Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

As we wind down the year, we wish all Dragnet readers (yes, even the haters who never fail to amuse with their colorful comments) the Season's Greetings and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Special thanks to Jo-Ann and Roger Grace at the Metropolitan News-Enterprise for the seasonally-appropriate graphic above.

If you think snowfall in Los Angeles is as unlikely as straight talk from a politician, take a moment to review the video below. It's an excellent compilation of the way Los Angelenos are bracing themselves for the big freeze that apparently has us in its icy grip.


The Dragnet will be back with a review of the top topics of 2013.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Trutanich to blame for high settlement cost in Ticket Quotagate Scandal

We wrote last week about the criticism leveled against LAPD Capt. Nancy Lauer by pseudonymous LAPD Cop "Jack Dunphy" for being the cause of the $6M settlement that LA taxpayers have to pay. But Dragnet readers will not be surprised to find that there's more to the story and there's more than one person to blame for the high cost of this calamity.

Carmen 'the Clown' Trutanich's bungled handling of the first traffic ticket quota case
traced as the cause of the massive payout in the second case settled December 10, 2013.

Yes, it's the Dragnet's favorite political phony, Carmen 'the Clown' Trutanich, the former and failed City Attorney who was too busy running for DA to do his job.

The 11 motor officers who complained about being forced to write 18 tickets a day (let's call their case Quotagate II) were not the first to sue over being subjected to illegal quotas. The first to sue were two motor officers from the very same division, under the very same Captain (Quotagate I). Two weeks ago, the LA City Council voted to settle Quotagate II for $5.9M because a jury awarded $2M in Quotagate I; they did the math, if 2 cops get $M in Quotagate I, then 11 cops would get $11M if Quotagate II goes to trial. Settling was a no-brainer.

But who set the benchmark of two cops getting $1M apiece for being forced to follow an illegal quota?

There's an old maxim in fraud investigations; "Follow the money, and you'll find the fraud," and if you follow the money in Quotagate II, it traces back Quotagate I, and to the doorstep of the Clown.

Quotagate I could have settled for $500K
It's 2011 and Carmen the Clown is busy chasing headlines to bolster his campaign to become District Attorney. He's playing tough guy with our dollars, insisting that Deputy City Attorneys follow his asinine "Porcupine Defense" whenever and why-ever the city is sued. So when Quotagate I was set for trial, tough talking Trutanich refuses to settle the case for the $500k the officers were willing to take (see LA Times, April 12, 2011). The case goes to trial and, as was expected, Trutanich loses. It cost us $2M; $1.5M more than it should have.

If, instead of having his head up his ass with his pipe dream of being DA, Trutanich had settled the case for $500k, the benchmark, the starting place for negotiations in Quotagate II, would have been $250K a cop. Do the math; that's 11 cops at $250k apiece, the case is worth $2.75M. Half of what it ended up costing us. Thank you Carmen Trutanich.

Trutanich blew the Appeal
But wait, there's more. Bad enough that Trutanich's flawed trial strategy cost us $1.5M more than it should have done, the egocentric blowhard blew the deadline to appeal the jury's verdict.

It's 2012 and Carmen the Clown is now "officially" running for DA. Any thoughts of appealing the $2M verdict in Quotagate I are overshadowed by the campaign borne of a lie. June 5, 2012 and Trutanich loses the primary election for DA. In the days that followed his political castration, Trutanich was scarcely seen at his office. Too busy, perhaps, suing his former campaign manager while trying to patch together a doomed reelection bid. The Quotagate I appeal slipped through the cracks.

If Trutanich had appealed the $2M verdict, informed sources tell the Dragnet that the verdict would, at a minimum, have been halved. Without going into details, there were "problems" with the case that likely would not have withstood appeal. But the Clown blew the deadline to appeal.

An appealed verdict of $1M would have set the benchmark for Quotagate II far lower. Do the math. 2 cops go to trial over ticket quotas, and get $500k apiece. That values Quotagate II at $5.5M after trial and appeal. That would have given a savvy City Attorney something to argue about, something to negotiate with, and something likely to settle the case for around $3M, well bellow the $5.9M paid out as a result of Trutanich's botched handling of the case.

Even though Trutanich was finally unceremoniously thrown out of office, it seems that Los Angelenos have not yet finished paying the price for entrusting this charlatan with their vote. Where will the the next Trutanich screw up impact taxpayers? Well you could take a look at the unseemly haste with which Trutanich paid off two women unfortunately shot by LAPD during the hunt for Christopher Dorner.

Many believe Trutanich's super-quick settlement was a very expensive ploy to
curry favor in the Latino community for Trutanich's reelection

Three weeks before the election that sealed Trutanich's removal from public office, Trutanich gave $4.2M to these women, who happened to be Latino, a voting block Trutanich was counting on. No depositions were taken, no forensic examination into the value of the damages sought, no Porcupine Defense strategy, nothing. Throughout the office, questions were being asked as to the impropriety of this brazenly political payoff payout.

So what? Well the next time there's a lawsuit involving an mistaken shooting by LAPD, Carmen 'the Clown' has set an unusually high benchmark for pre-trial settlement there too. That may not be LA's problem right now, but elsewhere, the ghost of Tutnanich haunts. The City of Torrance is currently unable to settle a lawsuit brought by a third shooting victim during the Dorner manhunt; David Perdue, a 38 year old Redondo Beach resident who was shot at by Torrance Police Dept. officers during the manhunt. He has turned down a $500K settlement offer, no doubt because his lawyers see his case being worth at least as much as the $2.1M per victim settlement that Trutanich established in his desperation to be reelected.

As the season of goodwill to all approaches, there should be little goodwill for Trutanich. We will be paying for his screw ups for a long time to come.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

LAPD Captain in Traffic Ticket Quotagate under fire ... from a Cop!

Last week LA residents reeled over the high cost of poor management in LAPD that resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement caused by LAPD Captain Nancy Lauer's mismanagement of motor officers under her command. 11 officers complained of being forced to write 18 traffic tickets a day - an illegal quota under state law. They sued, they won $5.9M. The taxpayer picks up the tab, not LAPD, not the Captain.

KABC's Doug McIntyre was the lone voice in the media who asked the question, why aren't Lauer and the higher-ups in LAPD who supervised her being held responsible for the cost of this outrage?

McIntye blasted the silence of the lambs (City Hall) in his Daily News Op-Ed, posing a few inconvenient questions that neither City Hall nor LAPD want to answer:

"If Capt. Lauer is guilty of ordering officers to write tickets based on quotas in violation of state law, why isn’t she being prosecuted?" 
"Why is she still employed by the LAPD?" 
"Why has she been promoted?" 
"Why is she still on the list for future promotions?"

Now, it seems, comes an answer, and it's not pretty...

The answer comes from pseudonymous LAPD Cop "Jack Dunphy." Here's an excerpt from what he wrote at PJ Media:

"... it’s important that I explore for the reader some of the LAPD’s inner workings. When I became a cop more than 30 years ago, I assumed one had to be pretty smart to promote to the rank of sergeant, and even smarter to make it to lieutenant. To promote to captain, I assumed, one must be possessed of extraordinary intelligence, and to go beyond captain, to the ranks of commander and deputy chief, required nothing less than genius. It did not take long to disabuse me of these notions. Yes, there are some exceptionally bright people in the upper ranks of the LAPD, but there are of course just as many at the opposite end of the bell curve. And even among the smarter ones there are those for whom leadership is something to be talked about rather than practiced.

So from time to time there comes along a captain who has been wafted aloft through the ranks on the basis of considerations other than the ability to manage and lead. When such a person has proven himself inept at the rank of captain in one of the LAPD’s 21 patrol stations, he (or she, as the case may be) is sometimes installed in one of the city’s four traffic divisions under the theory that it is there, where the scope of his command is limited, that he can cause less damage to the department and the city. Captains assigned to traffic divisions know this and resent it, and they sometimes take their resentments out on their subordinates in the form of unreasonable expectations. For the seasoned motor cop, an unbroken line of marginal captains brings its frustrations, especially when each successive one tries to increase “productivity,” i.e., ticket writing, through suspect means.

Such was the case at West Traffic Division, from whose officers these lawsuits originated. The captain in question had transferred in from a patrol station where her leadership was found wanting, a deficiency that, ironically, earned her a promotion into the commanding officer’s chair at West Traffic. Eager to prove herself, she demanded that officers increase their ticket production, going so far as to memorialize in writing when they failed to do so. Her management style was all stick and no carrot, and some of the officers responded as anyone with common sense would have expected. In the 2011 case, a jury agreed with the officers that the captain had imposed a de facto quota; when the officers in the more recent case made identical claims with identical evidence, the city had little choice but to settle the case for about half the amount a jury would likely have awarded.

And in case you’re wondering, the captain has been promoted and transferred yet again, much to the delight of her former subordinates and the chagrin of her new ones. I haven’t yet heard of any lawsuits coming out of her current command, but I suppose it’s just a matter of time."


Click here for the full text of "Jack Dunphy's" article.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Baca Blues Brings Fundraiser Flop

Sheriff Baca's reelection bid took a nose dive Monday, according to LA Times columnist Steve Lopez.

Billed as a "help our friend" event, and hosted by "A trio of losers" according to John and Ken. Lopez apparently couldn't resist dropping in on the fundraiser Monday night, held at Engine Company 28, a fashionable downtown restaurant a stone's throw from the US Attorney's Office where 18 Deputy Sheriffs were indicted earlier that day.

The $1,500 a head event was slated to attract a crowd of 45, but only 15 showed up, most were likely freeloaders brought along to try to make the event look like a success. According to Lopez, it flopped, with few attending and Governor Gray Davis giving it a miss.

Bad as it is for Baca, Lopez senses that he's doing ok on the fundraising front, but tellingly, Lopez also quoted LA County Sheriff candidate Bob Olmsted's response to Baca's latest scandal, an indication that print media will likely endorse Olmsted as Baca's replacement. The value of media endorsements far eclipses fundraising in a county wide election campaign, as one of the events' co-hosts, Carmen Trutanich, learned when his multi-million dollar campaign to become DA failed spectacularly.

Was it association with a bunch of losers that ruined the fundraiser, or more bad news for Baca? Either way, many are saying the writing is on the wall for Baca.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Topics; Times Trashes Trutanich, The Bell rings for Spaccia, More Baca Blues

LA Times Trashes Trutanich (again)

While often criticized by commenters for hounding the ghost of onetime DA wannabe Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, it appears that the Dragnet is not alone in reminding readers of the historic political failure of the man who succeeded only in alienating allies, squandering political capital, and earning the headline "Carmen 'I am a Liar' Trutanich." The LA Times, Monday, chose to use Trutanich as it's leader for their recap of the winners and losers of 2013. The Dragnet, it seems, is in good company.

Headlined "The Final Flameout of Carmen Trutanich," this from the LA Times: "He was once celebrated as a breath of anti-establishment fresh air in Los Angeles City Hall, but the beginning of the end of Carmen Trutanich's romance with voters came last year when he broke his pledge to stay as head of the city attorney's office and not seek the district attorney's post. Voters spoke what is likely the final word on his political career on May 21, when they defeated him soundly for reelection as city attorney."

Interestingly, the Times chose Trutanich ahead of their other two notable losers; failed San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and FBI suspect Ron Calderon. Trutanich, it seems, also in good company.

It is also, perhaps, not without coincidence that the Times' piece on Trutanich came out on the same day as he co-hosted a fundraiser for Sheriff Lee Baca. Baca also hit the headlines Monday with the not altogether unexpected news that 18 Deputy Sheriffs have been indicted in a "wide ranging jail probe." Must have been quite a fundraiser...

Bell Rings for Angela Spaccia - Guilty in Corruption Case

The LA Times reports that after eight days of deliberations, which must have had heads scratching as to what was taking the jury so long, a downtown jury found former City of Bell Assistant Manager Angela Spaccia guilty on 11 of 13 felony charges.

The verdict must come as a huge relief for DA Jackie Lacey, this being perhaps the highest profile conviction on her watch. Lead prosecutor, Max Huntsman also must be glad to know that he is leaving the DA's Office on a high note, to become County Inspector General with oversight of the Sheriff's Dept, even though he might be feeling like he has jumped from the frying pan into the fire in the light of Monday's Federal indictment.

Former District Attorney, Steve Cooley, must also feel a certain pride in the successful conclusion to the Bell corruption case that he initiated. Cooley can also point to yet another vindication; Spaccia's defense attorney, Harland Braun, had argued to jurors that Cooley had only initiated the Bell corruption cases because it would help him in his bid to become Attorney General.  It seems the jury did not buy what Braun was selling.

Blaming then District Attorney Steve Cooley for a politically motivated prosecution
and likening Spaccia and Rizzo to Adolf Hitler "evil people can do good things,"
defense attorney Harland Braun tosses arguments to the jury.
Curiously, Braun compared his client's boss, Robert Rizzo, to Adolf Hitler arguing "I've said what terrible things he [Rizzo] did to the city, but even evil people can produce good things. You've all heard of Adolf Hitler and Volkswagen," he said, referring to the car developed by Nazi Germany, the Times reported. Alas for Braun, who apparently represented Spaccia pro-bono, the "evil people can do good things" argument did not impress the jury any more than the "politically motivated prosecution" argument.

More Baca Blues

Monday was likely not the best day embattled LA County Sheriff Lee Baca ever had. Perhaps the only thing worse than the prospect of attending a fundraiser co-hosted by Carmen Trutanich was the devastating news that 18 Deputy Sheriffs have been indicted in what the LA Weekly reports is a "Wide-Ranging Jail Probe" encompassing 5 cases of alleged misconduct. Ouch.

An 18-page indictment concerning one of the five cases was posted by the LA Weekly and can be viewed here.

LA Observed reported that Baca released this statement in response:

"While the indictments were not unexpected, it is nevertheless a sad day for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. We do not tolerate misconduct by any deputies. This department is grounded in its core values, namely to honorably perform our duties with respect for the dignity of all people, and integrity to do right and fight wrongs. We have cooperated fully with the federal investigation and will continue to do so.

Please know that I respect the criminal justice system. No one is above the law."

Tellingly, however, US Attorney Andre Birotte Jr., said "The five cases allege a wide scope of illegal conduct. This investigation started by focusing on misconduct in county jails, and we uncovered examples of civil rights violations that included excessive force and unlawful arrests. Our investigation also found that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum. In fact, they demonstrated behavior that had become institutionalized."

The LA Weekly reported that Birotte was repeatedly asked about Baca's role in these incidents, but he declined to comment, except to say that "the investigation is ongoing."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the LA Weekly reported that former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who is running to replace his former boss, "declined to comment."

In stark contrast to Tanaka's silence, another candidate for Sheriff, retired Commander Robert 'Bob' Olmstead, was surprisingly well prepared to comment. "Today's arrests underscore the high level of corruption that has plagued the Sheriff's Department under the failed leadership of Sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka," Olmsted said in a statement. "It would be no surprise to me at all if there was a direct link between Sheriff Baca and Undersheriff Tanaka and these arrested sheriff's regarding their actions of obstructing justice and their attempts to prevent the FBI from further investigating corruption inside the department."

Outside the federal building, Olmsted gave several media interviews. "This is just the first wave," Olmsted predicted. "They're going after the low-lying fruit first... Everybody indicted today does not have the authority to do what they're accused of doing. This could not have happened without the top people knowing about it." The LA Weekly reported.

If Trutanich, Baca and Tanaka don't like Mondays, it seems Bob Olmsted does. This is likely the big break he has been waiting for in his campaign. With dark clouds over Baca and Tanaka, Olmsted could emerge from being labeled as a "long shot" (LA Weekly) to a front runner if, as seems likely, the media gets behind him. Given the level of Olmsted's preparedness in his response, it is likely that the popular former Commander had some advance notice of the indictments. Perhaps a leak or two from within the Sheriff's Dept., where many remember Olmsted as a firm but fair leader, likely the kind or person they would like to see as their next boss.

Olmsted will be on the ballot in the June 2014 primary, along with the other challengers to Sheriff Baca's reelection bid. His campaign slogan, "Olmsted Instead," might just have enough of a ring to it to resonate with voters if Baca's blues continue to dog him.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday's Free For All; Brazil, Tavelman Appointed to Bench, Ipsen's Misconduct Outlined

Deputy District Attorneys Deborah Brazil and Frank Tavelman appointed to Los Angeles Superior Court

While eight, or possibly nine, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorneys have announced plans to run for open seats for the Superior Court in the June 2014 primary elections, two other DDAs won't have to worry about campaigns and elections to become judges.

Governor Brown announced Thursday that he has appointed Deputy District Attorneys Deborah Brazil and Frank Tavelman to the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Brazil is the only Republican amongst the eight appointments made by Brown. Both Brazil and Tavelman obtained their JD's from Southwestern Law School, and both have had long and distinguished careers at the DA's Office. They deserve our hearty congratulations.

Ipsen fired for "improper and egregious conduct"

Documents obtained by the Dragnet pursuant to a Public Records Act request made of the Employee Relations Commission (ERCOM) show that former ADDA President and failed DA candidate Steve Ipsen was fired by the District Attorney's Office on July 20, 2012 after a year-long investigation into his "improper and egregious conduct as a Deputy District Attorney."

One of the documents obtained by the Dragnet is a 16-page "Notice of Discharge" letter outlining Ipsen's misconduct. The letter is understood to have been hand delivered to Ipsen two months after he had been ordered to leave his office at the Antelope Valley Branch Office on May 15, 2012 and assigned to his home, without duties.

The Notice of Discharge letter would not normally be a matter of public record, however, on November 9, 2012, Ipsen decided to challenge his dismissal by filing a complaint with ERCOM, and the Notice of Discharge letter was filed in response to Ipsen's complaint, or 'charge' in ERCOM-speak.

In his complaint, Ipsen asserts that his termination violates the Employee Relations Ordinance prohibiting unfair employee relations practice, and contends that his dismissal was pretextual, based solely on his union activities, and that he did not "engage in conduct which was not either consistent with office policies and/or common practice county-wide." Additionally, Ipsen contends that his termination is "disproportionate to any actual mistakes or errors that were made," perhaps a curious contention given that Ipsen asserts he did nothing wrong.

In the interests of full disclosure and fairness, Ipsen's complaint (or charge) appears below:

While Ipsen extensively quotes an earlier finding of ERCOM in his current complaint, it should be noted that the prior ERCOM finding has been thrown out after it was discovered that Ipsen and other ADDA officers had engaged in improper ex parte communications with ERCOM.

Despite Ipsen's assertion that in essence, he either did nothing wrong, or that what he did do was common practice in the DA's Office, the 16-page Notice of Discharge presents a very different picture.

For the most part the Notice of Discharge speaks for itself, however, we do note that there cannot be any DDAs who have:
1) Used their position as a DDA to further their political campaign in the courtroom.
2) Misrepresented to a judge that a sentencing scheme known as 'Reform First' as the official policy of the DA's Office when in truth and in fact it was part of a campaign to become DA.
3) Boasted in a YouTube video that they act "in violation of the policy of the District Attorney of Los Angeles" on a daily basis.
4) Took photographs of a defendant at sentencing to be used to "show the governor, legislators, attorney general in an effort to get the law changed."
5) Entered into illegal sentences whereby a defendant is required to admit a prior 'strike' and be sentenced to a doubled prison term which is suspended on a grant of probation.
6) Dismissed prior serious or violent felonies ('strikes') without obtaining Head Deputy approval.
7) Submitted Disposition Reports indicating a felony conviction, but then agreed to a different disposition without obtaining approval.

The misconduct outline in the Notice of Discharge clearly demonstrates the impropriety of Ipsen being honored by the ADDA at their recent Awards Dinner. It is incredible and disgraceful that the organization purporting to represent all DDAs should condone Ipsen's conduct. Some might argue that the extent of Ipsen's misconduct was unknown to the ADDA, however, readers may be shocked to hear that the ADDA has filed a parallel complaint or charge with ERCOM, making essentially the same claims made by Ipsen.
Worse, it appears that the ADDA is bankrolling the legal fees in these two ERCOM charges; the same law firm, Rothner, Segall & Greenstone, appears as attorney for Ipsen and the ADDA in both charges.

Many reading the 16-page Notice of Discharge will likely find Ipsen and the ADDA's assertions that this type of conduct is county wide practice, untenable, incredible and shameful. They will be outraged at the thought that the ADDA union dues withheld from their pay are being used to finance this fiasco. It is time that the ADDA made its conduct in this case clear for all to understand.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

John & Ken Blast Trutanich for headlining Sheriff Baca Fundraiser

Kevin Roderick's excellent LA Observed posted a piece entitled "Sheriff Baca still has political friends" Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Roderick posted this copy of an invitation to a fundraiser to be held Monday, December 9, 2013 in downtown LA's fashionable eatery, Engine Co. 28.

Roderock observed that despite much of the current press being negative about Baca and the Sheriff's Dept., "it's hard to unseat a sitting sheriff with all of his arrangements, deals and incumbent's advantages. Witness this: Next Monday night, a fundraiser for Baca will be co-hosted by former Democratic governor Gray Davis, former City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and high-profile defense lawyer Mark Geragos. The $1,500-per-ticket reception is being held at Engine Co. 28, the Downtown eatery that has been the venue for many fundraisers. Doesn't look like Baca is hurting for friends." Roderick said.

But LA's top-rated evening drive-time talk show hosts, KFI AM640's John and Ken, were less than impressed by Baca's friends. During the 5 o'clock hour, Tuesday night, they took a few well-aimed shots at former City Attorney and one-time DA wannabe Carmen Trutanich describing him as part of a 'trio of losers' and a 'troika of evil and incompetence.' They said.

Adding insult to injury, John and Ken questioned Baca's logic in allowing Trutanich & co to host a fundraiser for him. "He couldn't have picked three bigger boobs" and "bumbling fools," they said as they lambasted Trutanich for losing a 'simple election for City Attorney,' and Davis for being recalled, and Geragos for his unsuccessful defense in the Scott Peterson case.

"Likes end up being friends with likes" John and Ken said, "They are all kinda stupid, they are all bad at their jobs, they all lie a lot, they're clearly available, and they're all like borderline corrupt in different ways" they said.

Perhaps Sheriff Baca should look around for some different friends?