The City Controller's Fleishman-Hillard audit has legs: all three local dailies run second-day stories with new details, and the Daily News opines with wishful thinking in an editorial that Laura Chick has exposed a "scandal that threatens to bring down Hahn." [* Radio: She also gets time on "Which Way, L.A.?" tonight at 7 p.m., KCRW.] The Times news story concentrates on evidence that Fleishman had regular contacts with Mayor Hahn's staff and did pro-bono PR work for the mayor during part of the time it was allegedly overcharging the city Department of Water and Power. Also in dispute are billings to the DWP for work done by Fleishman on Hahn's trip to Asia in 2002. Fleishman president Doug Dowie and Hahn's future press secretary Shannon Murphy, then a Fleishman executive, went along, but Hahn said Wednesday it was for the DWP's benefit. The DN story focuses on Fleishman doing damage control work for the DWP in advance of an earlier Chick audit. The Daily Breeze story also goes into the ties between Fleishman and the mayor's office, and quotes Chick saying of Fleishman, "Their billing practices give a black eye to the public relations profession."
The mayoral election politics around this story could get interesting. Chick had endorsed Hahn for reelection, but withdrew her backing in August with a blast at Hahn. She is friendly with both Antonio Villaraigosa, who she endorsed four years ago, and Bob Hertzberg, who presided at her swearing-in to office in 2001. Hertzberg has his own complications, having been under contract to Fleishman during some of the time that the DWP payments were made. Part of Fleishman's defense could be that Chick's office approved the invoices and payments made under the disputed DWP contract. Meanwhile, Chick says she sent her audit findings to the DA and the U.S. Attorney. With federal and county grand juries already looking into the Hahn Administration's ethical practices, it's reasonable to assume that the Fleishman-Hillard issues are being rolled into those inquiries.