Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Trutanich's ACE Raises Concerns About Abuse

The news that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's ACE Program had passed the City's Budget  & Finance Committee and was headed for a vote in City Council, produced a sudden and perhaps unexpected flood of criticism from long-time Trutanich supporters.

Retired LA Daily News Editor, Ron Kaye, published a detailed critique of Trutanich's ACE Program, authored by community activist James O'Sullivan that highlighted 15 serious concerns with the way Trutanich's ACE Program could be abused to force Los Angelenos to pay Trutanich civil penalties for minor code violations.

Under Trutanich's ACE Program, Code Enforcement Officers would have the choice to either pursue a criminal case or use the ACE program to punish residents for "quality of life" crimes such as having an untidy front yard.

Under the criminal justice system, the City Attorney's Office might have a hard time convicting the homeowner as there is an independent judge, a public defender and a jury to ensure a just and fair result. But under Trutanich's ACE Program, the homeowner would have to pay a "citation" first, and then face an "administrative" trial where the judge would be selected by Trutanich, possibly from one of his deputy city attorneys, who would decide if the "citation" was "properly issued."

Among the fears expressed by O'Sullivan and many comments at Ron Kaye LA, is that the issuing of citations could become abusive if the Code Enforcement Officers were forced to fulfill quotas, as reported in the case of the two LAPD Motor Officers who testified that they had been required to write 18 tickets a day, according to the Los Angeles Times.

That fear may be well founded as Trutanich's Chief Deputy, Bill Carter, in a March 7, 2011 letter to the Budget & Finance Committee, stated that the ACE Program "will provide real-time and cost-effective enforcement of our City's Municipal Code, including "broken window" violations, while simultaneously generating revenue for the City." With the current state of the City's finances, that "revenue for the City" may be too hard to resist and as Trutanich's ACE Program lacks any stated checks and balances to abuse, the traffic ticket quotas used by LAPD could also be used with ACE to help solve the budget crisis.

City Attorney candidate Noel Weiss (2009) also penned a lengthy critique of Trutanich's ACE in one of the comments to O'Sullivan's warning, and many activists are likely to similarly protest ACE when it receives a hearing in the Council Chamber.

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