Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Trutanich RentGate Scandal? - Missing Rent Payments and Irregularities Raise Campaign Finance Questions

EXCLUSIVE: Carmen Trutanich's 2009 City Attorney Campaign Could Face Ethics Violation Investigation Over Apparently Unreported or Under-Reported Campaign Expenses.

Dragnet readers familiar with Trutanich's Billboard Blunder, and the ensuing BillboardGate cover-up, will need no reminding that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's former campaign headquarters were located at 12524 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.

The scandal surrounding Trutanich's off-site billboards
has led to questions about who paid the rent for Trutanich's headquarters
As a result of the Dragnet's coverage of those scandals, an anonymous tip suggested that we research the amount of rent paid by Trutanich for his headquarters. Campaign finance laws require all candidates to timely report their expenses, debts, as well as cash and in-kind contributions, so the tipster suggested we research the City Ethics Commission website where the relevant records can be found on-line.

The City Ethics Commission website allows visitors to search
campaign contributions and expenses.
Following the tipster's suggestion, we searched for campaign payments made to "Allen Realty Plaza," Trutanich's landlord and, according to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Inspector Luke Zamparini's statement to the Los Angeles Metropolitan News, 'the property owner, Mort Allen, was “a big supporter” of Trutanich’s campaign."

We found two payments from Trutanich to Allen Realty Plaza LLC
which appear to be related to rent as they are described as 'Office Expenses.'
The results of our search shows that four payments were made by Trutanich to Allen Realty Plaza LLC, two of which appear to be rent as they are described as 'Office Expenses.'

The first apparent rent payment of $1,822.50 was made on March 11, 2009, eight days after the March 3, 2009 primary election:

This payment purports to cover a three month period from January 1, 2009 to April 4, 2009, suggesting a monthly rent of $607.50 for the approx 750 square foot unit occupied by Trutanich.

The second apparent rent payment of $2,053.00 was made on April 13, 2009:

That payment covers a one month period from April 5, 2009 to May 2, 2009 at what appears to be a monthly rent of $2,053.00.

If indeed, our interpretation of these two payments is correct, several issues arise. Issues that could constitute ethics violations as they relate to the timely and accurate reporting of campaign expenses, as well as non-monetary contributions.

Question 1: Who paid the rent for the period May 3, to May 19, 2009?
The general election was on May 19, 2009. Trutanich's campaign staff were using the campaign headquarters right up until the eve of the election when they went to the Sheraton Hotel at Universal City for Trutanich's victory party.

Trutanich personally used the campaign headquarters on May 12, 2009 when he gave an interview to Fox 11 News regarding Jack Weiss and the Felon Fundraiser, so he cannot claim not to have used the headquarters after May 2, 2009.

As well as being used by campaign staff during a period when no record of rent payment can be found,
Trutanich personally used the location to give an interview to Fox 11 News in that period.
The campaign headquarters was probably in use in the days after the May 19, 2009 election, at the very least until the end of the month.

However, no record can be found for payments to Allen Realty Plaza LLC in respect of 'Office Expenses,' which would appear to be the correct description for the rent.

The $2,053.00 payment for the 27 day period of April 5, to May 2, 2009, results in a daily rent rate of $76.04, meaning an unreported expense of $1,216.59 to the date of the election, or $2,129.04 to the end of May 2009.

Of course, it is possible that the landlord, Mort Allen, could have made a gift of the rent, however, that would also have to be reported as an "in kind" or "non monetary" contribution. The problem there is that on March 25, 2009, Allen contributed the maximum allowable $1,000.00 to Trutanich:

 It does appear that Trutanich either paid Allen the rent without reporting the expense, or, if no payment was made, Trutanich received an "in kind" or "non monetary"contribution from Allen which exceeds the campaign contribution limits. Either way, it appears to violate the rules.

Question 2: Who paid the rent for the period before January 1, 2009?
 Just as no record can be found of rent payments for Trutanich's campaign headquarters after May 2, 2009, no records can be found of rent payments before January 1, 2009.

Former Trutanich campaign workers have stated that the headquarters were in use well before January 1, 2009, perhaps as early as September 2008. However, independent evidence exists which establishes Trutanich's use of his headquarters at a very minimum on November 24, 2008:

Trutanich's infamous "Pledge to Serve" challenge to Jack Weiss was signed on November 24, 2008, on letterhead giving the campaign headquarters' address. In all likelihood, the campaign headquarters was occupied and in use well before November 24, 2008, but the 37 day period between that date and December 31, 2008 would, based on the daily rent rate of $76.04, result in an unreported campaign expense/payment of $2,813.37, or an unreported "in kind" or "non monetary"contribution of that amount from Allen, which clearly exceeds the campaign contribution limits.

Question 3: Was the rent for January 1 through April 4, 2009 under-reported?
If it didn't initially strike you as strange that a monthly rent of $607.50 is exceptionally low for a prime location on Ventura Blvd., then perhaps the difference between that and the second $2,053.00 payment makes the likelihood that Trutanich received the benefit of a below market rent all the more apparent.

The $2,053.00 charged for April 5, through May 2, 2009, equates to an annual rent of $27,753, or $37 per square foot, which is believed to be in the region of the market rent for comparable locations. The $607.50 declared rent would equal an annual rent of $7,752 or $9.54 per square foot. This is believed to be well bellow the market rent.

If Trutanich had paid rent at the same rate for that 93 day period from January 1, through April 4, 2009, as he apparently paid for the 27 day period of April 5, through May 2, 2009, that would equal $7,071.44. He only paid $1,822.50, so arguably, Trutanich either failed to report the true rent, or received an unreported "in kind" or "non monetary"contribution of $5,248.94.

Unless Trutanich paid the rent to Allen in some other way, not apparent from the reported campaign expenses, there appears to be a minimum of $9,278.90 either in unreported expenses, or in illegal campaign contributions in excess of campaign finance limits. Violations of the Campaign Finance Ordinance (LAMC 49.7.1 et seq) can be prosecuted as misdemeanors. Additionally, because each campaign finance report requires the signature of the candidate and treasurer under penalty of perjury, a prosecution for a felony violation of Penal Code Section 118 is also possible if it can be established that those signing the reports knew that they were making a false statement about a material fact.

The Dragnet believes that these three questions require adequate answers, and perhaps reference to the City Ethics Commission, the Fair Political Practices Commission, and the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorney's Office for investigation.

While illegal campaign contributions scandals dogged Jack Weiss's campaign for City Attorney, Weiss always maintained that he did not know that the illegal contributions were 'laundered.' In contrast, it would appear to be hard for Trutanich to claim that he did not know how much rent was paid for his campaign headquarters; only deadbeats don't know how much rent they have to pay.

Once again, the Bernie Madoff statement "there is no innocent explanation" comes to mind, however, should Trutanich have an innocent explanation for what appears to be a series of serious violations of campaign finance laws, the Dragnet will gladly publish it.



Anonymous said...

Great job! Very well argued and right on! Now are you going to file an FPPC compalint already?!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Cooley will prosecute just like he did to Albert Robles. It will be an awesome use of tax payer money. There are more to office expenses then rent, but you may not know that because you didn't do anything in your campaign for City Attorney, but attack Jack Weiss, now did you Berger? No expense needed to sit behind your computer and barf all over the internet. Awesome use of your time and county time. Nuch will be your boss soon. Good luck with that one.

Anonymous said...

Trutanich looks dead in the water on this one. "There is no innocent explanation"

Anonymous said...

11:20am you are missing the point (or you are engaging in intentional misdirection). Whatever Nooch's excuse for this is, he can't deny the HYPOCRISY. Along with Cooley, he has championed the investigation and prosecution of any politician "of color" that commits even a spelling mistake. Now the big dumb wealthy white lawyer has been caught stepping over the line. Is there any excuse for not hammering him? I'm sure he'll come up with one, and we'll see how well the double standard plays in the 'hoods south of Wilshire and east of Alameda.

Anonymous said...

"Big dumb white lawyer" Oh I thought you were talking about Cooley, but then you would also have to add repulsively ugly. If Nuch is all those things you say, at least Nuch is good looking and he will still become your boss.

Anonymous said...

"Nuch is good looking" a comment by his wife or lover?

Anonymous said...

Wow, that post at 2:15pm is really kind of creepy!

Anonymous said...

Nooch could have a real problem because of this. Not only is an ethics investigation likely to find violations, but Sheriff Baca will pull his support as he most likely will not want to be associated with Noooch while the investigation is on-going. Boy, aint Karma a bitch Nooch. Now there is a criminal aspects investigation into you! Tim Leiweke must be enjoying this.

Anonymous said...

Awesome investigation Joe Friday, whoever you are. You know the key to a solid fraud investigation is to follow the money and prove the violation by letting the paper speak for itself. That looks like the case here. Don't need a witness to prove Trutanich was sitting in his HQ on May 12, ten days after he stopped paying rent, because he's on Fox TV calling Weiss out for "hanging out with a felon." And don't need a witness to prove Trutanich was in the HQ before he started paying rent, his Pledge To Seve proves it. Awesome. With ethics like that he will never be DA and he will not be re-elected. Awesome. Just awesome. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

3:55 p.m. Tim Liweke is the biggest ass hole in the city. The moment you start bringing in low lives like Liweke & Jan Perry & the like, is when I want to support Trutanich. Undertsand the difference. We want Trutanich to be better and not sink to the level of these low lives. I'll give all support to Trutanich despite his moles & warts if he can put the Liwekes of the world behind bars.

Anonymous said...

4:22 pm take your head out of your ass. In case you didn't know it Leiweke and Nooch are best buddies these days. Nooch gave Tim a big thumbs up at Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council meeting and called him a great Los Angeleno. Noooch wants a piece of the Farmers Field deal. So you still like Noooch? Of course you do, you are so stupid you don't even realize that Noooch is tooling you like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Looks like it's Trutanich's own people who ratted him out over this and the billboards. He is so loathed and hated that they will stop at nothing to kick him out of city hall, They did the same think to Rocky.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hey 4:22pm aka dumbass "It was all smiles and hugs Wednesday evening for Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which seeks to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angles, and City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich, who represented the city in a stadium deal approved just nine days ago by the City Council."

So your hero Nooch who you want "to be better and not sink to the level of these low lives" looks like he's swimming in the same water and lovin' it.

That's because he's got sh*t for brains supporters like you who haven't got a freaking clue what time of day it is.

Read about the whole Nooch Leiweke lovefest at The Studio City Patch and then come back and try to find a better reason to support Noooooch.

Anonymous said...

Mort Allen is telling people that he's going to sue David Berger for slander. Now that will be the trial of the century.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 4:22PM. Trutanich is the only watch dog who will keep an eye on the likes of Tim Lieweekly. He said it in front of Tim at our last SOHA meeting.

He's proven it time and again, especially when he forced them to repay the city $2 million dollars.

He's got my vote whatever he does, and we'll support him.

Anonymous said...

Mort Allen is more likely to cut a deal with the DA's office and testify against Nooch.

Anonymous said...

Nooch got his ass handed to him on a plate when he couldn't deliver the goods on the AEG criminal aspects investigation.

Dennis Zine brokered a deal that saw the city get $1M from AEG and the LAPD charity got $300k. There was no comment from Nooch - all he got was a bunch of Lady Gaga tickets. It could have been $2M if Nooch hadn't botched the whole thing up by grandstanding in front of city council and making wild accusations. That's why everyone calls him Carmen the Clown, the biggest joke in city hall.

Anonymous said...

Mort Allen can't find a lawyer as smart as Berger.

Anonymous said...

Berger why don't you sue Trutanich? If you voted for him, that may be sufficient consideration to have made this a valid contract between you and him. I'm sure there has never been a similar case precedent so you will be first. I can understand if the courts say you can't sue an official for not fulfilling his promises of e.g. more jobs etc., but this was a different type of contract - he said vote for me and I will serve you for 2 terms and not seek higher office - so there must be some accountability. Almost like fraud by trickery. Besides, what is Trutanich going to argue in his summary judgment motion?! Anything he says will make him look like even more of a big fat liar.

Anonymous said...

Don't hate on Berger he is doing a public service outing this con. Without Berger none of this stuff would be exposed. The public has a right to know. Sorry but we are in the information age. You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

It's a real shame that a blogger has to do all this hard work and the mainstream media doesn't have the decency to print (yet) this important and scandalous information about an elected official and someone who wants to be the head of the largest prosecutorial agency in the world. What's worse is that based on the pattern of prosecution of elected officials in LA, the reality is that if Nuch was African American or Latino he would have already been indicted.

Anonymous said...

10:28PM is right. Besides, nothing reported here isn't in the public domain. The rental period is clear from the CEC filings that Trutanich signed under penalty of perjury. His pledge to serve letter was made public 6 weeks before he started paying rent, and his interview with Fox News was 10 days after he stopped paying rent.

It doesn't get much clearer than that. If the CEC tries to cover this up there will really be an outcry in the media, just in time for the election. If the CEC does find ethics violations, and they look pretty clear, that will really hurt Trutanich in the election too.

Anonymous said...

To the commenter at 11:20AM who criticized Berger for doing nothing in his campaign but attack Jack Weiss, you have to say Berger did a very good job. I hope he keeps this blog going long enough to do the same thing to Trutanich. Only difference is that there is SOOOO much more material to work with with Trutanich. He cannot say a sentence without lying and the Dragnet is always on the ball calling him out for lying. Let's see,
AEG criminal aspects - LIE
ACE Program origins - LIE
38th St. Gang Bust - LIE
Bryan Stow Dodgers Stadium beating - LIE
Off-Site Billboards - LIE

The list goes on and on and on.

Anonymous said...

10:40 Agreed but problem is that Trutanich just nominated Nathan Hochman to the City Ethics Commission! I still hope they probe into this because it is abhorrent and yes it's a BIG DEAL.