consultant Despite Possible State Bar Issue

The Los Angeles Times reports that former LAPD Chief William Bratton, chairman of his new global investigations firm, Altegrity Risk International, has tapped former L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss to run the company's Los Angeles office.

Bratton controversially endorsed Weiss in his failed bid to become Los Angeles City Attorney with the now infamous "no brainer" sound bite. Weiss was nevertheless defeated by political novice, Carmen 'Nuch' Trutanich by an embarrassingly high 11% margin in a hotly contested General Election race that saw Weiss as the clear favorite, enjoying the endorsement of the Mayor and a host of other political insiders.

During the campaign, Trutanich excoriated Weiss for his alleged poor record on ethics issues, such as failing to return illegal campaign contributions, attending an illegal fundraiser co-hosted by City pensions commissioner Kelly Candele (who immediately resigned), as well as attending a fundraiser at the home of a person previously convicted of a fraud-related felony. Weiss's conduct during his campaign prompted Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine to demand an investigation into Weiss days before the election.

Despite Weiss's defeat, it seems that Bratton is going to "stand by his man" and use Weiss's "very big Rolodex" to attract clients to the newly formed business, according to the LA Times.

However, Trutanich's concerns as to Weiss's ethics and inability to play by the rules may cause Bratton further embarrassment. It appears that Weiss is currently in violation of California State Bar Rule 2.3 Duty to Update Member Record

According to the State Bar website Rule 2.3 states that:

(A) A member must inform the State Bar of a change of address, telephone number, or e-mail address no later than thirty days after making the change. The member must report a change of address or telephone number online or using the State Bar Address Change Form. The member must make a change of e-mail address online.

Weiss left City Hall on June 30, 2009, over six months ago, however, a search of the State Bar website's attorney records today shows that Weiss has not complied with Rule 2.3 and still lists his address at City Hall as the Councilmember for CD5.

This story broke too late for calls for comments from the State Bar as to Weiss's apparent violation of State Bar Rule 2.3.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who Is Responsible for LA's Pot Mayhem?

Councilmember Paul Koretz believes the blame for LA's Pot Shop mess has nothing to do with him...

You decide

Mayor Sam Blog Goes On 'Hiatus'

Michael Higby, host of the Mayor Sam's Sister City blog is taking a break from blogging on Los Angeles politics, according to his Sunday afternoon post.

I hope your hiatus will be short and that you'll use the time to recharge your batteries and return to the blogisphere with renewed energy to root out the corrupt and conniving who undermine our democracy with their self-serving attitude towards public service.

Friday, January 1, 2010

VIP to Open 1,000th Pot Shop in Los Angeles

El Stupido, the patron of Los Angeles pot shop business interests, is rumored to be the guest of honor at the grand opening of the 1,000th pot shop in Los Angeles, located immediately next to the Academia Sensemilla de la Pueblo, a public school that was the subject of harsh criticism by former KABC talk show host Doug McIntyre.

Opening a marijuana shop next to a school would be seen by many as an openly defiant step against what El Stupido has decried as "politicization of the issues." Whether the champion of what many see as the 2009 Revolución de la Drogas will actually cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony and personally deliver a 3 hour speech written for him by the owner of the marijuana shop, remains to be confirmed.

Some see El Stupido, also know by many as 'El Pequeño,' as having worked feverishly for the past 4 years to prevent 'political' controls being placed on businesses trying to sell marijuana to Los Angelenos in what he probably sees as a basic civil rights issue; after all, why should it only be the seriously sick and terminally ill who can get high?

Advocates for the legalization of narcotics and free and safe access for "children of all ages" have been delighted at the way that El Stupido has thrown open his doors to them, while at the same time excluding Neighborhood Councils from any input on an industry that will bring jobs to thousands of under employed drug rehabilitation centers.

Some complain that El Stupido has ignored input from Neighborhood Councils and the City Attorney. They say it is because El Stupido was told by the marijuana shop owners input from the community and law enforcement would "place political barriers" in the way of their business, and when the world 'politicizing' was thrown in, El Stupido swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

While it is true that many see El Stupido as one who believes that Los Angeles needs to be a free drug zone, rather than a drug free zone, there may be a more simple explanation; El Stupido might not be able to read very well, and may have inadvertently misinterpreted the message.

The business community and the drug syndicates that see El Stupido as their bailout package have embraced the notion of free access. Many marijuana shop owners have created incentives, such as free joints, for school kids who cannot otherwise buy drugs. The LA Weekly recently reported that students at Grant High School found adverts offering free joints on their cars at the school's parking lot.

If El Stupido believes that school kids and their parents have nothing to fear from exposure to the Mexican, Armenian and Russian crime gangs who supply the Los Angeles marijuana shop industry, he has not yet said so directly. El Stupido might believe that placing marijuana shops in schools is a good idea as it will actually prevent illness - after all, it so many seriously sick and terminally ill people can be cured by marijuana, then exposing kids to this magic medicine might save them from AIDS, Cancer and Glaucoma.

If El Stupido has been completely brainwashed by the marijuana shop owners into believing that it is legal to sell marijuana, then the recent comments of Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley must have made him apoplectic - In a LA Times interview, Cooley described El Stupido's law as "... absolutely so irrelevant it's not funny." City Attorney, Camen Trutanich had previously advised that sales of marijuana were not permitted under State or Federal law, but El Stupido felt that it was 'politicizing' the issue to bring legal opinions into the debate, when he was entitled to his different opinion that selling drugs to kids was a small price to pay for the profits to be made from legalizing marijuana.

The battle of words will continue in City Hall, and El Stupido will probably use the word 'politicizing' at least 5 times to disguise the real issues;
  • there is no innocent explanation for delaying the regulation of marijuana shops for four years.
  • there is no innocent explanation for ignoring the comments, needs and concerns of the whole community.
  • there is no innocent explanation for being completely beholden to marijuana shop owners.
Stupidity cannot be the only excuse for making a complete mess of the City of Los Angeles.