The New Year is upon us, which means that the candidates for L.A. mayor can finally stop being nice and start sending nasty press releases about each other.

Controller Wendy Greuel kicked things off this morning with a press conference announcing that she was demanding five years worth of city cellphone bills from AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. This follows her May 2011 audit of the city's cellphone usage.
The Garcetti campaign fired back this afternoon. In a statement  spokesman Jeff Millman said, “It shouldn't take an election for Ms. Greuel to finally get serious about finishing her incomplete audit from May 2011. We've had four years of a press release Controller, and L.A. cannot afford a press release Mayor.”

Two hours later, John Shallman, Greuel's strategist, accused Garcetti of “political opportunism at its worst.”

“Unfortunately, under Eric Garcetti's presidency, the City Council was asleep at the wheel while millions of dollars were wasted,” Shallman said in a release. “It's always convenient for those in power to try to kill the messenger when there's been abuse of taxpayer money. Taxpayers have an absolute right to know when there is waste, fraud and abuse and Wendy Greuel will continue to shine a bright spotlight on government waste because it's not Eric Garcetti's money–it's the people's money.”

The dollar figures at stake in this fight are small, in the context of the city's $4 billion budget. The May 2011 audit found that city departments had overspent on cellphones by $375,000 to $1 million.
But the skirmish does foreshadow some of the themes of the coming campaign. Greuel will present herself as the fiscal watchdog, and accuse Garcetti of mismanaging the city's finances as council president. Garcetti will accuse Greuel of conducting audits that generate more headlines than results.

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