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L.A. councilman wants to stop relying on city attorney's office

October 26, 2012 | 12:56 pm

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen A. Trutanich at a City Hall east press conference in February. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian is calling for a ballot measure that would allow the council to stop relying on the office of City Atty. Carmen Trutanich for legal advice and instead hire its own lawyers.

In a motion submitted Friday, Krekorian said budget limitations have stretched the abilities of the city’s legal team to provide service. “This has resulted in the delay of many key ordinances which the council is waiting to adopt as well as in other legal services necessary for the council to proceed with its duties and responsibilities,” he said.

To ensure the City Attorney’s office has the capacity to focus on public safety, Krekorian recommended a ballot measure that would change the City Charter to allow the office of the Chief Legislative Analyst, which gives advice to the council, to employ its own lawyers.

Aides to Trutanich decried the plan.

“They’re creating a whole new bureaucracy that will cost more money,” said William Carter, Trutanich's chief deputy. “They can correct any deficiencies by fully funding the City Attorney’s office. All they have to do is provide more resources.”

Carter said Krekorian’s assertion that there have been delays in the drafting of ordinances was inaccurate. He said the City Attorney’s office produced 245 ordinances and reports to the council last year. Rocky Delgadillo, the previous city attorney, never produced more than 198 such reports in any given year, Carter said.

The City Attorney’s office -- the largest municipal law office in the West and the third largest government legal office in California -- has been hit hard by mandatory furloughs and other cuts since the city’s fiscal crisis began several years ago. It has lost 110 attorneys and 60 support personnel over the last three years, Carter said. Earlier this week City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana urged further cuts, calling for 50 lawyers in the office to be laid off in part because the attorneys' labor group, the Los Angeles City Attorneys Assn., has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city's use of furloughs as a way to save money.

During a tense council budget hearing earlier this year, Trutanich pleaded for more funding. He also told council members that without appropriate funding, his priority was defending the city against lawsuits and prosecuting criminals.

“The focus of our office is no longer service to the council,” he said. “The focus of our office is defending the treasury and public safety.”


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Photo: Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich at a City Hall press conference in February. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times