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City attorney says L.A. 'wasted a lot of dough' on Michael Jackson memorial, defends quest for payment

October 22, 2009 | 12:04 pm
City Atty. Carmen Trutanich defended his efforts to recoup city dollars spent on the Michael Jackson memorial from the owner of Staples Center, but denied today that he asked AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke for $6 million during a meeting in July.
 
A day after Leiweke told The Times editorial board that Trutanich tried to “bully” the company into paying the city the money to cover various city services provided during the Jackson memorial, Trutanich justified his actions in a speech to members of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce at City Hall.
 

“If going after your money is being a bully, then I’m a bully; I have no problem doing that,” Trutanich said. “We wasted a lot of dough on the Michael Jackson memorial. We wasted a lot of money. Now if any of you think that we didn’t, I’ll take your donation after my speech.”

The city attorney, who took office in July, said his only goal “is to make the citizens whole."

"It’s not to hurt a corporation that’s been very, very good to the City of Los Angeles,” he added.

Trutanich also offered a different account of his July meeting with Leiweke, who said the city attorney demanded $6 million to settle the matter at that time.

“I met with people at AEG immediately after our election and I told them what the amounts of money [were that] we deployed,” said Trutanich, who later estimated he asked for $2 million to $3 million from Leiweke. “The money that was offered back was insufficient. I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the taxpayers and so I said no and that was the end of the meeting.”

In an interview after the speech, Trutanich said he did not arrive at the $6-million figure until a month after the meeting, when the city’s top budget analyst’s estimated the city’s overhead on the day of the Michael Jackson memorial at that amount.

“I’m not saying I’m not doing it now,” Trutanich said of his alleged request for $6 million. “I’m going to ask for what the city lost.”

Trutanich said his office is continuing to investigate how much the city spent.

-- Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

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