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Villaraigosa and Trutanich reach preliminary resolution in dispute over city attorney's budget

April 29, 2010 |  9:21 am

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Atty. Carmen Trutanich appeared to have resolved their disagreement over the upcoming budget on Wednesday, with aides to the mayor saying they would seek to scale back the proposed cut to Trutanich's office from 18% to 10% for the coming fiscal year.

Trutanich said he met personally with Villaraigosa on Tuesday night and was able to persuade him that the size of his department's budget cut should be $9.3 million, not the $17.5 million that was previously proposed.

"We sat down and it was very friendly," he added.

Trutanich's comments were considerably mellower than the ones he made last week, when he sent a letter to Villaraigosa calling his budget "a fundamental failure of management." An even more critical message was sent days earlier by Trutanich aide Jane Usher, who complained that the city attorney's office was being asked to absorb a 36% reduction over two years.

The development was announced by Deputy Mayor Ben Ceja at the council's Budget and Finance Committee, which ended its deliberations shortly after 10:30 p.m.

Despite the agreement, Councilman Dennis Zine cautioned that the council and its budget committee have not made any final decisions to free up more money for Trutanich's budget.  "It's rather positive what they came up with, this compromise," Zine said. "But it's far from being done."

Trutanich's chief deputy, William Carter, said that the city attorney would likely use furloughs to reduce the size of the office's budget by $7.7 million.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official, said council members would need to identify other money if they restore a portion of the city attorney's budget. During the course of Wednesday's eight-hour budget committee meeting, council members suggested a series of changes to the budget, such as recalculating the amount of money the city expects to take in next year from sales tax and parking assets.

Those changes would expand the size of the shortfall by $80 million, Santana said.

-- David Zahniser