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

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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Comments () | Archives (12)

In today's article about this exast same issue for the L A Daily News, Trutanich the Sarah Palin of the local legal world is quoted admitting that there is no legal basis for the retroactive shakedown, based on anything contractual - to the contrary.

The article quotes from an unnamed reporter from the wire service, someone who quotes Trutanich "Carmen the Soap Opera" just as he is, without the usual sanitized editing to make him sound more coherent. This is something we the voters should see regularly, even if he does reveal himself as a bully, insensitive high-fiver, or dogmatic pugilist, and not just some edited version by a newspaper that endorsed him based on a phony campaign and now wants to shore him up.

On the rare occasions he IS quoted correctly (when not reading from a prepared statement) and sounds incoherent or unprepared or illiterate or over his head, he becomes furious and insists it's "unfair," truly in Sarah Palin fashion. So he now tends to hide from the media and voters even though, the fact is, he is being spared from himself most of the time. This article is a too- rare glimpse into Trutanich's actual thought process or "legal" mindset:

"Although the city had no ordinance in place providing for cost recovery," the article begins (i.e., no legal basis for Trutanich's shakedown after the fact), "as the report (by 'top city legal and financial advisors') noted, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been determined to seek reimbursement from Anschutz Entertainment Group, which organized the July 7 Memorial at Staples Center."

"'I think that there may not be an ordinance that specifically calls that out, but there's plenty of theories of the law that date to the beginning of the legal structure that give us the legal basis for going after reimbursement,' Trutanich told City News Service without elaboration."

Indeed. What "elaboration" can there be for such nonsense?

Nothing is "owed" to AEG unless these bought-and-paid-for Councilmembers feel obliged. Suspects go for years while investigations are underway. AEG should not get special treatment.

What “criminal aspects” is Trutanich looking into? Why isn't the "ciminal aspects" been made public after 6 months? I hope the Attorney General of Ca will soon look into "ciminal aspects" of Trutanich trying to strong arm public employees and citizens to do what he says without a legal standing.

More clowntastic behavior from Trutanich.

AEG hopes to buy their way out of another obligation. Say what you will about Trutanich, but he's on point this time. The city didn't ask for this "event" - they responded in a manner to protect the city and attendees with what they felt was an appropriate number of police, etc. for the expected crowd. AEG is the prime beneficiary of this fiasco and with the profit they made (forget the smokescreen of "we donated the arena and built camera platforms" from LIE-weke) from merchandising, movie rights sold and on and on. It's obvious that they're looking to use past "contributions" as the excuse to avoid what anyone else should accept as their justifiable part of the cost.

In other cities, when a "special event" is held, the company must go before a board and pull a permit. The board decides what services are needed and who should pay. Once again, Los Angeles works ass backwards and tries to catch up later. And as for the 4 Million some say was revenue brought to hotels, etc... this does not translate to 2-3 Million in tax dollars. It is about time the city stops selling out to developers and it is certainly about time the people are outraged and demand their elected officials be accountable.
It is time for AEG to pay for all services rendered, so that areas like the Westside can stop being donor areas lacking services while the rich get richer by not paying their fair share.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has the interest of the electorate that voted him into office in this matter. This whole matter shows the irresponsibility by this city’s present Political Machine of elected officials that take action with out fore thought of consequences. This Political Machine is well funded by AEG. See where the votes are in this matter on the City Council then track the contributions by AEG.
Tru know this smells bad. This City needs accountability for bad decisions and the elected officials of this corrupt Political Machine, needs to be held accountable.
I hope Tru follows the foul smell in this matter and presses charges if needed, for any wrong doing and prosecutes to the fullest extend of the law. A lesson in ACCOUNTABILITY must be taught here.
The Taxpayers deserve no less. Go Tru!

The extent to which comments are censored to favor Trutanich are appalling; it was the case during the election cycle and is appalling now. It skews comments and deprives readers of facts. As Trutanich has admitted and every legal expert or analyst has said is, as have objective reporters, he has NO legal basis for this shakedown of AEG. (Nor for his figure of $6 Million, which he now denies, but he has a habit of spouting off his mouth than back-pedalling once it's clear how absurd his comment was. Whether numbers, the nature of threats - like to the female cancer patient at the Town Hall meeting when she objected to his excuses for closing all medical cannabis dispensaries.)

Not only did Trutanich fabricate his numbers but his entire shakedown is illegal and even he couldn't fabricate a pretext. The best he could stammer out, as quoted in the Daily News yesterday by a reporter for the City News Service (someone who clearly didn't get the memo that Trutanich must be saved from himself by santitizing/ editing his actual words):

"I think that there may not be an ordinance that specifically calls that out, but there's plenty of theories of the law that date back to the beginning of the legal structure tht give us the legal basis for going after reimbursement," Trutanich told City News Service "without elaboration."

This is pure gibberish about "theories" and "legal structures" he can't name, because they exist only in his mind. These are NOT a basis for shaking down and defaming a major company, and threatening to jail its lawyers and executives, even the councilwoman for the district. The comments here and elsewhere which "buy" Trutanich's utterly illegal behavior and grandstanding as somehow looking out for the people is MORE of the sheer lies that this paper and the Daily News (which is having some buyer's remorse) rammed down the throats of gullible readers just to get "even" with "City Hall."

Just because Trutanich complains to this paper and all over town in person (like at our Sherman Oaks HA) to latenight radio that lobbies for him like rightwing Kevin James, every time he's allowed to come across as he really IS, clownish or buffoonish or insensitive and uncouth as that may be, on the ONE occasion he's allowed to be his unsantisized self (the "high-five" article he always whines about) is NO excuse for this paper to continue its censorship in order to present Trutanich in a way he's NOT - he's become the Sarah Palin of the local legal world. (While this paper went out of its way to depict his opponent in a negative way not only by choice of subject matter and the slant, and WHO was interviewed (the same old known critics) to at least one candid photo that went beyond the pale.) What we've seen by this paper on behalf of Essel for CD2 and strangely contrived excuses to criticize Paul Krekorian is a shadow of that earlier election which got us a city attorney who's the embarrassment to our city and bad for business - not a Republican OR Democratic "virtue."

I challenge this paper to at least publoish this comment, or confirm that this paper is more more part of the "free press" or respect for First Amendment than is N. Korea.

Show us the money....go after the Dr. that doped him up if you have to. At this point the money is more important.

Can I be really boring here and interject with some fact? Why aren't we talking about the revenue the memorial generated for LA over the days preceeding and following it instead? Oh yes, I was forgetting. All the talk about 'wasted resources' the ever-grandstanding Trutanich laments over would be laughable, if it were not so tragic. The 'criminal investigation' accusation is pure smoke and mirrors, designed to cultivate 'outrage' amongst the good citizens of LA and vamp up opposition to AEG. Well, here's some breaking news Trutanich, we are indeed outraged, though not by AEG - by you. And we have had enough of your antics. AEG is a major investor in our city. We, like the rest of the world are in a recession. To bite the hand that feeds us all for your own personal agenda Trutanich, is not only impolitic - it is grossly selfish.

aka Deborah, you forgot to use the new 'Sarah Palin' talking point...didn't you get the memo?

It's fascinating that the same pos(t)ers who slam articles as being too weak that are considered hit pieces by TRU Believers. There's plenty of print being devoted to perceived missteps, as if the burden of proof for lawyers' good faith negotiations is suddenly to accede to the opponent's request to tie one's hands behind their back.

Many of us (finally) saw in person the extent to which Trutanich was compelled to defend against surreal attacks of Jack Weiss. If anyone has any issues with Trutanich, they should temper that with an honest look at the alternative. With all the budget spent to flood the message boards with boiler plate 'citizen' outrage, one would think that AEG would have been able to dredge up better puppets.

There is ample precedence for fees relating to transportation mitigation, traffic control, and police protection. Preferably up front, the city has often chosen to waive the charges related to the costs of putting on events which affect public right of way, but there are actual community based events which have ceased due to budget realities.

Of course, the double standard for celebrity events is unfortunate. Coincidentally, it's the same issue for billboards. Enforcement overall is limited once favoritism is introduced.

It is in fact a thick line which separates an "investor" in the city and a parasite.

The Michael Jackson memorial was a HUGE worldwide TV event. There were about 20,000 present at Staples Center but one can only guess at the millions that watched it on TV.

How much did AEG charge for the broadcast rights?

AEG created the hype for the event. It announced to the world that there had been millions of hits on its Web site which crashed under the load. This is what motivated LAPD to prudently assign 3,000 cops to the event, most of which later proved unnecessary.

One can safely assume that AEG wildly exaggerated the activity on their web site so they could raise the price of the TV rights to their show, thereby making a fortune. In the process, they caused the LAPD to overspend to the tune of 3.2 million.

Come clean AEG: how much did you collect for the TV broadcast rights to the memorial?

Mr. Trutanich: are you looking into this aspect of AEG's dealings?


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