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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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the mayor and the city council are doing exactly what you say - trying to silence the only voice of the people. Thank you for outing these corrupt shills.