Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Trutanich Billboard Blunder?

DRAGNET EXCLUSIVE: He's the hero of the anti-billboard movement in Los Angeles. He has threatened to arrest city workers over billboards. His million dollar bail for an Oscars billboard garnered him the national headlines he so desperately craves, and his scorched earth policy on billboards earned him a $2M settlement check that he "bizarrely" tried to use for a political payoff to a campaign supporter.

But when it comes to his own billboards, it seems that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has a different set of rules.

Four billboards on Ventura Blvd. currently advertise Carmen Trutanich City Attorney. Located at the Allen Realty Plaza (12522 to 12528 Ventura Blvd.), the billboards appear to be a carryover from the time during 2008-2009 when Trutanich leased his campaign headquarters at 12524 Ventura Blvd.

Two of the billboards (double sided shown above) are fairly prominent, the other double sided billboards (below) simply promote Trutanich's former campaign website:

During the time Trutanich occupied 12524 Ventura Blvd., the billboards were "On Site" advertisements. In the lingo of billboard law, they advertised goods, services or activities available at the location. The billboards stated "Carmen Trutanich FOR City Attorney," the activity taking place at 12524 Ventura Blvd.

However, when Trutanich vacated his HQ in July 2009, Trutanich's billboards became "Off Site" advertisements, meaning that they advertised something taking place away from the location of the billboard.

Following Trutanich's election victory, his billboards were
altered to remove the word "for"
After Trutanich quit the location, the billboards remained. It appears, however, that they were not simply forgotten. In fact they were changed - the word "FOR" was covered up to convey the new message "Carmen Trutanich City Attorney."

Under Trutanich's own law, all billboards in Los Angeles require permits. No doubt Allen Realty Plaza had, and has, valid permits for "On Site" billboards, in other words, billboards advertising the activities of current tenants. However, there is also no doubt that no valid permit exists for any of Trutanich's "Off Site" billboards.

The reason for that is because one of Trutanich's first scorched earth policies was to ban the issuance of any new "Off Site" billboard permits. That was why he threatened to arrest Councilmember Jan Perry, AEG's Tim Leiweke, and several Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety workers if they issued permits for AEG's Regency Cinema at LA Live.

According to information provided by Dennis Hathaway's Ban Billboard Blight organization, illegal off site billboards violate Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) section 91.6201.

Dennis Hathaway has been a leader amongst activists seeking to
ban illegal billboard advertising like Trutanich's un-permitted off site billboards

Hathaway has links to all relevant billboard laws, and LAMC section 91.6202.2 describes the penalties for violators. If Trutanich's un-permitted off site billboards are in violation of the LAMC, the penalties are extreme, punishable by "a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

Furthermore, "Each violation of the provisions of this division and each day during which such violation is committed or continues is a separate offense." Thus, each of Trutanich's four billboards could result in fines of $1,000 a day for the two years since Trutanich quit his Ventura Blvd. headquarters and moved into City Hall. That amounts to a staggering $2.92M in fines, as well as the possibility of 24 months in jail for each of the 730 days since Trutanich became City Attorney.

Of course that's a disproportionate amount of punishment for what Trutanich probably considers to be be a minor violation of his law, if a violation at all. But then again, Trutanich pursued billboard violators mercilessly regardless of the magnitude of the violation.

Regardless of whether Trutanich's billboards constitute a major or minor violation of his own law, he could nevertheless try to claim that his billboards are exempt from his law. Under LAMC section 91.6201.4 "an ideological, political or other noncommercial message" is not covered by his law.

The problem for Trutanich is that his billboards likely would not qualify for the "political" exception because they fail to display the disclosure statements required by the Fair Political Practices Commission and the City Ethics Commission, both of which require clear identification of who has paid for the "political message."

So if Trutanich's billboards are not exempt because they are not "political," could they be exempt as "ideological or noncommercial?" The problem here is that Trutanich himself considers ideological or noncommercial signs to be subject to his law.
Trutanich believed that ideological and noncommercial signs
like the Statue of Liberty were covered by his law banning un-permitted signs
Furthermore, Trutanich's billboards advertising his old campaign website clearly are commercial. The website now appears to be an online retailer of electronic goods, clearly a commercial enterprise.

Whichever way you look at it, Trutanich does seem to be displaying a double standard when it comes to the enforcement of billboard laws. He, above all in Los Angeles, should not be engaged in questionable billboard activity and should be setting an example of how to follow his law, not flout it.

Of course the interesting question that arises is "Who will investigate Trutanich's seemingly illegal billboards?" Clearly Trutanich's City Attorney's Office cannot investigate or prosecute Trutanich, the conflict of interest would be so obvious that even Trutanich could see it. Interestingly, for the same reason, the City Attorney's Office cannot defend Trutanich either; he would have to hire his own defense attorney just as Rocky Delgadillo did when he hired Trutanich.

What about the District Attorney's Office? Could Steve Cooley's Public Integrity Division be tasked with the investigation, or would the current open hostility between Trutanich and his former supporter Cooley, create a conflict of interest there? That would leave either the Attorney General's Office or the US Attorney's Office with jurisdiction to investigate and if necessary prosecute any violation they find. We do hope they follow Trutanich's guidelines on setting bail...



Anonymous said...

I driven past those billboards twice a day for the last two years and it has never even occurred to me that Trutanich had left the office there. Maybe he will move back in for his DA campaign and then the problem will be solved?

Anonymous said...

Call Mort Allen for all your San Fernando Valley Real Estate needs.

Anonymous said...

Mort walls around the 8thh floor at Nooch's executive suite like he owns the place. Nooch arranges for his parking and gives Mort the use of the conference room to make calla. What does Mort do for Nooch?

Anonymous said...

You people are so envious of Carmen Trutanich's successes that you will do and say anything to try to make him look bad. But to the people who know him, it makes no difference what you say. Trutanich has a plan to save the youth of our city and to rebuild the Scouts movement to save our future generations. The Nuch Youth will provide kids with a safe place to stay after school away from gangs, sex and drugs where the kids will be given uniforms and be reserve cadets in the Sheriffs Dept. This is the plan our leader has for our children. What do you have? Nothing. The Nuch Youth will become a national success and with it our next DA will become a candidate who can give Obama a run for his money.

Anonymous said...

Those are signs, not billboards, doofus. Nice try.

Any word on whether Nooch was born in Kenya?

Anonymous said...

5:19pm You must be one of Nooch's essential legal geniuses, probably went to the same unacredited part-time night-time law school as Nooch where they don't teach complex legal topics.

That would explain why you think there's a legal difference between a sign and a billboard. There isn't. Use the link to and do a little research before you show yourself up for being incompetent. It doesn't matter whether you call it a sign, billboard, supergraphic or poster. LAMC applies to all. Nooch the numb-nuts is dead in the water with this fiasco.

Anonymous said...

Newt Gingrich set to endorse Alan Jackson at next months California Republican Party convention. Could this be a game-changer?

Anonymous said...

Jackson has the republicans sewn up. The SFVRC is 100% behind him, they hate Nooch because he let them down with his fake promises and lies. It's not enough to win the primary, but it g'tees Jackson a place in the run off. Nooch is finished in politics.

Anonymous said...

Berger the Stooge once again you show how ignorant you are. Nuch was not the city atty at the time of the billboards. He was running as you were stooge. Newt backing Jackson would only hurt Jackson, watch Thomas will do a video and Jackson will spend more money. Jackson wont have enough money to run for dog catcher after Thomas gets through with him. 8:26 get real this is a democrat county remember Cooley got his butt kicked here. Berger remember you were kissing Mort's Butt when you were on the 8th flr. my my how quick we forget. I just can't believe that your fellow DDA's aren't furious with your lack of work productivity. You didn't do a damm thing at the City Atty's office for 8 months. You'll be whining to the union for love when Nuch is DA.

Anonymous said...

Newt Gingrich endorsing Jackson? If Jackson is stupid enough to allow his name anywhere in the same paragraph with Newt, he's simply too dumb to be DA. THIS IS LA COUNTY, PEOPLE! Jeeze! Even the Republicans in this county are left of center. A stamp of approval from Newt will LOOSE him votes.

JEEEZUS! This ain't rocket science. Rookie mistake by a rookie politician. Enamored by the name "Gingrich" but not thinking about how this plays with the home crowd.

As for the billboard issue...Slow news day???

Anonymous said...

Simmer down there 8:49pm, you sound just like Nooch did when he found out about the billboards being in violation of his own law. He hadn't realized it was a crime, but now he's getting Mort to take them down. Too late - Eyewitness News were filming the boards today.

And your point about Nooch not being the CA when the billboards went up is what exactly? That somehow that means that when Noooch became CA and the billboards were changed to off site adverts, that the law does''t apply to him?

Sheesh, with advisors like you, even Ipsen has a chance of beating Noooch.

Anonymous said...

Alan Jackson is smart. He knows the Gingrinch and Michele Bachman will help him with the Tea Party which will play a huge roll in this election.

He knows it will help him get into the runoff with Trutanich. The other candidates have nothing to offer, nor much funding to run a minimal campain.

Anonymous said...

Trutanich turned out to be the biggest disappointment in City politics. The shocker is that this guy is even worse than Delgadillo. Trutanich could probably be successful as a mafia crime boss but the idea of him being the head of a legitimate organization like the DA's office is a joke. Just look what he's done to the City Attorney's Office! He's run that place to the ground and his bullying micro managing asinine leadership has made the whole office hate him. How did this nut job even pass the bar?? Thank you Dragnet for continuing to expose Trutanich for the unethical dumbass he is.

Anonymous said...

Just take a look at all the special interest money that Nooch shook down for his power grab.

LA does not want an unethical thug like this in the DAs office or the CAs office. He shouldn't be in any public position of power because he is unfit for any job that requires honesty and integrity.

Go back to defending crooks Nooch, that's what you do best. Vote Mike Feuer for City Attorney and Mario Trujillo for DA.

Anonymous said...

Mort Allen gave Zuma a place to live and Nuch promised him a job if he would shill for Nuch (and likely to keep him from discovering the secrets about Nuch). Once Nuch won, he was kicked to the curb.