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City controller told to sever ties with private counsel

The lawsuit between the Los Angeles city controller’s office and the city attorney’s office took a new twist today when the City Council ordered Controller Wendy Greuel to sever ties with her private counsel, Fred Woocher.

Woocher was hired by former Controller Laura Chick after then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo sued her for trying to audit a worker’s compensation program in his office. Delgadillo argued that Chick was acting outside the scope of her authority. The new city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, contends that Greuel is not a party to the lawsuit, an argument Greuel disputes since Chick was sued in her official capacity as city controller.

Both sides will appear in court next week before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney, who sided with Delgadillo in a tentative ruling this summer. Mooney found that the City Charter does not give the controller power to conduct performance audits in the offices of other elected officials, including the mayor, city attorney and council members.

Fearing that the judge’s initial ruling could severely hamper her ability to audit taxpayer-funded programs, Greuel has urged the city attorney’s office and the City Council to dismiss the lawsuit.

Trutanich has said the City Council must grant him permission for a dismissal, and it did just the opposite last month — directing the city attorney to tell the judge that his initial ruling should stand.

After conferring in closed session with the city attorney’s office today, the City Council directed Greuel to seek any future legal representation from the city attorney’s office, which has offered to provide either conflict counsel or an attorney who would be walled off from the rest of the office.

“We are counsel to the controller and if the controller wants to expend funds for outside counsel, the controller has to make that request to the City Council,” said Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter.

Greuel said she was exploring her legal options, but that the arrangement proposed by the council would put her at a disadvantage.

“I think clearly if the city attorney is suing the controller, and the controller’s office, there is no wall that can protect the objectivity of a lawyer that is in the city attorney’s office,” she said. “My position is there is no need for any more discussion about involvement with lawyers if the council had dismissed the lawsuit today.”

—Maeve Reston at City Hall

Comments () | Archives (5)

This City Council knows that they might be audit for the wrong doing
going on in office.

Laura Chick caused many problems by pushing her own agenda.
She would use inside information to smear other candidates.
The judge has ruled and the ruling should stand. The Controller is not above other elected officials. She is equal. The new City Attorney is correct. Ms. Greuel should not be sucked into the problems Chick created.
Do what the City Attorney advises, get rid of the counsel and save the City some money.

This is absolutely nuts. It's the City Attorney who is suing the Controller, but he - through his chief deputy, Carter, who does a lot of the real work in the office, but at Carmen's directive - has persuaded the gullible city council majority that he is ALSO the only one capable of defending her.

As Greuel and her attorney Woocher argued in the meeting, that means that the City Attorney (Carmen) has absolute power over everyone, and they had just better not find THEMselves in Gruel's position or they'll know what it's like.

This is Carmen as City Attorney saying in essence, "If you don't agree with me, I'll sue you, but deprive you of the right to defend yourself, so you'd better just do what I tell you and never disagree with me or I'll destroy you." That's how Doug McIntyre who had supported him and virtually turned his radio show into a 24/7 infomercial for him (just to oppose anyone associated with the Mayor) even put it - siding with Chick and Greul in principle, as does any rational person.

Sure it would have been better had the Controller and previous City ATtorney worked out their differences without going to court, as the Council AND candidate/ councilmember Jack Weiss had also told them to. He and the council had urged the two parties allowing them or someone they both trusted to mediate. But the didn't and now, the only way to sensibly make the issue "go away" is to pay the legal fee Chick incurred IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, because the City Attorney insisted on keeping his lawsuit so she felt she had no choice.

She made it clear to the public and council AND to her lawyer Woocher that he'd be paid AFTER he did the work, and in good faith he accepted that, not demanding money upfront as other lawyers would - just to avoid situations like this, that they get stiffed. Carmen and his mouthpiece Zine refusing to pay off the lawyer's modest fee and telling him to eat the whole cost is wrong, mean-spirited and petty as well as spiteful.

When this issue came to the fore a few months ago, Woocher's fee was only $100,000; then when Carmen refused to pay him anything, kept litigating, it mushroomed to what is now $200,000. BUT Woocher agreed to settle for less, Rosendahl suggested $80,000 which is almost 1/3 BUT Zine, Parks and those who have a personal attachment to Carmen refused even THAT. They claim it would prejudice "who wins" the case but Smith, Garcetti, Woocher himself, assured them it does NOT - it has no legal bearing on who "wins" except to fulfill the responsibility of the Council.

Carmen using the money issue and claiming this is about him "saving" money for the people is a lie and just "a smokescreen" as Chick and McIntyre put it. It's cost far MORE to keep litigating, and makes the city look bad. It has further revealed Trutanich's own lack of character and ability to put the good of the city above himself.

There is the HUGE ethical issue involved here - which this article does NOT state and needs to - that Carmen campaigned on supporting Controller Chick AND her attorney Woocher's position Trutanich promised IN SO MANY WORDS to support Chick and Woocher HOWEVER the court ruled, assured Chick that Woocher was "fighting for truth, justice and the American way," as Doug McIntyre put it on his show.

Chick and Trutanich agreed it was a matter of principle that when the City Attorney - with his hundreds of staff lawyers - sued the Controller trying to block her from doing her job, she had the right AND OBLIGATION TO THE CITIZENS WHO ELECTED HER, to hire a lawyer to defend herself.

But now Trutanich is reneging on that solemn promise 100% - not only treating Woocher/ the lawyer shabbily like some parasite on the city's coffers, but proved himself to be "a liar and demagogue who never intended to keep his promise," as Chick said. Just "said anything to anyone to get elected."

This cuts to the very lack of character and ethics of this man who is sitting on an arsenal of lawyers that WE pay for and using it just to further his own ego, his misunderstood scorecard of "wins," to amass power, intimidate and control all other officials, and further his own ambition.

The City Council members are such slugs on this issue. When Delgadillo initiated the lawsuit, they were completely and admittedly dumbfounded, with Garcetti saying they had not experienced this sort of thing, a city official (Delgadillo) suing another city official (Chick).

True to form, they left Chick that day to fend for herself and now Trutanich is almost the equivalent to a monkey wrench in the city hall works- he won't dismiss without City Council approval- funny that no approval was needed to file and pursue the action. But even more troubling, as if that posturing by Nuch was not enough so far, is the City Council member seizing the opportunity to let the case create a very serious precedent to any audits by the Controller's office into the COUNCIL MEMBERS' performance.

They are all so shady, and while Greuel was not my choice for Controller due to her political affinity with Mayor Tony, I find myself siding with her position in this case and becoming more dismayed with the CMs than ever, especially with my CM, Jose, being a lawyer and being unable to add absolutely any clarity to the situation EVER.

Meanwhile misdirections, distractions and excuses pour forth to operate to put the best interests of the public, the constituents and the city as if it was secondary- or worse. What else is new?

Carmen through his aides tells the council what to do - don't dismiss the lawsuit but dismiss Chick's lawyer, treating him and Chick like fools and nuisances who don't deserve a dime - then tells the public that his hands are tied because the council is telling him what to do. Pretty sneaky creation of a Catch-22 that benefits only himself and his tightknit noose on power that he is building.

Robert is right that some of these councilmembers are trying to use it to their benefit, to prevent the controller from auditing them. Alarcon and Perry stood up earlier to say they don't trust any other elected official to audit them - but then, they're gutting her job to where it's meaningless.

I appreciate Garcetti and Smith at least insisting that this hearing be held in open session unlike how Carmen wanted it, so we wouldn't see what's behind his "they're tying my hands." Of course Zine attacked the Controller's lawyer and took Carmen's side in advance as always, as did Parks - just like they ganged up on Chief Bratton who I'm very sorry to see leaving but can't blame him for having had enough of being dissed and his work undermined.

I agree with Smith it should never have been filed by Rocky but now that it is it's ego on the City Attorney's part not to dismiss it and keep running up the bills - then of course they blame the lawyer for it. Trutanuch telling Greul she has no right to defend herself against a lawsuit is wrong, as is trying to persuade her or anyone that his office can both sue her and defend her at the same time. As a precedent, the councilmembers who went along with this have to realize that if the city attorney sues THEM they have no rights to defend themselves either, but must go into their personal pockets like he's insisting Chick do. Although she was sued by another city official, the one who happens to have hundreds of lawyers on staff unlike anyone else.

It's also sneaky to claim she waived her claims to any fee because she said in some article that her lawyer is working "pro bono," because she made it clear then and many more times that she and he understood, he was getting no money upfront, was waiting until the case was settled to see how much the fee was and expected to get paid then. So not paying him is going to cost more when he sues the city for the money and may file breach of promise.

Rosendahl's suggestion they settle for a mere 1/3 of current bill at $80,000 was even dismissed by the City Attorney showing what his real motive is, but he doesn't get that paying off this bill is the financially and morally right thing to do especially after he got Chick's endorsement by promising to support her position. Now this is just childish and petty and all about "I won! And I'll destroy you even if it makes the city look bad and costs more." Trutnuch's making threats to the Planning Commission and unnamed others over the Jackson events makes me wonder what else he has up his sleeve.


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