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L.A. council allows audit lawsuit to continue [Updated]

September 10, 2009 |  8:52 am

After a closed-door briefing by the city attorney's office, the Los Angeles City Council has decided not to dismiss a lawsuit that could bar the city controller from conducting performance audits of the programs in the offices of city officials.

Councilman Paul Koretz had asked the council to vote Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by then-City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo against then-City Controller Laura Chick after she tried to audit a worker's compensation program in his office and issued subpoenas to six of his employees.

The judge issued a tentative ruling in the case this summer, siding with Delgadillo and finding that the city charter did not give the controller authority to conduct performance audits of city offices.

The new city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, said during the campaign that he did not agree with the lawsuit or with Delgadillo's interpretation of the charter, and new City Controller Wendy Greuel has argued that the judge's tentative ruling set a dangerous precedent that would limit transparency in city government.

The council did not discuss its decision Wednesday in open session. After a briefing by her lawyer, Greuel said today that she planned to appeal the judge's ruling, which will be discussed by both parties this morning at a court hearing.

"The City Council and the city attorney had the opportunity to dismiss a lawsuit, which never should have been filed in the first place, and they failed to do that," Greuel said. "There was a very easy decision to ensure there was transparency in government."

"From what I understand, the city attorney's office argued that the judge's decision should stand," Greuel said. "This could all go away if the council chose to dismiss the lawsuit, and the city attorney recommended dismissing the lawsuit.

"Clearly they chose to let a flawed decision stand. That flawed decision limits the controller's powers to audit programs in Los Angeles so we can look at saving taxpayer dollars."

Lawyers in the city attorney's office declined to discuss their advice to the City Council, citing attorney-client privilege.

[Updated at 10:20 a.m.: L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney has directed the city attorney and city controller to take 30 more days to try to reach a settlement. If they cannot reach agreement at that point, the judge will then enter a final judgment.

The lawyer for the former and current controller, Fred Woocher, said the judge indicated that his final judgment may not be the same as his tentative ruling in the case. Woocher has filed lengthy objections to the judge's initial ruling.]

-- Maeve Reston at City Hall