District attorney candidates face off in forum
Five candidates in the race for Los Angeles County district attorney met Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Los Angeles Times, the first such event attended by L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, the highest-profile candidate and top money-raiser.
Six candidates are in the running to replace Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley as head of the most powerful office in the county's criminal justice system. It is the first time in nearly 50 years that the race has not featured an incumbent. Bobby Grace, a deputy district attorney prosecuting major crimes, was unable to attend the morning forum because he was in court.
Trutanich and the other candidates in attendance — Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Breault III, gang homicide prosecutor Alan Jackson and Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey — took turns answering questions about their experience, their stance on a November ballot measure abolishing the death penalty, and their views on the role of the L.A. district attorney's office in state politics.
When Times Editor at Large Jim Newton asked the candidates if they intended to bring more transparency to the office, most said they would as long as the law allowed.
Lacey went a step further, questioning a statement Trutanich made moments before when he said his office's policy "has always been one of transparency."
Lacey pointed out a recent dispute between the city of Los Angeles and several media outlets regarding the release of information about medical emergencies. Fire Chief Brian Cummings has told The Times that the city attorney's office had preliminarily advised the department to "immediately cease" its longstanding practice of releasing information including the time, location and nature of emergencies.
Days later, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered Cummings to make the information public.
"I recall that being one big old mess," Lacey told Trutanich.
Trutanich fired back, saying the issue "wasn't about response times, it was about HIPAA," the patient privacy law.
Trutanich also drew heat from a question submitted by a Times reader, who asked "how long it would be" until Trutanich ran for state office if he were elected. Other candidates have criticized Trutanich for backing off a promise he made in the November 2008 race for city attorney, when he called on then-City Councilman Jack Weiss to join him in promising not to run for another office while serving in the post.
"I'm making no pledges," Trutanich said.
-- Kate Mather
Photo: L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times