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Trutanich’s Grand Jury Quest is a Dead Issue—for Now…And Maybe for Good

June 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


The bill that could have given City Attorney Carmen Trutanich
his own grand jury was shot down in the Assembly’s Public Safety committee, thus never made it out to the state assembly floor for a vote. The bill, SB 1168, introduced by Senator Gill Cedillo, passed in the state senate. However the committee defeat means that that SB 1168 is dead for another year, maybe forever.

It likely didn’t help the bill’s chances that such state organizations as the California District Attorneys Association and the California Chamber of Commerce were against the idea.

A motion to oppose the SB 1168 was to have been discussed in Wednesday’s LA City Council meeting, but the bill’s death in legislative committee made the local motion a moot point,

However, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer still delivered his planned cost analysis of the proposed new grand jury.

Mr. Trutanich contended the grand jury would save money. However the CAO’s report indicated that this was not the case In fact, according to the CAO, the $$ needed to impanel a grand jury, along with other court costs, would put the City Attorney over budget.

In Sacramento, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D- San Francisco), the Public Safety Committee’s chair, told the LA Times’ Patrick McGreevy that he felt he was being asked to jump into an “internecine battle” going on in Los Angeles.

“I just thought it was inappropriate to bring to the Legislature,” Ammiano said Wednesday, the day after the committee action. “I don’t want to play in somebody else’s backyard.”

Right, and in that same vein, kudos to council members Jan Perry and Bernard Parks for staying on the subject, while most of the rest of the council either sided unquestioningly with Trutanich or seemed to remember urgent appointments elsewhere when the grand jury topic arose. Jan Perry in particular refused to bend to the insistent winds blowing out of the city attorney’s office.

Posted in City Attorney | 7 Comments »

7 Responses

  1. sbl Says:

    Ammiano’s comment is exactly right, an inapproriate and sneaky attempted end-run because he can’t win his “internecine battle” through appropriate channels.

    An unbelievably sneaky, arguably unethical attempted end-run around the L A City Charter, and balance of powers (among other things) in the opinion of many who should know – in a cynical alliance between the man widely derided in blogs as “One Bill Gil” Cedillo, for insisting it’s racist not to allow illegal immigrants who lack licenses or insurance the right to drive, and the Republican “lawman” who campaigned AGAINST illegal immigration. Even appearing with the likes of rightwing talkshow ranters Kevin James and Doug McIntyre in a media circus on a city street, using the unfortunate parents of Jamiel Shaw, Jr., murdered by an illegal immigrant known gangbanger with a long rapsheet, released from prison day before by reps for the County Sheriff and his backer, the Republican DA, as a clearly cynical tactic unworthy of someone who’s supposed to know and enforce the law, against Democratic city officials.

    The “internecine” battle has since become far more messy, going beyond Republican jingoism that chooses to confuse city and county and law enforcement boundaries and responsibilities, to personal issues between Trutanich and the likes of Jan Perry and Parks, AEG and LAPD Chiefs of Police, him taking the side of PPL who bought him, vs. the dept’s leadership and much of the real rank & file – of course his and Cedillo’s mutual target, the mayor himself. And a cast of supporting characters too big to name. The shame of it is, by now, he’s shown such an impatience with the legal boundaries of his job and/or understanding of them, and self-restraint, no one, certainly not his ostensible “clients,” can trust his advice without a second, costly private legal opinion that seems to have become the norm since he’s taken office. This gives them just another reason.

    As for his unsubstantiated claims that his power grab would save money being proven false – he also admitted to the L A Times Sunday Op Ed Editor Sue Horton (the only one who had the guts to press him on this several times, til he finally had to answer), during an editorial “chat” whose podcast was online, that he had no real figures to prove he’s saved money by trying and winning more cases in-house as he keeps claiming. He admitted that his “savings” are in fact subject to rehiring some 50-60 lawyers and other staff, like the 200-member private investigative force he wanted. (Was THIS another way to try to get THAT initial objective? If he can’t get a private police force, the next best thing would be his own secret grand jury? Who knows?)

    WHY has no one demanded an accounting to back up his claims on “savings?” He and his supporters sure use it a lot to try to justify additional money and powers.

  2. Celeste Fremon Says:

    Good for Sue! I didn’t see that. She’s a very smart cookie. I’ll have to go find the podcast.

    Yeah, I always though that money savings thing didn’t add up, that’s why I asked for the CAO’s report yesterday even after it was a dead issue.

  3. sbl Says:

    Celeste, wish I could give you more detail/exact date for that podcast, but it was one of those things where the whole editorial board sits around over coffee (you can hear the cups clatter) with one person, as they did w/ Chief Beck after he was selected, and they did more than once with Chf. Bratton, among others. It was some time AFTER the Maeve Reston “high five” article is all I can say for sure, since Trutanich complained about it several times.
    It struck me as unusual that the whole interview was put online, about an hour’s worth, instead of just excerpts.

    Anyway, Horton’s the only one who didn’t seem downright obsequious to the point of letting everything he said go unchallenged – he promised he’d do some kind of spreadsheet to justify these alleged “savings,” within a year or so, but I think that’s about how long ago that coffee was. (He sounded kind of annoyed that she wouldn’t let the issue drop, by the way: initially tried to put her off by complimenting her, for “thinking the way I do” in terms of hard figures, but without giving any. Finally, he said he’d have something for her when they repeated a similar meeting a year later. No doubt hoping the issue would be allowed to drop.)

  4. Jack Says:

    For sure Bernard Parks and Jan Perry can breath a sigh of relief now that Sacramento has put an end to this nonsense about the LA City Attorney being able to hold secret Grand Jury hearings.

    The cost that Trutanich has tried to hide from us, the taxpayers, is monstrous and would likely be funded by having to fire even more deputy city attorneys and support staff.

    There is no fiscal or legal justification for Trutanich being allowed to use a Grand Jury, it’s just another example of how he is turning the City Attorney’s Office into some sort of secret inquisition to intimidate politicians and city workers. Trutanich tried and failed to threaten Jan Perry and AEG boss Tim Leiweke, can you imagine the damage he would have done if he had used his secret Grand Jury instead? Thankfully that’s a nightmare we won’t have to have now.

    It’s bad enough that Trutanich has his 200 secret police investigators without explaining where the money comes from to pay for that, but the Grand Jury in his hands would be like the Spanish Inquisition. No way!

  5. sbl Says:

    So Trutanich DID get his secret police force of 200, despite the real LAPD, subject to real transparency now, has had its numbers frozen at best? (Or shrunk, if you consider that future recruit classes are on hold, hence attrition sets in.)
    - If so, where does the money for that ongoing expense come from, indeed? (He raided some Consumer Protection fund a while back to be able to hire his top aides who’d worked on his campaign, the 8 people a big fuss was made about vs. having to retain holdovers from Rocky’s administration who had civil service protection, but what about 200 investigators along with their cars, phones, expenses?

    And WHAT do they do, exactly? Who do they answer to? Is there even a semblance of the transparency he promised? What level of control/ oversight does DA Steve Cooley have over then – other than of course, top deputies between the two depts. being traded back and forth, along with the inside intel they bring. (Never mind, of course, the nonsense of being able to forge good working relationships with other officials, other than of course, the Republicans who sponsored him in the first place.)

  6. Jack Says:

    sbl is right. The whole Trutanich thing is a Steve Cooley set up. It’s Cooley who controls everything – the secret police are all ex-Cooley people, and most of Trutanich’s highly paid top aides are all Cooley people, and worse still, Cooley’s now got inside City Hall. With all the access he has to city business he can now prosecute officials without worrying about attorney client privilege – Cooley just orders the aides to report to different bosses. The whole thing is very troubling and certainly not what we voted for. Cooley thinks he’s J. Edgar Hoover, and Trutanich thinks he’s Elliot Ness. What these jokers don’t realize is that the city attorney is supposed to represent the city of Los Angeles and its elected officials. It is not supposed to be a secret police force that spies on elected officials. All the fuss about Richard Alarcon’s house and Mayor Villaraigosa’s free tickets to Staples Center, is all Cooley’s doing, with Trutanich allowing Cooley’s aides free access to confidential information that should never be used to prosecute democratically elected officials who are entitled to govern the city as they see fit. It seems that Cooley and Trutanich have the city so tied up that it took intervention from Sacramento to put a stop to this Grand Jury expansionism and not a moment too soon.

  7. Sure Fire Says:

    I guess you people better behave.

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