As the LA Times exclusive report stated, state law does not allow sheriffs and other law enforcement officers to make political endorsements while in uniform. Baca initially insisted that he was 'exempt' from the law, something that sounds very much like advice hastily given to him by Trutanich in a panic phone call. However, after Baca contacted his real lawyers, he was told the video was in illegally in violation of state law. According to the LA Times, Baca readily admitted his violation "There's no excuse," Baca said. "I should've known."
City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, however, was not so forthcoming. He refused to answer questions about the illegal ad, claiming he was unable to comment because he was "sitting on City Hall property."His statement was reminiscent of his previous question-dodge "I'm at my desk, and I don't talk politics at my desk."
The more likely reason for Trutanich's silence was that there was no innocent explanation. Trutanich had to have know the law, not only because of his frequent claims to be a 'Super-Lawyer,' but because he had dealt with the issue of uniforms in political endorsements before. Trutanich was amongst the most vociferous to condemn former LAPD Chief Bratton's controversial endorsement of Councilmember Jack Weiss, Trutanich's opponent in the 2009 City Attorney race. As the 'Super-Lawyer' he claims to be Trutanich had to know all the legalities involved in obtaining the endorsement of sheriffs and police chiefs before commenting.
Surely Trutanich knew that Chief Bratton wore a business suit in his endorsement ad for Jack Weiss and not uniform because of the state law prohibition? It's no brainer.
Of course it is entirely possible that Trutanich broke the law because the part-time, night-time unaccredited law school graduate did not know the law, or had forgotten it. However, some might believe that it is more likely that he not care if the law was broken; he might believe that as the City Attorney he is 'exempt' and not subject to the same laws as ordinary people. He might also think the can claim some unnamed volunteer made the mistake. It's a claim he used successfully to dodge responsibility for lies about his police endorsements.
The illegal advertisement is not, of course, the first time Trutanich has openly violated advertising laws. In the BillboardGate scandal, Trutanich was exposed for having illegal off-site billboards outside his former campaign headquarters for over two years, in direct violation of his own citywide ban on permits for off-site advertising.
|Trutanich's illegal off-site billboards blighted Ventura Blvd, for over two years|
before he was forced to take them down.
Just as with BillboardGate, where Trutanich had to remove his illegal billboards, he has been forced to remove the illegal advertisement from his website.
|Trutanich's illegal advertisement was swiftly removed from his campaign website|
Whether Trutanich or Baca will face criminal charges for the violation is unclear. After being asked to review the video, Jim Sutton, a San Francisco-based attorney who specializes in election law, told the LA Times that "This is exactly what the law is meant to prohibit," Sutton said. "On its face, I have never seen such a blatant violation of state law."Attorney Robert M. Stern, who co-authored the state's Political Reform Act, told the LA Times that the Trutanich-Baca violation was "very embarrassing." adding that it was "... ironic that the chief law enforcement officer in the county and the campaign for the person who wants to be the chief prosecutor doesn't know what the law is."
It is not known whether Baca will re-perform the endorsement in plain clothes, or will perhaps decide that enough is enough when it comes to Trutanich, and pull his endorsement altogether. His involvement in Trutanich's illegal advertisement is believed to be the 'tip of the iceberg' when it comes to questionable conduct regarding Trutanich. With multiple media sources working on numerous issues surrounding 'a campaign born of a lie,' it is perhaps not so much a question of 'if' but 'when' the next Trutanich scandal is publicly reported.
Baca famously withdrew his endorsement of Jack Weiss when his campaign irregularities became public. "I can no longer remain silent about the reckless disregard for the truth that Jack Weiss has brought to this race," Baca said in a statement. "Mr. Weiss' latest television commercial is desperate and an insult to the principles of the American legal system, our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Obviously, Mr. Weiss does not respect the truth or our justice system that guarantees a fair trial for everyone." He told the LA Daily News in April 2009.
Weiss's misconduct never rose to the level of directly involving the Sheriff in illegality, as is the case with Trutanich's illegal advertisement. Given Baca's past reaction to association with dirty campaigns, the County's Top Cop may may well be under pressure to withdraw his support of Trutanich if only yo to preserve the integrity of the Sheriff''s Department, let alone his own credibility. To do otherwise would appear to be hypocritical.