Updated below with reactions
Former City Controller Laura Chick found herself in a feud with City Attorney Carmen Trutanich almost as soon as he took office in 2009 — with her endorsement, by the way. She wanted him to side with her on a jurisdictional dispute between the two offices that dated back to City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Trutanich didn't, and he got on Chick's do not invite list. Now she is a co-chair of Mike Feuer's campaign to unseat Trutanich, and this afternoon she sent an "open letter to the people of Los Angeles" blasting her former ally.
Here it is:
During my tenure as Los Angeles City Controller, people often asked me, “What exactly does a Controller do?” My answer was always the same: to protect the public’s money and to make government work better for the people. My job was to ask AND answer the tough questions. How are we doing? How can we do it better? To maximize my efforts, I also looked for partners among other elected officials who believed in transparency at City Hall.
I remember April 15, 2009 like it was yesterday. That’s when I stood in front of Los Angeles City Hall and lent my support to a man who called himself “The People’s Attorney…dedicated to restoring honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency” to city government. I admit, I bought into the hype of this so-called “City Hall Outsider.” I took him at his word when he promised he’d be a breath of fresh air, who would cleanse the musty halls of power, and who would continue my own work of restoring honesty and integrity to the people’s business. When I said that day, “I think he’ll make an outstanding City Attorney,” I truly believed it.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize I had made a terrible mistake. Shortly after taking office, Mr. Trutanich reneged on his pledge to support the City Controller’s ability to conduct audits of multi-million dollar programs housed in elected officials office’s, especially the City Attorney’s office. With this one breathtaking reversal the so-called “People’s Attorney” revealed himself to be a liar and demagogue, who would not only lie to me to gain my political support, but whose clear intention was to squash transparency and disallow the scrutiny of how taxpayers dollars are spent.
A simple Google search will yield dozens of news stories documenting Mr. Trutanich’s sizable record of broken promises, shattered pledges and misleading tactics. From violating his pledge not to seek higher office, to reneging on his debt to LA’s BEST, to his recent questionable actions in favor of campaign contributors, Mr. Trutanich has broken faith with the people of Los Angeles.
Thankfully, L.A. County voters saw Mr. Trutanich for who he really is, and rejected him in his recent bid to replace Steve Cooley as District Attorney. But we’re not out of the woods. For despite his recent trouncing at the polls, and in the face of numerous calls for him to bow out gracefully from the public stage, Mr. Trutanich is stubbornly seeking a second term as City Attorney. Four more years of Mr. Trutanich, however, is the last thing Los Angeles needs. Now more than ever, Los Angeles requires a City Attorney who will tell the truth, has high moral standards, and exemplifies the virtues of integrity, dependability and courage of conviction. That’s why I strongly encourage every concerned citizen in Los Angeles to do their due diligence before they cast their ballot for City Attorney this coming March. Once they do, I trust they will agree with me that Mr. Trutanich must go.
LAURA N. CHICK
After her letter went out, Trutanich's new campaign spokesman, John Schwada, sent out a lengthy response to what he called Chick's "lies and distortions." He later amended his details somewhat, and since we're going full-text on this spat, here's the latest from Schwada:
It is a huge surprise that Laura Chick, of all persons, is bringing up this four-year-old controversy because her own conduct in it was so disgraceful.
The facts are that former City Controller Chick initiated the dispute, by issuing subpoenas, against the then City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Chick lost - and then she asked the city to pick up the tab for her attorney's legal fees and expenses, amounting to about $200,000. When she asked Trutanich to dismiss the case (and by doing so allow her attorney to be awarded fees from the city), Trutanich said he would not. He told her his job was to protect the taxpayers, not soak them. Chick's reply, according Trutanich and others in the room, was that picking up her attorney Fred Woocher's legal fees "will not break the bank" - meaning the city's treasury.
That's a deliciously callous and ironic remark coming out of the mouth of Chick, then-city controller, whose job was to protect the city's pocketbook. Does Laura Chick deny asking for that special favor from Trutanich? The fact is that when Chick asked for the city to dismiss the case she was not arguing for the principle of transparency and audit rights (dismissal would not have established the controller's right to audit elected officials' departments) she was arguing for her own pocketbook interests. She had, in effect, a financial conflict. No dismissal meant she personally was on the hook to pay the fees of the attorney she had retained.
Reporters should ask Fred Woocher, her attorney, if his client has paid him. Maybe he's dunning her even now. We don't know. He should be asked. So should Chick.
And when it comes down to the issue of whether Trutanich lived up to his pledge to be transparent, who are we to believe: Chick, who had (and may still have) a financial stake in this matter and is a sore loser, or three state Court of Appeals judges, who ruled that Trutanich was "true to his word" - meaning he lived up to his pledge and voluntarily allowed his office to be audited by the city controller. In fact, Trutanich was perhaps the first city elected official in the city's history to allow such an audit. The direct quote from the decision of the three-judge panel is:
“…[I]t was plain by at least October 2009 that City Attorney Trutanich supported the Controller's audit and was fully cooperating with the auditors. On his first day in office, Mr. Trutanich had reversed the position of the former City Attorney and invited the Controller to conduct the audit. He remained true to his word, not only cooperating with the auditors but providing City Attorney's office staff to support the audit team.”
When Chick blames Trutanich for making the decision not to dismiss the case she's also rewriting history like crazy. She was told by the City Attorney's office that Trutanich could not unilaterally make the dismiss-or-not-to-dismiss decision. The client - the Los Angeles city council - had that authority. In fact, the council views were well known; when Chick asked the council to hire an attorney to sue then-City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to establish the principle that her office (Chick was then city controller) was entitled to do performance audits of the departments of elected city officials (mayor, city council, city attorney and city controller) the council rejected her request. Later, after Chick lost in the trial court (a loss she suffered while Delgadillo was still City Attorney), Chick approached the council to bail her out of her personal, financial fix. The council offered to dismiss the case and pay $80,000 - not $200,000 to her attorney - if Chick waived her right to appeal the case. She refused the offer, appealed and lost again.
Chick's attacks, while not coming on the letterhead of the Michael Feuer campaign, are the obvious stuff of political shenanigans.
Remember: Mike Feuer is running for city attorney after voters forced him out of the state assembly. In 2008, Feuer was one of 20 career politicians who brazenly used their own campaign money to save their Sacramento jobs (Feuer spent $25,000 on tha campaign). The gang of 20 provided critical support to Prop. 93, a measure designed to make it easier for these politicians to stay in their Sacramento jobs. That measure was defeated by a 2:1 margin by voters. That defeat left Feuer with no legal way to remain in the state assembly when his current term expires this coming December.
In 1999, Feuer was defeated in his first bid to win election to the LA City Attorney’s post by Rocky Delgadillo. Observers at the time said Feuer lost in part because his background as a Harvard lawyer did not click with voters.
Chick aimed this response at Schwada, the former Fox 11 and LA Times reporter who also briefly contributed posts here at LA Observed, and who most recently has also been the campaign spokesman for Rep. Brad Sherman. She apparently sent this before Schwada updated his remarks to acknowledge that Chick did not sue.
Having been covered by John Schwada when he was on FOX I am accustomed to him getting the facts wrong. Let me correct him again. I did not sue the City as he claims in his statement, the City Attorney sued me to bar me from doing my job.The fees were for defending the taxpayers in the case. Carmen Trutanich pledged that he would support the Controller's right to conduct audits in city elected official's offices. The he reneged when he became City Attorney. End of story.
The election for City Attorney is in March.