For some reason, Laura Chick and Carmen Trutanich decided to get into a big fight today over an issue that was settled three years ago.
Chick, the former city controller, has hated Trutanich ever since he reneged on a pledge to drop a lawsuit against her office in 2009. Today, she penned an "Open Letter to the People of Los Angeles," calling him a "liar and a demagogue" and warning voters not to be duped into re-electing him.
Well, it could only go uphill from there, right?
Trutanich's spokesman, John Schwada, then fired off this response: "It is a huge surprise that Laura Chick of all people is
bringing up this 4-year-old controversy because her own conduct in it
was so disgraceful."
A brief summary of this episode: Chick wanted to audit the City Attorney's office. The city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, sued her to prevent that from happening. Chick endorsed Trutanich to succeed Delgadillo, in part because he said he would drop the suit. Once in office, he changed his mind, which left Chick on the hook for her attorneys' fees. Trutanich did, however, allow the audit to go forward. (It showed "poor oversight" of the workers compensation division.)
Schwada garbled the narrative a little bit in his statement to the Times: "As city controller she sued the city, she lost and then she wanted the city to pick up her attorney's fees," Schwada said.
That gave Chick an opening to fire back:
"Having been covered by John Schwada when he was on Fox, I am accustomed to him getting the facts wrong. Let me correct him again. I did not sue the City as he claims in his statement; the City Attorney sued me to bar me from doing my job.The fees were for defending the taxpayers in the case. Carmen Trutanich pledged that he would support the Controller's right to conduct audits in city elected officials' offices. Then he reneged when he became City Attorney. End of story."
"I did make a slight error," Schwada acknowledged. However, he said, "She did initiate the dispute" -- by issuing the subpoenas.
In his statement, Schwada said that it was Trutanich, not Chick, who was defending the taxpayers:
When she asked Trutanich to dismiss
the case (and by doing so allow her attorney to be awarded fees from the city), Trutanich said he would
not. He told her his job was to protect the taxpayers, not soak them. Chick's reply, according to Trutanich
and others in the room, was that picking up her attorney Fred Woocher's legal fees "will not break the
bank" -- meaning the city's treasury.
That's a deliciously callous and ironic remark coming out of the mouth of Chick, then city controller,
whose job was to protect the city's pocketbook. Does Laura Chick deny asking for that special favor
In her letter, the full text of which is after the jump, Chick cites several other reasons not to vote for Trutanich: "violating his pledge not to seek higher office, reneging on his debt to L.A.'s BEST" and "questionable actions in favor of campaign contributors."
But it's the lawsuit thing that really burns -- even three years later.
So why is this coming up now? Chick is a co-chair of Mike Feuer's campaign for city attorney. In his statement, Schwada called her letter "the obvious stuff of political shenanigans."
OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF LOS ANGELES
September 25, 2012
During my tenure as Los Angeles City Controller, people often asked me, "What exactly does a Controller do?" My answer was always the same: to protect the public's money and to make government work better for the people. My job was to ask AND answer the tough questions. How are we doing? How can we do it better? To maximize my efforts, I also looked for partners among other elected officials who believed in transparency at City Hall.
I remember April 15, 2009, like it was yesterday. That's when I stood in front of Los Angeles City Hall and lent my support to a man who called himself "The People's Attorney...dedicated to restoring honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency" to city government. I admit, I bought into the hype of this so-called "City Hall Outsider." I took him at his word when he promised he'd be a breath of fresh air, who would cleanse the musty halls of power, and who would continue my own work of restoring honesty and integrity to the people's business. When I said that day, "I think he'll make an outstanding City Attorney," I truly believed it.
But it didn't take long for me to realize I had made a terrible mistake. Shortly after taking office, Mr. Trutanich reneged on his pledge to support the City Controller's ability to conduct audits of multimillion-dollar programs housed in elected officials offices, especially the City Attorney's office. With this one breathtaking reversal the so-called "People's Attorney" revealed himself to be a liar and demagogue, who would not only lie to me to gain my political support but whose clear intention was to squash transparency and disallow the scrutiny of how taxpayers' dollars are spent.
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A simple Google search will yield dozens of news stories documenting Mr. Trutanich's sizable record of broken promises, shattered pledges and misleading tactics. From violating his pledge not to seek higher office, to reneging on his debt to L.A.'s BEST, to his recent questionable actions in favor of campaign contributors, Mr. Trutanich has broken faith with the people of Los Angeles.
Thankfully, L.A. County voters saw Mr. Trutanich for who he really is, and rejected him in his recent bid to replace Steve Cooley as District Attorney. But we're not out of the woods. For despite his recent trouncing at the polls, and in the face of numerous calls for him to bow out gracefully from the public stage, Mr. Trutanich is stubbornly seeking a second term as City Attorney. Four more years of Mr. Trutanich, however, is the last thing Los Angeles needs. Now more than ever, Los Angeles requires a City Attorney who will tell the truth, has high moral standards, and exemplifies the virtues of integrity, dependability and courage of conviction. That's why I strongly encourage every concerned citizen in Los Angeles to do their due diligence before they cast their ballot for City Attorney this coming March. Once they do, I trust they will agree with me that Mr. Trutanich must go.
LAURA N. CHICK