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City attorney candidates face off in combative debate

The two candidates vying to replace Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo opened a combative new phase in their runoff race today during a debate that took on a nasty tone from the opening round.

During the Hollywood forum, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, an attorney, and Westside City Councilman Jack Weiss often avoided making eye contact and handing the microphone to each other. 

Trutanich cast Weiss as a legal “novice” with little to show for his two terms on the City Council. Weiss hammered Trutanich for representing polluters and sharing a law practice with an attorney for the National Rifle Association, among other gun groups.

At various points during the hour-and-a-half debate, Weiss stood inches from Trutanich, jabbing his finger in the air and demanding that Trutanich disclose all of his firm’s clients.

“You are a walking, talking conflict of interest. You need to tell the people of this city who the conflicts are, and how much it's going to cost us,” Weiss said, arguing that the city would be forced to spend millions of additional dollars on outside counsel if any of Trutanich’s former clients faced the city in court. “Please do us a favor now, rather than on July 1, of fessing up on who your clients are."

“Here’s a guy who is in the back pocket of almost every developer in the city telling me to disclose something?” Trutanich retorted. Questioning Weiss’s accomplishments, he continued: “He fell asleep on his shovel and woke up to run for city attorney. There’s an entitlement about him -- he feels he’s entitled to this job and he’s not, because he’s done nothing to deserve it.”

The debate set the stage for an acerbic six-week countdown to the May 19 runoff, when city voters will also decide who should replace Weiss in the 5th council district.

The city attorney’s race was once thought to be an easy mark for Weiss, who was endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. He amassed at least a $1.7-million war chest for the primary phase of the campaign.

But Trutanich secured the endorsements of the Los Angeles County district attorney and sheriff and raised nearly $800,000 with the help of matching funds.

In the low-turnout city primary on March 3, Weiss drew first place among five candidates with 36% of the vote, and Trutanich took second with 27%. Under city rules, both candidates have begun fundraising from scratch for this second phase of the campaign.

--Maeve Reston

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

Mr. Trutanich wouldn't divulge details about his work the last 23 years, trying to just talk about what he did many decades ago when he worked for the DA before becoming a criminal lawyer.

All he's ever done in his campaign is try to denigrate Jack Weiss's career in public service, with the kind of gratuitous and baseless allegations he makes here. He's not running on his own record -- which he won't tell us because it's obviously too embarassingly the opposite of what he's representing himself to be -- so he is running on nothing but attacks and lies on Weiss.

On the face of this Trutanich is unworthy to even be running for office, let alone something that requires this level of integrity and transparency. His manner of speech and nature of his vile mailings and attacks are also crude and vulgar, not someone I want reflecting MY city of Los Angeles.

I should think everyone who's ever been in public service should also be offended that an integral part of Trutanich's campaign is to portray public service as inherently "corrupt" and disreputable, while someone like him who's spent virtually his whole career lining his pockets any way he can, become known mostly as "a mouthpiece for polluters" and those who commit wanton gun violence, is "on speed-dial" for anyone who rapes and beats women and is rich or famous enough to pay him. He has never lifted a finger to do anything positive for rape victims, was never aware of the DNA rape evidence kit backlog issue, until he opportunistically jumped in to claim he'd be the city's savior. Also falsely claiming to be "an environmentalist" while teaching corporate polluters "how to get away with it" and sue L A in the process, and how to make yourself look like the victim if you've committed rape or illegal use of weapons, such as shooting at endangered baby seals for fun.

In the process of his defense strategy he inflicts further emotional harm on women and helpless victims, and if they endorse Weiss, he attacks them yet again for being liars and worse (e.g. rape victim Jeri Elster, Sarah Brady of the Brady Gun Campaign, etc,, hoping to intimidate future supporters of Weiss from coming forward), costs the city of L A untold (? how much more, Mr. Trutanich?) millions. His conflicts of interest while he worked in the City Attorney's office a few years back, shifting back and forth from his private practice as suited his clients, are well-documented in major media. Many public defenders who have sacrificed easy big money to be "on the right side of the law" fighting FOR victims are disgusted too.

His touting endorsement of his drinking buddy Steve Cooley is more suspicious than encouraging -- why is Cooley so intent on meddling in the election of a CITY Attorney? An endorsement is one thing, but Cooley recruited him andhas been arm-twisting to get him additional endorsements and funds. Allegedly everyone in the DA;s office knows why: because he wants this as a stepping-stone and "learning opportunity" for Cooley's job when he finally retires in 4 years, for a variety of reasons. For him to claim he'd be "independent" is worse than a farce -- his political and personal agenda is also well-documented in the media and just hasn't come out.

Trutanich is nothing but an empty, crude and vulgar (but phony-chummy to those he's sucking upto) opportunist. He's known to make backroom deals to get endorsements, something the independent-minded Weiss, who knows from experience and his own convictions what's doable and what's right, won't do. He has made decisions that don't please everyone, but will stand the tests of time and as with Olympic-Pico, those like Thomas of RAND and FAST, and Zev Yaroslavsky, strongly support in the face of narrow opposition. Some active Homeowner Assns. will continue to oppose every solution until there's total gridlock. Sometimes what's best for the city as a whole won't please one group. It takes guts to make those decisions and not cave in to get the endorsement and contributions of the narrow group.

Trutanich declared on his website last February that he was "the frontrunner" and that his polls were showing Weiss would be lucky to come in third -- Trutanich just might be the only one who believes his own P R.

No one needs to denigrate Jack Weiss. Jack Weiss denigrates himself and the people of Los Angeles. He has done nothing as Councilman except countdown until he thought he would glide into the City Attorney's chair, and has behaved like a negligent hostile prima donna who trained his staff to be the same. He appears as the classic attorney, combative, arrogant, entitled. That paradigm is antiquated and doesn't work. We need problem solvers not problem makers.

Anyone has got to be better than Jack Weiss. We need leaders who are responsive and respectful towards constituents, and who are honored to serve instead of living to serve themselves. He seems to have viewed Councilman as a distasteful stepping stone to his real career goal, and has wasted the people of L.A's time and resources these past years.

Having Weiss on the Council has been like having no representation. Los Angeles is in dire straits, has been run into the ground, hopefully this other guy will be good, but can he be as bad as Weiss?

I am frequently at City Hall for various civic matters. While I do not know Mr. Trutanich, I DO know Jack.

Weiss is a consistently poor representative of the people, and conducts himself in an arrogant, aloof and detached manner. He has so deliberately aligned himself with the city's do-nothing, cheating, lying and scamming mayor that he figured he would ride on Antonio's charisma, rather than his record.

The truth about Jack Weiss can be summed up in one word: RECALL. What other local elected official do you know who had a recall campaign waged against him?

Jack Weiss.

While the RECALL campaign didn't move forward, more than 15,000 people dislike Jack Weiss to the point where they were willing to sign the recall petition.

That's how badly they dislike and disapprove of Jack Weiss's record.

If that doesn't tell you enough, then try driving east-west or vice versa any day during the week. Jack Weiss has allowed the developers create even greater traffic havoc in his district that it's by far the worst in the city. Thanks to Jack Weiss, and those developer dollars in his 1.7 million dollar campaign treasure chest.

Even if you don't know Carmen Trutanich, he is clearly the best choice for City Attorney. Even Weiss's own colleagues haven't endorsed him unanimously.

Hasta la vista, JACK!

Ace Smith in the house!!!! Weiss and Ace have to go negative to take the focus off the fact the Weiss campaign is losing this race that it "once thought to be an easy mark." But the TRUth is that every single time Trutanich and Weiss have gone head-to-head, Trutanich has won.

Trutanich won the LA Times endorsement, the Daily News endorsement, the Daily Breeze endorsement and, most recently, the endorsement of the LAPD POLICE PROTECTIVE LEAGUE, nearly 10,000 police officers strong! In my opinion, Trutanich won again today at the debate.

In fact, I arrived at the debate a Weiss supporter and was part of the Ace Smith Circus that was brought to town. In fact, I have a message on my phone sent from Ace (at 11:10 a.m.), instructing me and others that the Weiss campaign PLANTED at the debate to "boo" Trutanich. The text of Ace's email reads "we need boos." What a joke!

After hearing Trutanich's plans for the City, I put down the ridiculous sign that Ace asked me to hold and handed my business card to a representative of the Trutanich campaign. Now I am a TRU believer.

Sorry Ace (or should I say Mildred H), the facts are that you and Weiss are sooo desperate to attack Trutanich...you lost a Weiss supporter in the process. Let's be honest, Weiss's career in public service has been lackluster...at best.

ace smith da house

Yawn, more Ace Smith spin. Weiss really has to be on the ropes now, with his entire campaign message being nothing more than a tissue of misstatements (The Editor won't let me say it more directly) and innuendo about Carmen Trutanich - the man who put an end to Weiss's cake walk into the City Attorney's Office.

Weiss's desperation became apparent even before the debate started; having recruited the LA County Young Democrats for support, they turned the debate into a circus with a large inflatable rat outside the meeting room called "Tru." Perhaps the stunt backfired as many locals commented to me that Weiss seems the more appropriate label for the rodent. That might have been more in reference to the hot air used for inflation.

Nevertheless, the Weiss believers were effective in packing the room to cheer every time the 'experienced prosecutor' deflected questions about his lack experience. However, they became noticeably quiet when Weiss did not contend Trutanich's observation that he (Weiss) had only tried 2 jury cases in his entire career.

Perhaps even the partisan loyalty that Weiss is now banking on will fail him as the young people learn a little more about their candidate.

Weiss clearly had an Ace Smith prepared opening statement, full of reasons to vote for Trutanich "if you like guns," well maybe it was a little more subtle than that. Weiss drew on recent events in Oakland to show himself as the champion of gun control; Weiss had traveled (at our expense) to Oakland with the Mayor for a photo-op at the funeral for the four slain police officers last week. Sadly for Weiss, the photo-op was ignored by Los Angeles media.

Worse still for Weiss, the anti-gun ammunition he was banking on backfired when Trutanich announced that LAPD's union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, had endorsed him over Weiss. Significantly, the endorsement came not only after the Oakland shooting, but the day after the other example of gun violence cited by Weiss; the New York Immigration Center shooting. That the rank and file of LAPD would support Trutanich over Weiss is a devastating blow that leaves Weiss with only one law enforcement endorsement; the controversial 'no-brainer' endorsement by Chief Bratton. Perhaps the Chief will now re-think his endorsement in the light of the fact that his 10,000 cops who come face to face with armed criminals have more faith in Trutanich than in Weiss?

Trutanich made many good points in his responses to Weiss's attacks and baseless claims, but perhaps the best one was Weiss's preference to be judged by what he says, not what he does. When Weiss stated that Trutanich was wrong about Weiss being absent 33% of the time, Trutanich gave Weiss a pair of reading glasses and displayed a list of Weiss's absences. To be fair, Trutanich did admit to being wrong on the 33% figure, it was in fact 38%.

While Weiss and Ace have clearly spent a great deal of time strategizing over how best to attack Trutanich, it is equally clear that Trutanich has the facts not only to refute Weiss's scare tactics, but real ammunition to attack Weiss. That's one type of ammunition Weiss cannot pass a pre-election window-dressing law to ban, and it's clear that Weiss is in for a hard time now that he has to debate an experienced and qualified attorney.

In response to Mildred H's comment: Jack Weiss is a politcal hack. And it doesn't take paragraphs to explain why he is one. To call Weiss "independent-minded" is laughable. He was inept on the city council and would demoralize the city attorney's office in more ways than one.

As a resident of the 5th Council District, I can say that I wouldn't support Weiss because in my view he has done a poor job as councilman; letting the district's infrastructure go to pot while spearheading overdevelopment, congestion and the like. His staff has also been unresponsive to concerns. And please, Mildred H.; keep your future comments short and brief. I don't want to have to scroll through 8 long paragraphs of opinion and slanted attacks. Just say you're a Weiss supporter and be done with it.

The funny thing is, Carmen Trutanich's first political donor was a physican who resides in Jack Weiss' district. He explained he was fed up with Weiss and fully endorsed Trutanich.

Trutanich is a qualified attorney who is a man of his word. The city will be better off with him in the City Attorney job and with Weiss back as an average citizen.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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