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.

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