Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trutanich ContractGate Scandal Fallout - Oath Picture Trashed - Dragnet Goes Rogue

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen the Clown Trutanich is probably feeling like his political enemies are gaining the upper hand in the wake of the ContractGate scandal revealed by FishBowl LA, the TRU is False blog says that it appears that the contract search tool was not the only item removed from the City Attorney Website. Worse yet, the Los Angeles Dragnet, a longtime sycophantic supporter, appears to be going rogue.

(Credit: Los Angeles Dragnet)
 The LA Dragnet published this hilarious cartoon depiction of the wheels coming off the Trutanich bandwagon, in reference to the slew of negative comments at Ron Kaye L.A. at the prospect of spending an hour with Trutanich. It seems the Dragnet is done with Trutanich.

But even as the ink was drying on that story, and the ContractGate scandal threatened to focus attention on the reasons why Trutanich's staff hobbled the searchability of the City Attorney website, the TRU is False blog revealed that City Attorney Trutanich had removed a photograph of him swearing the oath of office from the City Attorney's website. 

(Credit: TRU is False)
TRU is False speculates that the reason for the removal of the photo might be to prevent it being used by his rivals to cast doubt on how seriously Trutanich takes his own words. Trutanich recently told Jack Leonard at the LA Times that he did not consider himself bound by his sworn solemn campaign promise not to run for Los Angeles District Attorney.

All indications point to Trutanich joining the race to replace Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley with an announcement sometime after the current crop of candidates reveal their latest fundraising figures. Currently five members of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office are running to replace Cooley; Democrats Jackie Lacey, Danette Meyers, Mario Trujillo and Robert "Bobby" Grace, and the sole Republican, Alan Jackson.

Trutanich, a 'decline to state Republican,' will face a tough time from his all his opponents as there is so much to dislike about the man who his either called a 'thug' or a 'clown' depending on which particular foot is in his mouth.

It is rumored that Trutanich will bow out of a run for re-election as City Attorney in 2013 in the face of a challenge by California Assembleyman Mike Feuer. Feuer, a well respected Democrat with long and well-rooted ties to LA's wealthy westside community who would most likely flock to fund his campaign. Feuer served as a councilmember to the westside before running for City Attorney in 2001. Ominously for Trutanich, Feuer was narrowly beaten by Rocky Delgadillo for the City's Top Cop slot, but held on to a powerful base of supporters.

Few believe that Trutanich has any chance in a race against Feuer, who will be termed out of the Assembly in 2012 with more than enough momentum, name-recognition and fund raising power to demolish Trutanich, who can no longer count on Steve Cooley's rolodex to be available to him.

Trutanich's popularity in his own office is likely to be significantly below the depths reached by Rocky Delgadillo, as many believe Trutanich's foolhardy allegation of 'criminal aspects' regarding AEG's handling of the Michael Jackson memorial, and his wild threats to arrest Councilmember Jan Perry over the AEG billboards issue, destroyed the credibility of the Office.

Trutanich, however, may believe he has an "ACE" up his sleeve, with a ordinance on the books that will restore his flagging fortunes. The Trutanich ACE Program, if passed, will give Trutanich the power to appoint his own judges to hear cases he would otherwise have to prosecute in criminal courts. It would also give him control over the fine monies collected and enable him to use those fines to pay his office costs. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the ACE Program will give Trutanich Grand Jury-like subpoena powers to investigate those he believes have something to hide.

If the City Council passes Trutanich's ACE Program, they will effectively be appointing the wolf as gatekeeper of the hen house. Let's hope the Council decides to amend Trutanich's ACE Program and give control to an independent body like the City Ethics Commission. That might at least make the ACE Program constitutional, unlike Trutanich's recent medical marijuana ordinance.

The City Councilmembers are unlikely to be convinced by Trutanich's assertions that his ACE program is constitutional once they realize the potential violation of Separation of Powers and Conflict of Interest that Trutanich's ACE poses. Trutanich had the ACE Program written to put himself in control of the selection of judges, instructing his judges on how to apply the law, and then collecting and spending the fine monies his judges extract from Los Angelenos.

Trutanich's own grasp of the meaning of Separation of Powers came under fire recently when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr told the City Attorney that responding to his "request for guidance would violate the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches." according to the LA Times.

Let's hope the City Council does the right thing with Trutanich's ACE.

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Hour With Carmen Trutanich? I'd Rather Be Water Boarded!

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's popularity plumbed lower depths over the weekend, probably the unexpected result of a puff piece on the Ron Kaye L.A. Blog.

Ron Kaye, the former editor of the LA Daily News probably thought the idea of spending an hour listening to Carmen Trutanich "Defending, Attacking, Answering Tough Questions" would appeal to his readership, most of whom supported the San Pedro criminal defender political outsider. But instead of a few comments commending Trutanich's self-proclaimed achievements, there was an overwhelming number of negative comments.

It seems that Trutanich was a guest speaker at the Sherman Oaks Homeowner's Association and the entire one-hour diatribe was captured on video. It's bad enough having to listen to the confusing, rambling and contorted legal theories of Trutanich in person, but the idea of listening to the City Attorney currently known as Carmen the Clown on YouTube for an hour may well seem like cruel and unusual punishment to some.

Here are a few of the comments on Ron Kaye LA (you can use this link to see them all, and watch the video if you want an aneurism)

"... everything about this guy stinks. I hope Mike Feuer beats him badly in 2013. I'm backing Feuer."

"An hour with Trutanich? I wouldn't waste 5 minutes of my time on him."

"Not a bigger FAILURE for the taxpayers and DWP rate payers exists in L.A. Than Carmen "Gaga" Trutanich! He sold out so he can run for D.A. and get all those FREE "gifts" that the corruption provides."

"I had a meeting with him and some other people from our group. The meeting was set for 2pm at his office. We were kept waiting for over an hour, and when Nuch finally saw us, he was distracted and didn't seem to care. He said he was "very busy" as if our problem wasn't important enough to get his attention. Throughout the meeting he took phone calls and shouted orders at his secretary. He never answered our questions directly, instead giving really confusing answers that seemed to be about other topics."

"Ron, I cannot bear to watch that clown try to talk his way out of the huge disappointment he's turned out to be."

"The ACE program is a power grab to keep City Attorneys fully employed where the poor and weak will be bullied with fines."

"Time and time again he's reneged on promises, the most significant one being that he would not use the CA's Office as a political springboard to higher office until he had served a full first term, and sought a second. That was a signed sworn promise 'as serious as a heart attack' as he used to say."

If the honeymoon was over after the embarrassing revelation that Trutanich had accepted a donation of Lady Gaga tickets from AEG after dropping his 'criminal aspects' investigation of AEG's handling of the Michael Jackson memorial, then this looks like the pre-nup is being challenged as divorce beckons.

But it's not just the voters who have become disenchanted with Trutanich. Perhaps his own staffers are wondering why they have to bear the brunt of cutbacks, work furloughs, and ridicule, while Trutanich has steadfastly refused to voluntarily take the same pay cut as his staff, and continues to be the source of humiliation.

Last week's Fishbowl LA hit-piece that is sparking a ContractGate scandal over the removal of a search tool from Trutanich's website probably has people inside and outside wondering why Trutanich

Still, perhaps there is hope for Trutanich yet. He could have unintentionally discovered a new interrogation technique for LAPD - they can now threaten suspects by making them watch "an hour with Carmen Trutanich" until they confess. I bet even the most hardened criminal won't last ten minutes!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Troubled Times for Trutanich?

Los Angeles City Attorney, Carmen "the Clown" Trutanich appears to be loosing supporters faster than the City is loosing money.

The Los Angeles Dragnet Blog, historically supportive of Trutanich, seems to have joined the rest of the political commentators in no longer taking everything the City Attorney currently known as "the Clown" does at face value.

The Dragnet's report on Kevin James' announcement of his mayoral candidacy was interesting not so much for reportage of the right-wing talk show hosts campaign promises, but rather, for the speculation as to why Trutanich stayed away from an event which was not only on his doorstep, but but attended by his alleged "buddy" Steve Cooley. Read the Dragnet account of Trutanich's troubled times, they may have connected some dots.

Speaking of dots, Trutanich's former Special Assistant and alleged attack dog, cockney Brit David Berger, was also in attendance for Kevin James's photo op, and published this report of the Kevin James event, notably not mentioning the absence of Trutanich nor speculating that the City Attorney may be running shy of the media these days. Fishbowl LA yesterday accused the Trutanich administration of hiding a search tool from the City Attorney website which used to allow for searches of contracts. What could it be that Trutanich doesn't want us to see.....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trutanich ACE Program Outed as Power-Grab and Cash-Stash

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's "ACE" Program has been accused of being a "Power-Grab" and "Cash-Stash" by TRU is False, the blog that seems to exist solely to criticize the once popular City Attorney.

TRU is False routinely portrays Trutanich as a "Godfather" like megalomaniac
who works behind the scenes to gain power, control and influence
In what appears to be a heavily biased article, TRU is False suggests that Trutanich has "hidden" key components of his "ACE" Program from the City Council who are expected to vote in favor of the plan to make the imposition and collection of fines for violations of the Los Angeles Municipal Code more efficient and cost-effective.

A key component of Trutanich's ACE Program is that the traditional system of code enforcement, which uses the existing criminal courts system, will be bypassed and instead enforced through a system of administrative courts that Trutanich not only controls, but staffs with his own judges, called "administrative hearing officers."

Under the ACE Program, Trutanich's prosecutors will sit as judges and hear cases based on a wide variety of violations for the Los Angeles Municipal Code ranging from animal cruelty, building code violations, even noisy house parties - in fact any violation of the LAMC is covered by ACE.

After the prosecutor-judge hears the evidence presented by code enforcement officers, a fine or "administrative penalty" can be imposed and collected by Trutanich through a Code Compliance Fund that he also administers. Because Trutanich's ACE is basically a civil administrative hearing, there is no right for a person charged with a violation to have a public defender.

Another advantage of ACE is that Trutanich's courts are able to keep all the money collected, whereas under the traditional criminal courts route, most of the money ends up going to Sacramento. Under ACE, Trutanich keeps all the money and then gives whatever is left to the city department or the General Fund after he has paid himself for the costs of running the ACE and paying his prosecutor-judges.

"ACE" is Trutanich's acronym for the Administrative Citations Enforcement Program which is very loosely based on similar programs such as one used in the City of San Diego.

But the ACE Program is not actually Trutanich's idea. It was Councilmember Paul Koretz who in January 2010 proposed a simple plan for code enforcement. In the year since Koretz made that proposal, his plan seems to have been hijacked by Trutanich and morphed into something probably far beyond anything Koretz envisaged, and something highly likely to be criticized by those concerned with the preservation of civil liberties.

TRU is False points out that Section 11.2.09 of Trutanich's ACE gives him the power to create the system and staff it with his own judges. Section 11.2.09 in fact reads "The City Attomey shall develop written policies and procedures for the hearing and appeals process in addition to developing written policies and procedures for the selection and appointment of one or more independent Administrative Hearing Officers to hear and decide administrative citation appeals. The administrative hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures promulgated by the City Attomey." It seems highly likely that there is an inherent conflict of interest in allowing the City's prosecutor to set up a court system, staff it with prosecutor-judges, and tell them what to do.

That conflict of interest would seem to be even more problematic because of Trutanich's ability to control the disposition of money collected by his prosecutor-judges. As TRU is False points out, under Section 5.121.11 of Trutanich's ACE, called the "Creation and Administration of Fund" sub-section "(a) There is hereby created and established in the Treasury of the City of Los Angeles a special fund to be known as the Code Compliance Fund (the "Fund"). All monies collected pursuant to Chapter 1, Article 1.2, Sections 11.2.1 and following, of the Los Angeles Municipal Code shall be deposited into the Fund. The fund shall be administered by the City Attorney's Office." So it does at least appear that Trutanich has a considerable financial interest in ACE.

TRU is False also identifies a third problem with Trutanich's ACE, under Section 11.2.09(B)(6) he has given himself Grand Jury-like subpoena powers. The Section allows Trutanich's prosecutor-judge to "subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the City Attorney." This power to order the production of documents, evidence that he otherwise has no power to obtain, presents a very real problem as there is virtually no limit as to what one of his prosecutor-judges can be ordered to force a resident or a corporation to disclose, provided that some violation of the LAMC is alleged.

Despite the apparent unconstitutionality of Trutanich's ACE, he has peppered his proposed ordinance with language claiming to be "consistent with due process principles." However, keen observers will recall that key portions of Trutanich's medical marijuana ordinance were recently found to be unconstitutional, suggesting that Trutanich may not be the best arbiter of constitutionality. That tends to be decided in real courts of law where Trutanich does not get to choose the judges, or tell them what to do.

All in all, Trutanich seems to be giving himself McCarthy type powers with J. Edgar Hoover type clandestine authority. Trutanich is likely banking on the fact that City Council's need to obtain new revenue sources will blind them to the reality of his ACE which not only siphons off that revenue to fund his office, but also may cost the City far more in litigating the constitutionality of his ACE.

Even if Trutanich can convince the City Council that his ACE is lawful, many may be fearful of trusting Trutanich with these enhanced powers. In July 2011, the Trutanich administration will have held power for two years. During that time Trutanich could be said to have played fast and loose with his legal authority. His ill-fated 'criminal aspects' investigation into the Michael Jackson memorial, bullying threats to arrest a City Councilmember and city department workers over AEG's billboards, his failure draft a constitutional medical marijuana ordinance and his recent "aggressive stance" handling of student political protesters, must all raise serious question marks as to how Trutanich will conduct himself with new far-reaching powers.

Perhaps the City Council will have the good sense to realize that the ACE program itself is not the problem, placing it in the hands of Trutanich is. The solution? Create an independent department similar to the City Ethics Commission where judges can be independently selected, and the Municipal Code can be enforced fairly. All that needs to be done is a little "Cut and Paste." Cut references to "City Attorney" out of ACE, and paste in the name of an independent body to administer the program.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Trutanich: "I am not a thug"

President Nixon (left) and City Attorney Trutanich (right)
Would you buy a used car from either of them?
Before backing down from his untenable prosecution of student political protesters, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich (aka "Clown") made a last gasp effort to "Nuch" LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddaus over a Goodfellas style lunch at Ciro's Mexican restaurant.

It failed, and if there's one thing Trutanich cannot handle, it's failure. So to avoid further humiliation, Trutanich ordered his deputies to drop the charges against the student protesters.

"I am not a thug" Trutanich told Maddaus who seemed to be the first reporter not to be "Nuched" - that's the word that best describes the rather facile way Trutanich seeks to win over those who don't readily drink his own particular brand of Koolaide. First, he arranges to meet you in unassuming surroundings - Ciro's is a perfect setting. It shows he's a 'man of the people' and of humble and ordinary tastes (If you're a fundraiser, you'll meet at the Jonathan Club, but for a reporter it's Ciro's).

Then there will be a few anecdotal stories about his allegedly humble origins. One such story was how he was so broke raising a family that he could not afford to buy a new battery for his car. Every morning he had to push the car to get it rolling before jumping in, sticking it in gear, starting the engine and driving off to work at the DA's Office. The story is designed to sell the image of a man of humble origins; a regular guy. Trutanich seems to have stopped using the car story after a family member blurted out that the car in question was a Porsche 911 Carrera.

Next up is a teary-eyed, choked-speech line like "I love my job and I'm humbled by the responsibility the voters have given me," and/or "I'm just trying to do the right thing," to justify his latest jack-boot style policy; like reneging on his agreement that the City Controller had the power to audit City departments, or turning his back on the medical marijuana community who were fooled into supporting him before he knifed them in the back, or, threatening to arrest Council Member Jan Perry and AEG boss Tim Leiweke over billboards at LA Live, or throwing a businessman in jail on a Friday night on $1M bail for a misdemeanor, or the straw that broke the camel's back; threatening student protesters with a year in jail.

As the victim of the "Nuch" desperately tries to turn the meeting back to the topic at hand, Trutanich will then ramble on and on, jumping from topic to topic - it's a strategy known as "distract and  disarm," and is skillfully delivered so that the victim either forgets the question he wanted to ask, or is so bamboozled by the incoherent off-topic drivel that he just gives up.

Finally, Trutanich delivers the coupe de grace; the male bonding thing. You'll get grabbed with a bear hug as he slaps your back. It's just like a scene from the Godfather when Michael Corleone hugs his brother Fredo, tells him "Fredo you're my brother and I love you" before having Fredo shot in the back of the head and unceremoniously dumped into Lake Tahoe. While Trutanich has you in that embrace, the hand that slaps your back is feeling for the soft spot to plunge the knife. As he tells you "We'll be friends for life" his eyes are as cold as shark's and almost as lethal. He smiles, says "I love you man," because you've been "Nuched."

It seemed to have worked with LA Times columnist Steve Lopez, who was won over for a while after being "Nuched" at a cigar store first, and then invited to be a guinea pig test driver to see the effects of marijuana while driving a police car on a private track. "How can you not like a guy who asks you to get high and drive a police car?" joked Lopez, but Lopez very quickly got himself "un-Nuched" when Lopez balked at a year in jail for the student protesters.

Another previously "Nuched" victim was KABC talk radio host Peter Tilden. Tilden was "Nuched" when he, too, was invited to spliff-up, get high, and drive a cop car with Lopez. Like Lopez,  Tilden quickly got "un-Nuched" during a recent interview with Trutanich over the student protesters.

So kuddos to LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus for resisting the "Nuch" and reporting on the reality of life in the warped world of Carmen Trutanich. Oh, and Gene, why don't you give Trutanich's "buddy" District Attorney Steve Cooley a call and find out if they really are still buddies like Trutanich says? Apparently the pair haven't spoken since December 15, 2010. It could be that Steve Cooley also got himself "un-Nuched."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Critics Claim Covert Clown Campaigning

Although he's denied that he's running for District Attorney publicly, the Los Angeles Dragnet Blog continues to insist that Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is running a stealth campaign to become LA's next District Attorney.

We take a humorous view of what Carmen the Clown's campaign might look like: