EXCLUSIVE: The Los Angeles City Board of Fire Commissioners may want to "fire" City Attorney Carmen Trutanich for failing to provide competent, responsive and reliable legal services, according to a 13-page report submitted to them by the Independent Assessors Office.
The Independent Assessors Office held back nothing in condemning Trutanich for providing what appears to be a shockingly low level of legal services in their report to the Fire Commission, dated July 13, 2011.
It is always a difficult question when an employer is asked to provide confidential information about its employees. There can be serious and costly penalties for disclosing personnel records. So, like any responsible employer, the Fire Department sought the advice of their attorney; City Attorney Carmen Trutanich who, in December 2009, was asked to provide advice on the fundamental question; is it lawful to provide the Independent Assessor with these records?
However, 20 months later, as the Fire Commission Report documents, Trutanich had consistently failed to provide an answer. Ultimately the advice of "Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law Erwin Chemerinsky" had to be sought. Chemerinsky's opinion was that "the City Attorney's August 2010 advice is mistaken." which is, perhaps, a far too polite way of saying "Trutanich was wrong."
The Fire Commission Report is peppered with statements condemning Trutanich, such as "Repeated unsuccessful attempts have been made since December 2009 to have the City Attorney's Office provide and clarify legal advice…", and "In August 2010, the City Attorney's Office provided advice that was inconsistent …", and "… the City Attorney's Office has not responded … or answered the Board's written questions …" Most damaging, of course, is Chemerinsky's opinion that Trutanich's "advice is mistaken." It is hard to conceive of a more damning condemnation of Trutanich and his notion of legal advice, than to be told, unequivocally, that he was wrong.
Trutanich must have hoped that the Fire Commission Report would remain buried and far away from the eyes of the City Council. Fortunately, such is the level of disaffection with Trutanich in City Hall, that the Dragnet was tipped-off about the Fire Commission Report by multiple sources.
The Council recently passed what has been described as a "vote of no confidence" in Trutanich. As a result of that vote, the Council is currently exploring alternate ways to obtain more qualitative and responsive legal advice than Trutanich appears to provide. The Fire Commission Report will doubtless provide the Council with further evidence of Trutanich's shortcomings when they receive the report on how other municipalities obtain satisfactory legal services.
Many believe that Trutanich may be too busy campaigning for District Attorney or pursuing media attention by grandstanding at headline grabbing press conferences, to pay adequate attention to the needs of his client. The recent leak of the Martin Declaration was, perhaps, the first indication that all was not well in the Trutanich administration. The Martin Declaration now appears to be the tip of the iceberg in terms of Trutanich's failure to provide the "best legal representation" that he promised on countless occasions.
It is, perhaps, not entirely coincidental that the period of time identified in the Fire Commission Report during which Trutanich provided mistaken advice, coincided with Trutanich's 'criminal aspects' investigation into AEG's handling of the Micheal Jackson Memorial. That investigation is believed to have substantially consumed Trutanich's administration and assured Trutanich of the nationwide, if not worldwide, media coverage that he appears to crave. Trutanich ultimately dropped what many believe was a witch hunt against AEG, without comment.
The full text of the 13-page Fire Commission Report can be viewed online from the Fire Department's website http://www.ci.la.ca.us/lafd/reports.htm under file number BFC 11-104, or downloaded directly using this link: http://ens.lacity.org/lafd/lafdreport/lafdlafdreport186472487_07152011.pdf
UPDATED: The super-critical report seems to have gone missing from the City's website, how strange. Fortunately, we archived a copy that can be accessed here.