Saturday, February 5, 2011

Trutanich's Budget Threat Could Cost Him Criminal Prosecution Role

Budget economies could result in City Attorney Carmen Trutanich (left) having to
cede prosecutions to the District Attorney's Office to prevent the guilty from escaping justice.
(Photo Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich may not be happy with the latest round of budget cuts, but he is likely to be even more unhappy if a proposal to outsource the prosecution of misdemeanor crimes to the District Attorney's Office is taken seriously.

The Los Angeles Dragnet received a copy of an email apparently sent to the Mayor, Controller and Councilmembers proposing that they consider stripping the City Attorney's Office of it's power to prosecute minor (misdemeanor) crimes, and instead contract with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Trutanich's threat that he does not have sufficient staff to prosecute crimes because of the effects of the Mayor's budget cuts, appears to be the motive for the proposal.

The 2-page proposal to hand over minor crime prosecution to
the DA's Office includes considerable detail

The author of the proposal uses the pseudonym 'Perry Mason' apparently because he or she "fears retaliation should my true identity become known."  Certainly the proposal appears to be the work of someone familiar with the workings of criminal justice system. However, it is unclear whether the plan is intended to be taken seriously, or merely to cause Trutanich further embarrassment.

Whatever the intent, the proposal will likely appeal to those in City Hall who feel that Trutanich has abused his position and power. Certainly, Trutanich's recent attempt to gain more power through having his own Grand Jury was very swiftly quashed once the Council became aware of the plan.

The 2-page "Plan to solve City Attorney budget problem" states that Trutanich's threat not to prosecute misdemeanor cases is based on a tactic known as "Block's Bluff," a strategy employed by "the late Sheriff Sherman Block" who successfully fought off budget cuts by threatening to release prisoners.

Where Trutanich's threat fails, according to Mason's plan, is that the Sheriff had the only facility to house prisoners, but the City could use the DA's office to prosecute misdemeanor cases if Trutanich cannot or will not.

The plan states that of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, many use their City Attorneys to concentrate on civil matters, and contract with the DA's Office for the prosecution of misdemeanor crimes. Mason states that "apparently the DA's Office does a very effective job doing it."

Apart from relieving Trutanich from the burden of prosecuting misdemeanor cases, Mason claims that there are some additional benefits; LAPD would save money by only having to deal with one agency instead of two. Additionally, the DA's Office could probably handle these cases on a contract basis for less than the estimated $23M the City pays in salaries to the City Attorney's office.

As to the actual cost to the taxpayer of Trutanich's criminal division, Mason suggests that City Controller Wendy Greuel conduct an audit, much in the same way that she recently did with Trutanich's Workers Compensation division.

Perhaps anticipating an argument by Trutanich that it is important that the City retains control over the prosecution of minor crime, Mason also states that Trutanich "does not consider these cases to be particularly important" because he allows them to be prosecuted by volunteer law school graduates.

As keen as the Council may be to further limit the City Attorney's powers, those powers are enshrined in the City Charter. And therein lies the rub. Implementing the Plan would almost certainly require a Charter amendment, and that can only occur by the electoral process. Of course, that process could be initiated by motion of the Council, and would certainly make for an interesting debate.


Anonymous said...

Truanich is a megalomanic. I hope the City Council turns the tables on him and orders Wendy Greuel to investigate his criminal division. I bet the cost and waste will be staggering.

Anonymous said...

The Council won't dare to challenge Trutanich. He is the only elected official who actually does the job he was elected to do. Since he took over he has made the City Attorney's Office more efficient and more effective. He has a Bureau of Investigators and I bet he's got the goods on each and every CM, so they won't do squat against him. Trutanich is the best cop the City of LA ever had, he's like Chief Gates and J Edgar Hoover rolled into one, and if he is made DA he'll run all the illegals, gangmembers and drug dealers out of town.

Anonymous said...

Potato salad!

Anonymous said...

David Berger is an idiot. Google will confirm it on Monday.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to Ronald Milhouse Reagan. 100 years old today.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the wheels are coming off the Trutanich wagon. Surprised it didn't happen sooner. Greuel's audit should be fascinating.

Anonymous said...

10:33am Do you think that there are 'criminal aspects' to this?

BTW, loved the line "... this would not be the first time Trutanich has gone to a gunfight at sundown with a revolver full of blanks." It's so true, so very TRUe.

Anonymous said...

The Perry Mason Plan dynamite - trouble is nobody will be able to say "Perry Mason-gate" with a straight face!

Anonymous said...

Greuel's audits have no teeth, and she never follows up on anything. It's usually one press conference and out.

Besides, I don't think she's allowed to audit city programs. That's what the whole Laura Chick/Rocky Delgadillo fight was about and the court ruled against the Controllers's office.

Anonymous said...

11:30am - I thought the whole Laura Chick/Rocky Delgadillo thing ended up with Greuel winning - she got to do the audit and in any case Trutanich agreed that the controller should be able to do it. I think the only dispute was over Chick's legal fees - Trutanich did not want the City to pay them.

Besides, allowing the controller more power was a Trutanich campaign promise. It would look really bad if he went back on that.

Anonymous said...

Perry Mason is a hero!

Anonymous said...

Wendy Greuel audits - LOL.

Anonymous said...

Trujillo fired from Huizar campaign. What a dork!

Anonymous said...

Michael Trujillo is a dork. Just like you. Mario Trujillo is going to be the next DA.

You must be a Trutanuch supporter, all Latinos look the same to you.