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L.A. officials want city attorney to report on probe of costs related to Michael Jackson memorial

December 7, 2009 |  2:39 pm

Michaeljackson Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry said Monday that entertainment company AEG would not likely help defray the $3.2-million cost for police and other city services during the Michael Jackson memorial until the city attorney resolves his "criminal investigation" into the spending.

“Threats are not conductive to asking people to make a donation,” Perry said, referring to the inquiry ordered by City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Later, she added, "We’re faced with the sword hanging over AEG’s head. I do not expect that AEG will do anything while the threat of prosecution is hanging over their head.”

As a result, members of the council’s public safety panel asked that Trutanich update them by Friday on the status of his criminal investigation into the city’s costs during the July memorial at Staples Center.

Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said city prosecutors had no comment on Perry’s statement or the status of their investigation.

Perry, who represents a downtown district revitalized by Anschutz Entertainment Group’s Staples Center and L.A. Live development, said there had been a lot of unnecessary drama following the Jackson memorial. Jackson died unexpectedly as AEG was promoting his international comeback tour.

Before Trutanich announced in July that he was looking into “criminal aspects” surrounding the memorial, Perry said she and officials from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office had productive conversations with the head of AEG, Tim Leiweke, about a donation to defray memorial costs.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Greig Smith said Trutanich had not shared any details about his investigation. “There is nothing gained by prolonging this any further,” Smith said. “We are going to be partners with AEG for a long, long time and the last thing we want to do is have a unproductive relationship, so it’s in all our best interests to resolve this quickly.”

Councilman Dennis Zine, who served as a member of Trutanich’s transition committee and has called for AEG to reimburse the city, said he planned to personally asked the city attorney to appear to provide an update on the inquiry. It’s unfair to AEG to allow speculation about a criminal investigation to linger, he said.

“There appears to be a cloud over their head. We need to get that removed,” Zine said. “To the benefit of AEG/Staples, for the benefit of the city of Los Angeles we need to close this matter one way or another.”

In October, Leiweke told the Times that he discussed a reimbursement during a private meeting with Trutanich over the summer. But when Trutanich demanded AEG pay $6 million or else he’d “go after” the company, Leiweke said he walked away from discussions about reimbursement.

Trutanich acknowledged meeting with Leiweke but told the Times he never asked for $6 million and said he hadn’t made any threats. The figure he discussed with Leiweke, he said in October, was closer to $2 or $3 million.

AEG is a subsidiary of Anschutz Co., whose founder and chairman is Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. The sports and entertainment company is developing the $2.5-billion L.A. Live complex downtown, which includes Nokia Theater, Regal Theater and a luxury convention center hotel. The company has been a reliable source of contributions to members of the City Council and the mayor, as well as initiatives they support.

Shortly after the July memorial, Villaraigosa said it would be “nonsensical” to bill AEG or the Jackson family for the cost of a memorial, since neither had any authority over the city’s response to the private event.

However, the controversy was stirred up again in September after the Jackson estate agreed to pay Glendale $125,000 to reimburse the cost of police protection during Jackson’s funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park.

Leiweke has alleged that since the memorial, Trutanich has targeted AEG over routine matters including sidewalk cracks and fire permits, and said it may be related to an AEG fundraiser for Trutanich’s opponent in the city attorney’s race earlier this year.

-- Phil Willon and Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

Photo: Michael Jackson. Credit: Los Angeles Times archives.

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