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Greuel, Garcetti spar over controller audits on air and in mail

February 12, 2013 |  6:21 pm

Photo: Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel at a mayoral debate at UCLA in January. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Another day, another television ad, attack mailer and news conference in Los Angeles’ mayoral race.

Wendy Greuel is on the air Tuesday with a new 30-second spot touting her work as the city’s controller, highlighting audits that found that millions of dollars' worth of city gas was missing, and more taxpayer funds were spent on free cellphones and luxury travel for city employees.

“The waste I found could have paid to keep our libraries open, and fund millions of dollars for after-school programs,” she says, speaking directly into the camera. “As a parent with a child in our public schools, I’ll be a mayor for all of L.A. -– every school, every child.”

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

It’s Greuel’s second television advertisement, and comes three weeks from election day. Greuel, seen as a front-runner in the race, is being bombarded by attacks from council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, as well as attorney Kevin James and former tech executive Emanuel Pleitez.

Garcetti's campaign said the new ad was misleading.

“Once again, Ms. Greuel's numbers just don't add up,” Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said in a written statement. “…. The audits she mentions in her ad have not recovered any money for the city.  In fact, the city has only recovered $239,000 from all of Greuel's audits combined since 2009. This is far less than the millions she cites in the ad, and would have a negligible impact on library and after school funding.”

Garcetti on Tuesday sent out his first negative mailer in the race, pressing his contention that Greuel is overstating her accomplishments in office. Greuel “Can’t Get Her Numbers Straight,” the mailer says. “L.A. Can’t Afford A Mayor Who Puts Personal Ambition Above The Truth.”

Greuel campaign manager Rose Kapolczynski said the attacks showed that Greuel had momentum in the race and were signs of desperation by Garcetti. The waste and abuse Greuel found happened under Garcetti’s watch, and still must be spotlighted even if they money can’t be recouped, she added.

“Through 77 audits, Wendy Greuel has identified more than $160 million in waste, fraud, abuse. Unfortunately, most of this money is gone forever, wasted while the City Council sat idly by,” Kapolczynski said. “Eric Garcetti must believe that waste, fraud and abuse is fine if it happened in the past. If we apply that logic to policing, no robbery would ever be investigated if the goods weren't recovered.”

Meanwhile, Garcetti was castigated by Pleitez on Tuesday morning for presenting himself as pro-immigrant while accepting campaign donations from three contributors who also gave to candidates who have endorsed crackdowns on illegal immigration.

Politicians “visit us during election season –- try to bribe us with sweet bread and mariachis -– then sell us out when it’s good for them,” Pleitez said on the steps of City Hall. He called on Garcetti to return a total of $1,500 in donations because the contributors also gave to candidates such as former Rep. Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican who called for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

The donations highlighted by Pleitez represent a pittance of the millions raised by Garcetti. But Pleitez and Garcetti are heavily wooing Latino voters, who made up 25% of the electorate in the 2005 mayoral race. Garcetti has played up his Latino heritage, and on Monday released the first Spanish-language television ad in the race.

Pleitez, who frequently talks about his mother crossing the border while pregnant with him, is basing his long-shot candidacy on appealing to Latinos. His news conference was covered by more reporters from the Spanish-language media than from English-language media. In a break with convention, he gave his remarks in Spanish first, followed by English. 

Asked whether he had received contributions from donors who have supported policies similar to those he was criticizing, Pleitez repeatedly said no.

But records show he has accepted funds from donors who also contributed to politicians who supported Arizona’s controversial immigration law and opposed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, including GOP 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

A Garcetti spokesman said Garcetti had been a “champion” for immigrants and authored legislation supported by activists to recognize identifications issued by the Mexican consulate. He also led protests against Prop. 187 and advocated at the White House for comprehensive immigration reform, the spokesman said.

“This is just a silly, baseless attack without merit,” said Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb.


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-- Seema Mehta

Photo: Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel appear at a mayoral debate at UCLA in January. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times