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Chatting With the City Attorney-Elect


This weekend I had a short but interesting chat
with our soon-to-be City Attorney, Carmen Trutanich.

Now, let me say at the outset that I have had mixed feelings on the issue of who really ought to have replaced Rocky Delgadillo. It was a contentious and mud-fraught race with people whom I like and respect on opposite sides of that battle.

But, one thing I do know for certain, like it or not, Carmen Trutanich received the most votes and, come July 1, he will take over as LA’s City Attorney.

So it behooves us….or me in this case….to get to know the man.

My first swipe at this endeavor took place on Friday night at Kevin Roderick’s LA Observed 6th Anniversary Party, a decidedly swell affair that was held one-story up in the balmy night air at the Formosa Cafe’s roof garden.

(The guest list and photos may be found here at LA Observed. The everybody-showed-up crowd was an indication of how much influence that LA Observed—a mere blog, doncha know—has gained in the six years of its existence. Go Kevin!)

After talking with a string of editor/writer pals, and a drolly intelligent retired LA Sheriff’s Department commander (nobody’s more fun to talk shop with than smart cops), I waded further into the crowd and happened to spot Trutanich.

I introduced myself and, after a bit of opening chit-chat, I asked him what he intended to do about gang violence reduction—other than, you know, gang injunctions.

“I have several things I plan to do that won’t cost any money
and have been proven to work,” he replied confidently.

Sure, I thought. Like new gang injunctions, instead of the old gang injunctions. How irritatingly predictable.

But that’s not what Trutanich said.

He said he thought one of the keys to lowering gang violence was to offer alternatives to gangs, specifically employment for former gang members. (I am paraphrasing here, as I was taking mental, not written notes.) Therefore, when he went after law-breaking corporations, Trutanich told me, “…instead of fining those companies, I’m going to make them set aside a certain number of jobs for guys who want to get out of gangs.”

It was an unexpectedly simple and good idea. What was more, it was likely doable.

Right now, one of the huge problems for LA’s wrap-around job training and referral services for recovering gangsters and newly released parolees, is that given the economic climate, jobs for former homeboys have almost entirely dried up and blown away. This means that scores of men who honestly want to change their lives, are having a terrible time finding legal means to make the money to pay their rent and to buy their baby’s diapers. When people with advanced college degrees are out of work, why would one hire a former felon who may or may not have a GED?

But, by using jobs, not fines, as a penalty,
the City Attorney could potentially produce a bunch of new positions and, in so doing, introduce reluctant corporations to the experience of giving back to the community by hiring from the so-called at risk pool of employees. (The truth is, once most company managers try hiring former homeboys, they find themselves—not burned, as they have feared—but moved and enthused by the experience.)

Where would he get the referrals? I asked Trutanich. After all, the City Attorney’s office was in no position to know who was most in need of a job.

Well, one of the main places he would go, he said, was to Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries. “They really know how to do it.”

Right answer, I thought. If he had instead told me that the City Attorney’s office was going reinvent the wheel by setting up some kind of internal referral program—a thing that they are entirely ill-equipped to do—I’d have known that ego, not practicality was calling the shots. Instead, however, he indicated a strong desire to partner with the city’s most successful existing agencies, like Homeboy and others. (That’s better than the mayor’s doing, I thought but didn’t say.)

“And I know that jobs really work. You give a guy something to do, and it will change him.” A pause. “D’you know what Father Greg’s motto is?”

Before I could get a grip on myself, I recited the phrase along with him:

“Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”

At our spontaneous spoken-word duet, the party goers nearest glanced over to see if Nuch and I were about to burst into song.

There was more to the conversation. He had some ideas for programs he wanted to work out with the school district. While interesting, given LAUSD’s present state of fiscal catastrophe, his district partnership notions sounded less probable.

We also talked about enforcement. And, although I wasn’t sure I agreed with all his law-and-order-strategies, I found them thoughtful and worthy of further discussion.

In addition, he had some intriguing ideas about how men and women could earn their way
off the gang database list. (We supposedly have an off-ramp from the database now, except that, last time I checked, only one poor soul had ever actually made it off.)

Look: I cannot possibly yet assess how much of what Mr. Trutanich said
may be classified as political-speak and/or good intentions, and how much will translate into grounded action. But, at the very least, I came away far more optimistic about his upcoming tenure than when I walked in.

As I said, this was round one. Look for round two later this summer.


  • If we made just a few of the companies who hire illegals dump them for gang members they all would have jobs.

  • Trutanich is a refreshing change to LA politics, and his energy and enthusiasm for actually doing something positive with the City Attorney’s Office is boundless.

    Ultimately, much of what he wants to do will require the support of the Mayor and the Council. I have a feeling that they all got a wake up call on May 19 when Trutanich was convincingly elected. The election of Trutanich was really a referendum on ‘business as usual’ versus new ideas and accountability. The voters spoke, and I suspect the Mayor and the Council will find themselves increasingly attracted to the idea of supporting Trutanich.

    I look forward to round 2!

  • David Berger, what we need to know is why you’ve been working for Trutanich ever since you inevitably lost your own bid for the job? It’s really tiresome the way you’re on literally every single blog shilling for him with the exact same words.

    Are you like Jane Usher, whose position as Chief of Staff/ Executive director of transition team for now, was announced by Trutanich at a fundraiser months ago (which you attended, you know whose home I mean) yet she claimed in public — as recently as the SOHA (Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn.) meeting on May 20th, that they had no agreement, just so she could continue to shill for him too without disclosing their relationship?

    For example, the hit piece she wrote on Gail Goldberg for the L A Weekly never mentioned any connection to Trutanich whatsoever. Had she or the editor disclosed that, it would of course have become apparent that the very title of the piece, “Usher Slams Gail Goldberg,” has ulterior motives.

    Nor did she tell Chemerinsky about her relationship as his “spokeswoman” (the term used by John North in his May report for Ch. 7) when she went to him trying to spin his analysis that Trutanich’s stonewalling on client list was based on Trutanich’s either misunderstanding or just plain making up legal code? North who told the viewers that she never revealed to Chemerinsky her relationship to Trutanich, that Chemerinsky had been surprised to hear about it, and Chemerinsky also said he told her the opposite of what Trutanich claimed — Trutanich and Usher had tried to claim that their position was supported by Chemerinsky when in fact, he concluded that by hiding potentially serious conflicts of interest he was unsuited to even run for the job. (This is on the website, “Trutanich Declines to Reveal Client List” I think.)

    The point is transparency which has been lacking in all these cases — I was extremely disappointed in the way he and Usher conducted themselves regarding their working relationship. And since you, Berger are an Asst. D A and working under Cooley, it is concerning that you are so obsessed with trolling the sites for Trutanich all day long including when you’re supposed to be working.

    As for Homeboy, I think that’s a “no brainer” and I recall Weiss speaking favorably about the program for a long time. The idea of requiring companies to hire reforming gang members sounds like it’s worth exploring, but I suspect Trutanich will find it’s not so easy to just decree “solutions” just because they sound good on paper.

  • The ABC segment I refer to in #3 BTW was dated 5/4/09, “Trutanich Reluctant to Release Client List.” With John North.

    Chemerinsky’s full opinion on the matter was stated in an LAT article the previous day, 5/1/09: “Clients Aren’t a Lawyer’s Secret: It’s vital that candidates for L A City Attorney should reveal who they’ve represented.”

    Chemerinsky writes, “Trutanich said that he has an ethical obligation to keep the identity of his clients secret. When asked, he cited several provisions of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. But the provisions he mentioned are not relevant and in some instances don’t even exist…

    “Now and in the future, candidates should be required to disclose their former clients. Any candidate who refuses should be deemed unsuitable for this high office.”

    Hard to see how Trutanich and Usher could have even tried to spin this to North as getting support from Chemerinsky. (The fundraiser at which he declared she would be his future Chief of Staff took place on March 27th, BTW.)

    This invented legal support for his behavior strikes me as especially significant since I came across a much interesante reference to an article from the L A Weekly dated 11/10/05 by Jeffrey Anderson, “First Call: If You’re a Trojan in Trouble, see Nooch.” Here again, Nuch has a very “creative” if not downright inventive approach to using “legal code” to justify his highly unusual behavior.

    (This article is also timely and of special interest since the Times’ sports section’s Paul Pringle is writing a series of exposes on what’s really going on with USC’s pay-to-play win at any cost jock culture under Pete Carroll, the NCAA’s getting involved and so on — one installment was last Sunday.)

    Reggie Bush is only the recent tip of the iceberg: back in the early decade the Nooch was “on speed dial” to Pete Carroll and this article describes several very interesting cases he handled, overlapping with a four-month period from July to Nov 1st 05 where he “rotated in and out of his staff job on the 8th floor of City Hall so fast recently, it’s hard to tell if he was coming and going.”

    Describes how the Nooch had a special knack of making charges against high-profile players accused of assault, rape etc. “go away without lifting a finger” because “to say that Trutanich has ‘juice’ with Delgadillo’s office is an understatement. In four months as special Asst. City Attorney, from July 1 to Nov. 1, by his own account, he handled sensitive negotiations…he also allegedly blurred the lines in his ‘monitoring’ of a lawsuit filed against Delgadillo and former Chief Deputy Terree Bowers, despite the city’s conflict of interest that led to the hiring of Baker & Hostetler…”

    Anderson also describes how within the course of the year, to some extent overlapping with this staff job, Nooch made disappear serious charges against running back Hershel Dennis, cornerback Eric Wright (sexual abuse and drug charges), and that led to his being the inevitable go-to guy for Ray Maualuga, a controversial case. All of these were covered in both the Bruin AND USC Trojan sports blogs, where the characterizations of “the Nooch” are alone worth the price of admission. Some of these cases required cooperation from the DA’s office as well, being felonies.)

    “In June, Trutanich took a leave of absense from his lucrative practice to serve Delgadillo…But first, Trutanich wrapped up a criminal case he was defending, which was prosecuted in the City Attorney’s office.

    “Within less than a week, he went from criminal attorney to Delgadillo campaign contributor to special assistant to Delgadillo.

    “On June 26, the Daily Breeze reported that Trutanich’s client, Joseph Zacher, pleased no contest to illegal storage of hazardous waste, after initially facing 5 counts of illegal disposal, which threatened jail time and a fine of $500,000. Zacher avoided both, agreeing to ‘clean up the site’…(gee, this must be the kind of “compassionate prosecution” the L A Times referred to in its endorsement.)

    “Four days later, on June 30 according to the secretary of state, Trutanich gav $5,600 to Delgadillo’s campaign for Attorney General…The next day, on July 1, he became a Special Ass’t City Attorney, reporting to Delgadillo.

    “Trutanich tendered his resignation on Sept. 6 and returned to private practice on Nov. 1 he said. The City Attorney’s office said the resignation was effective September 30th. Either way, it was convenient for Maualuga, who was arrested on Halloween…”

    When asked by the Weekly, “Trutanich cited cited Government Code Section 41805 as authority for him to move in and out of the City Attorney’s office like a turnstyle on gameday, defending criminal matters under the office’s jurisdiction at the beginning and end of his tenure.”

    Isn’t that called conflict of interest? And it sure looks like pay-to-play, and the strong impression everyone got was the ‘juice’ looked a lot like influence peddling. And that Code Section 41805 looks as dubious as the ones Chemerinsky busted him on.

    Lest I’m accused of working for any campaign or politician, I say, are you kidding? If I was getting paid to do this stuff, I’d have unearthed this and more months ago. I mean, this stuff is wilder than anything anyone could make up.

    But I’m wondering why the major media didn’t unearth it or buried this. I mean, if anyone can find this so easily, there are so many potential sources out there who must have gone ignored. Gee, wouldn’t the Times (etc.) have wanted to investigate this stuff before the election, instead of offering helpful and transparently foolish spinning on his behalf? While making gratuitously nasty and biased editorial attacks on Weiss (who seems correct in what he said, though his campaign manager may not have said it very well) and being all over him including for what he put on his own website. I wasn’t not particularly passionate about Weiss either, though he seemed the better choice, in terms of his positions on the issues and my being turned off by Trutanich’s chest-thumping bombastic style. But what I want to know is who at the Times (and -?) had a stake in Trutanich getting elected and why. Was there something specific behind it, or just intended as another slapdown (as the Weekly likes to deliver) to Antonio?

  • Susan,

    I appreciate the detailed nature of your comment and am filing it away to contemplate again later in the summer when I’m not quite so deadline crazed.

    Right now, I suppose, I am the most interested in what Trutanich does in the future as, in terms of the election, that toothpaste is out of the tube. Yet, in order to understand where someone is likely to go, one cannot deny that it is very useful to know where they have been.

  • Yeah, it’s about just who is this guy, how’d he get here with all this, and keeping an eye on him since he can spin faster and with more sleight of hand than the Whirling Dervishes of Sumi. As they teach our kids in school and we parents try to as well, “character counts” and the past is definitely a possible indicator of tomorrow.

    As for the specific idea of getting companies to hire reforming gang members, I have reservations that mandating who and how companies hire especially in this economy with “downsizing,” but I think pretty much everyone has been talking about more public-private partnerships as a way to go.

  • “Susan’s” remarks are very similar to those posted by Mr. Unger and Mr. Abramson on other blogs. Unger/Abramson are what’s left of Jack Weiss’s campaign staff now that Ace Smith has cashed his last check and gone off to run another ‘hate’ campaign for someone else who has no record to run on, but plenty of money to pay for attack ads and negativity.

    “Susan,” “Natalia,” and more often simply “Anonymous” used to post messages like “I’m not sure who I’ll vote for, I don’t know much about either candidate, but I’m leaning towards Jack Weiss.”

    Or “I don’t usually post messages late at night but I have to get up to feed my baby every two hours and saw ….”

    If trying to fool voters wasn’t so despicably the trademark of Jack Weiss’s campaign, their antics would be laughably transparent. This election really crystalized voters into two distinct camps; those who have had enough of phony photo-op politicians, and those who are bitter partisans.

    That Unger/Abramson are seemingly unable to accept the failure of their campaign is regrettable. It shows not only utter contempt for the public – who really need some solid leadership in the City Attorney’s Office, but an unwillingness to accept that the people of Los Angeles have spoken.

    In the case of Jack Weiss, they’ve spoken loudly and clearly. Weiss lost by 11.5% , and as the remaining ballots are certified, the margin of loss increases. It wasn’t anywhere near a close election. It was a much needed clarion to the elected officials in our city that the days of Weiss and his ‘style’ of politics are over.

    Unlike anonymous blogers, I have never hidden my identity, nor failed to make it perfectly clear that my goal in running for City Attorney was to stop Jack Weiss from slithering into the most important elected position in City Hall.

    My campaign was never “All about me,” it was about what was best for Los Angeles. When interviewed prior to the election by the LA Weekly, Met News and the Daily Journal, I not only made my position clear, but I also said that if I were not running, I would vote for Trutanich.

    I realize that concepts like honesty and integrity are alien to Unger/Abramson, but if think they offend me with their personal attacks, they are wrong. The more offensive they become, the more I take great satisfaction in having been a thorn in their flesh. So, give it your best shot whoever you are.

    I’ll make your next attack easy for you. This morning I accepted Carmen Trutanich’s election night offer to join him at the City Attorney’s Office after his swearing in on July 1. There’s no point in trying to convince “Susan”/Unger/Abramson that prior to the May 19, I had no agreement or understanding, because they’ve made their position, bias and hatred very clear.

    Celeste, for what it’s worth, I applaud your open mindedness towards our next City Attorney, and I don’t for one moment expect you to simply accept “political-speak and/or good intentions” at face value. I do hope you probe and question. I think you’ll be convinced that the voters made the right choice between the candidates.

  • If you want to talk about “slithering into the office,” that’s your guy alright. I don’t even know who Anderson and Unger are, other than hearing that I’m supposed to be them — but anyone with a modicum of reason sees the facts above for what they are. Clearly “modicum of reason” doesn’t include you since you have admittedly run on nothing but hate — your own blog is a very sad indication of your mental state and obsession with Weiss. The fact that you’ll be working for Trutanich is to be expected and an ever sorrier reflection on him and how he’s run his campaign and bringing to the office.

  • And then there’s Danny Baldwin, the one who managed to levitage a Hummer 20 feet in the air after crashing into it at 80 MPH on WLA a few years ago, DUI. When he was arrested in Santa Monica a while later he happened to have in his possession some coke which he’d never seen before. Well we all have our “other sibling” or relative, don’t we?

  • Can’t believe I admit watching this but Danny Baldwin was on tonight’s episode of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, and admitted to having the hots for Janice Dickerson. Someone else called them the auntie and uncle of the show and she may not like it too much in any case but he likes to eat and it shows and is a round goofball so he probably wouldn’t mind. After all this is where the D list celebrities get recycled so at least he’s not in jail. Stephen Baldwin has all the tats and thinks he’s cool. I don’t think he has hots for Janice and would never admit it if he did. Janice does not look good these days. She wants to fix Heidi and Spencer but she should start with herself. Whoever did her lips should be sued.

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