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Appeals court dismisses suit over who can audit L.A. officials

October 4, 2011 |  1:08 pm

An appeals court has dismissed a three-year-old lawsuit between Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and City Controller Wendy Greuel, leaving unanswered the legal question of whether elected officials can be audited at City Hall.

The lawsuit, inherited by Greuel and Trutanich when they took office in 2009, originated with a dispute between City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and City Controller Laura Chick. Delgadillo sued Chick in 2008, saying that she overstepped her authority when she attempted to conduct a performance audit of his office’s handling of workers’ compensation programs.

On Monday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said the case was moot because Trutanich had already agreed to allow the audit to take place.

“On his first day in office, Mr. Trutanich had reversed the position of the former city attorney and invited the controller to conduct the audit,” the opinion states. “He remained true to his word, not only cooperating with the auditors but providing city attorney’s staff to support the audit team.”

The three-judge panel reversed the decision but refused to weigh in on the central argument of whether Greuel can audit elected officials.

After he took office, Trutanich was blasted by Chick, who said he broke a campaign promise to drop the lawsuit once in office. During one radio interview in 2009, Chick called him a demagogue and a liar.

Trutanich responded by saying he would be happy to drop the case -– but not in a way that saddled taxpayers with the bill for the legal fees incurred by Chick and Greuel. Chick had asked the City Council for $100,000 to cover her lawyer’s bills but was rebuffed.

“We are not recommending attorney’s fees for any private attorney hired by the controller, because they were not approved by the City Council,” said William Carter, chief deputy to Trutanich.

Carter said those fees now exceed $200,000.

Like Trutanich, Greuel declared victory. In a statement, she said the ruling confirmed her original view that the lawsuit should have been dismissed in 2009.

“This reversal allows the controller’s office to continue to root out waste and fraud and abuse in connection with any program in the city of Los Angeles,” she said.


Chick battles Delgadillo over review

Delgadillo wins legal battle against Chick

Trutanich overhauls worker's compensation unit

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall