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Judge says L.A. controller has right to defend her office

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled today that Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel can officially take the place of her predecessor, Laura Chick, in a lawsuit filed by the former city attorney.

Until Judge Mark V. Mooney’s ruling, Greuel had been in legal limbo in a case that she fears could drastically limit the controller’s ability to assess the efficiency of programs in the offices of elected city officials (including the mayor, city attorney and members of the City Council).

Former City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo sued then-Controller Chick in 2008, arguing that she acted beyond the scope of her legal authority under the City Charter when she tried to audit a worker’s compensation program in his office.

When new City Atty. Carmen Trutanich was elected earlier this year, he invited Greuel to audit the program, but for months his office has argued that Greuel did not have an automatic right to assume Chick’s role in the lawsuit. Trutanich’s deputies also told the City Council that they could represent Greuel in the case and that she did not need an outside lawyer, a viewpoint she vigorously disputed.


“The city attorney suggested I did not have voice" in the lawsuit, Greuel said. “I felt it was important, on principle, that the controller’s office have a voice in determining the future abilities of the city controller to audit.”

In court filings, lawyers for the city attorney acknowledged that Greuel had an interest in the outcome of the case, but said she was not a party because she had not acted beyond the scope of her authority — as they alleged Chick had.

Mooney indicated Thursday that he would issue a final judgment soon.

In a tentative ruling in June, Mooney sided with Delgadillo, stating that the City Charter does not authorize the controller to conduct a performance audit of a program within the office of an elected official.

But Fred Woocher, the outside lawyer for Greuel and Chick, said the tentative ruling did not properly frame the dispute. In objections, which the judge is considering, Woocher has argued that the plain language of the City Charter gives the controller the authority to conduct performance audits of any city program.

—Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

 
Comments () | Archives (5)

This is not just about the Controller issue or Wendy Gruel or Laura Chick, or whether their lawyer gets paid - though that's important and since he got Chick's endorsement by promising to uphold her position no matter how the court ruled and that included her lawyer's position, so if he has any integrity he should respect his word better late than never instead of attacking Chick now.

This is ultimately about the fact that Trutnuch as City Attorney heads a dept. of 600 lawyers, a multiBILLION-dollar dept., and is supposed to defend and give fair legal counsel to all city officials like the Controller, City Councilwoman Jan Perry and her colleagues, the Head of Building and Safety and volunteer commission members - he's not supposed to threaten to jail then and sue them if they don't obey his every command right or wrong or if there's a reasonable dispute.

He can't both threaten to jail and sue them and then order them to hire NO outside counsel or else, to go to court alone as Gruel had to because the City Council obeyed his stern "advice" and made her fire her lawyer.

Although he told the Council he would "allow" her to hire outside counsel IF it were from a list HE approved and gave her in advance. A move the city's Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller said would cost a lot MORE money, because it meant starting from scratch with a new lawyer. Woocher had agreed to settle for just a fraction of his actual fee, $80,000 which is peanuts compared to what he's costing us by litigating this, but he refused out of ego even though legal analysts explained to him that paying the fee would NOT prejudice who "won" or his personal record of "wins" that he cares about more than cost or this distraction to the city or anything else.

Trutanuch is also behaving unprofessionally in giving the City Council one-sided and false interpretations of court rulings on Prop 215 regarding medical cannabis, and even misstating the words of Jerry Brown, using the false summary of a rightwing KFI commenter, to confuse the council and get them to do what he and Cooley want.

Reyes and Koretz were right to say that Trutanuch is more interested in HIS OWN personal politcal, Republican agenda and furthering Cooley's, than in doing his job of giving fair, objective advice and letting the Council decide, as the legislative body. He has made Controller Gruel and Councilwoman Perry feel a need to spend money on outside counsel because they can't trust him or his deputies (especially since he's known to be very vindictive and controlling).

He's accused unnamed people, officials presumably, of "criminal aspects" over the Jackson affair but won't say who or why or what. He's thratened to jail AEG's own lawyer and executives if they don't comply with his arbitrary demands to pay an unsubstantiated $6 million, for which they are explicitly NOT contractually obligated. He's making the whole city body "sick" and look bad with his "bullying" and threatening and just plain abuse of office. (Apparently he's making himself sick, too, and since the papers have stopped doing free PR work for him and actually asking him questions, he's avoided them and just sends his deputies in to clean up after he opens his mouth - a sure sign he's the wrong man for the job.)

Trutanich doesn't want the Controller to be able to audit at will, only when he "invites" her to, as with Rocky's worker's comp books, since that's no skin off HIS nose and he is still looking for ways to "get" Rocky and push out his holdover staff.

However, Trutanich told the Daily News while back that "I'm going to shadow her with my own eyes and ears," a separate audit team being paid out of the city attorney dept. budget, a clear waste, so he can see just what she's doing. IS he doing that and how much is it costing? REPORT PLEASE from the Times?

ALSO in a Times editorial dept. interview some months ago, he told them, Sue Horton I think it was, that he'd provide a real audit of his dept. SOON to prove his constant assertion that he IS actually saving money, despite hiring dozens of people, upto 200 private investigators like he wants, despite an $8 MILLION jury award to two firefighters a couple mos. ago he's careful not to mention, despite inviting class action lawsuits on medical marijuana, litigating Chick's lawyer forever instead of settling, and according to first-hand accounts of lawyers for the litigants against L A, he sometimes claim to be handling claims inhouse when he's not.

THIS is the kind of REAL audit we need from Greuel, and what he refuses to provide, what he wants to stall, so he can keep making false claims about "savings." There are a few councilmembers who don't want an audit either, saying that while they might trust Greuel, what if the next Controller is politically motivated to "get them?" There's some merit to that BUT if the Controller can't audit them, what's the point of her job? What CAN she do? Just audit NON-elected officials and depts., over and over?

PLUS if he cuts Greuel off at the knees and she can't do her job, she won't have much of a platform to run on - it's assumed she's ambitious and wants to be Mayor, and since he sees her as the continuation of his nemesis Laura Chick who called him a liar and fraud, he wants to keep her from achieving her goal. He is ambitious himself and besides being groomed all along for the DA job by his recruiter the current DA Steve Cooley, there's talk HE wants to run for mayor, though I HOPE he's reconsidered that.

I LOVE Laura Chick. Her work as controller is to be applauded as it put ALL of our city's offices on notice that they are not beyond the scrutiny of its people. I just hope that Ms. Greuel can fill her shoes.

I'm hoping that Ms. Greuel will be allowed to continue with this audit, no matter what the ruling is. The City Attorney's office under Rocky's control has been been stockpiling WC cases, not even settling when cases that have been caused by the City's negligence. Outside law firms have been hired to try to block workers from collecting on legitimate claims, even though there is a cap on monies that can be paid to workers.

So not only have injured workers have been able to get proper reimbursement for medical care, but if there isn't any accountability on the part of the City when at fault, conditions will not improve. Thus, more problems. More cases.

And which law firms get hired by the City? Ones that promise not to take any cases against the City. Ones that undoubtedly support members of the City Council. Else, why would the councilmen not want to uncover any mishandling of the cases?

I'm hoping that Ms. Greuel will be allowed to continue with this audit, no matter what the ruling is. The City Attorney's office under Rocky's control has been been stockpiling WC cases, not even settling when cases that have been caused by the City's negligence. Outside law firms have been hired to try to block workers from collecting on legitimate claims, even though there is a cap on monies that can be paid to workers.

So not only have injured workers have been able to get proper reimbursement for medical care, but if there isn't any accountability on the part of the City when at fault, conditions will not improve. Thus, more problems. More cases.

And which law firms get hired by the City? Ones that promise not to take any cases against the City. Ones that undoubtedly support members of the City Council. Else, why would the councilmen not want to uncover any mishandling of the cases?


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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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