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Los Angeles city attorney and city controller given one month to resolve dispute

A judge on Tuesday gave Los Angeles’ warring city attorney and city controller another month to resolve a legal dispute over limits to the city controller’s auditing powers.

At the same time, the judge expressed confusion over the Los Angeles City Council’s latest request that City Controller Wendy Greuel seek legal representation from the same city attorney’s office that filed suit against her office. 

“I cannot fathom how that can be done,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney said.

The dispute dates back to last year, when the previous city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, filed suit against the previous city controller, Laura Chick. Chick had tried to audit the worker’s compensation program in the city attorney’s office and issued subpoenas for six of its employees. Delgadillo cried foul, charging that Chick had acted beyond her scope of authority. 
 
The dispute has since been inherited by the current city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, and Greuel, the current city controller. A new wrinkle in the dispute concerns whether or not Greuel can be represented by the same lawyer her predecessor hired for the city attorney’s suit, and whether any such fees should be covered by taxpyers.

Greuel, who insists she should be represented by private attorney Fred Woocher, appeared in court without counsel Tuesday because the City Council ordered her to sever ties with Woocher. (Woocher has told the City Council that his fees in the case have topped $200,000, but also said he was willing to reduce his bill.)

For its part, the city attorney’s office argues that Greuel is not a party to the lawsuit.
The outcome of the case could carry major consequences for the city controller’s office, and the scope of future audits.

In a June 23 preliminary ruling, Mooney sided with the former city attorney, saying that Chick acted beyond her authority when she conducted the performance audits.
Greuel has vigorously urged the City Council to dismiss the lawsuit, in order to prevent that tenative ruling from becoming final.

-- Maeve Reston at City Hall

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Comments () | Archives (6)

That just goes to show you the no brains that we elected to City Council. It is really no need to wonder why we can't get out of the mess that we're in as a city, look at who's leading us.

where's your actual investigative reporting? easy stuff -- ever since chicago incompetents took over. what a bunch of lazy bums.

you also better be checking LAUSD's corrupt out of control workers comp nightmare where they've been paying people for years (if not decades) beyond their workers comp deadline, which is no doubt also true of city of l.a.

a pox on all their houses -- the people always lose.

Isn't it great that the City has so much extra money to spend?

Take the money paid to David Nahai to resign and use it pay for this private attorney instead.

city concil dont have no idea now to runn los angeles
there all idiots

Good on Judge Mooney for putting in so many words what a lot of us think and know: the City Council is clueless when it comes to the major issues. In this case they allowed the City Attorney who has a pet peeve against the Controller's office in general dating from Chick and extending to Greuel, to trump common sense and logic. It's clear that Trutanuch hates Chick ever since she exposed him on Doug McIntyre's show for lying to her to get her endorsement and then throwing her under the bus. But making this battle personal was wrong at the start, it's more wrong as it drags on and on.

The judge agrees with Greuel and common sense, that Trutanuch can't at the same time sue her and be the only one allowed to represent her against himself. Her having to appear in court alone without counsel because the City Council agreed to this on Trutanuch's insistence is ridiculous.

Some of them may be concerned that the Controller may audit them in future so they were happy to go along with Trutanuch's self-serving advice, but what if Trutanuch sues them down the line and he has hundreds of laywers on staff and clearly uses them any way he wants against other officials, but then they are in Greuel's position and can't defend themselves?

It is unfortunate that the original city attorney and controller, Delgadillo and Chick, wouldn't settle their dispute with mediation and resorted to this. But now the city attorney in person of Trutanch continuing this this way, is just a petty vendetta "to destroy" Chick and her lawyer Woocher, but also Greuel. Some members of the City Council did try to urge common sense and tell the city attorney's office to settle for the reduced amount Woocher offered, but those like Zine who are just Trutnuch's fellow Republican mouthpieces urged colleagues to keep on fighting the case. It will cost much more.

By the way it's shameful that they are trying to use a slip of the tongue Chick made in a newspaper account a long time ago, to stiff Woocher on his fee. Trutnuch's deputy said Chick used the term "pro bono" about the fee but she made clear many time before and since, she meant that her lawyer was paid nothing to that date, on understanding he'd be paid by Council when the case had a court ruling - which is now.

If Trutnuch doesn't settle for the measly fraction of the bill (which has run up from $100,000 a few months ago only because Trutnuch is stubborn and won't do the right thing) Woocher will sue for a lot more and likely get it. Meanwhile all these "leaders" look incompetent and are being led by the nose by the city attorney who's trying to control the Controller and everyone.

The Controller meanwhile can't do her job and has to go to court to defend herself against the huge legal firepower of the city attorney who only 'lets her' audit programs he sees fit which don't intrude where he doesn't want -- this is all nuts. Listen to Judge Mooney.


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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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