Update, Thursday: Attorney general declines to investigate. More below.
D.A. candidate Carmen Trutanich was caught last week in a fib about being shot at by gang members when he was a young prosecutor in 1985. The L.A. Times' Jack Leonard discovered that in fact, there were no gang members, and no gun.
OK, everybody tells a fish story once in a while. But instead of shrugging it off, Trutanich lashed out. In a letter to the attorney general (posted after the jump), Trutanich accused the D.A.'s office of “suspicious political activity” and called for a state investigation into whether his opponents stole his personnel file in order to conceal evidence of his heroics.
That's where it gets really troubling. Trutanich was accusing the office he wants to lead of political corruption. The allegation was false. He knew it was false. And we can prove he knew it.
The D.A.'s office first received requests for Trutanich's personnel file in 2008, when he was running for city attorney. D.A. spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said last week that officials searched for it but couldn't find it. When new requests came in more recently, they searched again, without success.
In his letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris on Friday, Trutanich called that statement “shocking.”
“Until recently, I have never requested production or review of my personnel file, nor have I received notice that anyone else had, as required by law,” Trutanich wrote. “The fact that the District Attorney's office admitted to losing custody and control over my records is bad enough. The possibility that records have been removed, tampered with or stolen in the course of a political campaign merits your office's immediate review.”
Trutanich noted that his opponents include Chief Deputy D.A. Jackie Lacey, who is backed by D.A. Steve Cooley, and three other deputy district attorneys. He suggested that his opponents were hiding the personnel file “for political gain.”
The fact is, however, that Trutanich must have learned that his personnel file was missing in 2008 — which destroys his conspiracy theory.
How do we know that? In 2008, Trutanich's city attorney campaign hired VR Research, an Oakland-based
firm, to prepare a report on Trutanich's own political vulnerabilities. VR Research combed through public records in search of anything that his
opponent might try to use against him and produced an exhaustive 100-page report, which the L.A. Weekly recently obtained. It includes the following paragraph:
“We have requested all releasable portions of Trutanich's personnel file from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, along with a listing of the cases Trutanich handled. We have been informed through a written response that the requested information is no longer maintained by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.”
So, VR Research tried to obtain the file, and got the same answer the D.A. is giving now: It's missing. They informed Trutanich of that in 2008.
At the time, Steve Cooley was Trutanich's most
influential supporter, and would have had no reason to suppress
evidence of Trutanich's heroics, had there been any.
Being charitable, it's possible that Trutanich forgot about this. But his campaign manager, John Shallman, still has the VR Research report. He and Trutanich could have consulted it before accusing Trutanich's D.A. rivals of theft.
When asked on Friday, Shallman denied that the Trutanich '09 campaign had requested his personnel file. When asked on Monday about the VR Research report showing that the campaign had indeed sought the file, and was told it wasn't there, Trutanich spokesman Dave Jacobson accused rival candidate Alan Jackson of stealing the VR Research report.
“That is an illegal contribution [to the Jackson campaign],” Jacobson said.
Jacobson also noted that the VR Research report uses the word “maintained,” which, he argued, leaves open the possibility that the file still existed somewhere. “The district attorney didn't maintain it at the time,” Jacobson said. “That didn't mean it wasn't there.”
This episode says a few things about Trutanich. For one, he is willing to make false accusations of corruption, knowing them to be false. Second, he's willing to ask that state resources be expended chasing down those false accusations.
Perhaps most troubling, however, is that if he's elected D.A., Trutanich will no longer have to call for investigations. He'll be able to launch them.
Update, Thursday: The attorney general's office issued a terse response this afternoon to Trutanich's letter:
“Our office has reviewed this matter and determined that no further action is warranted at this time,” said spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.
First posted at 7:17 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15.
Letter to A.G. — Trutanich