January 31, 2013 | 1:54pm
Eric Garcetti took to the microphones today to attack Wendy Greuel on her claim to have discovered $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse -- marking the sharpest dispute yet between the two leading candidates.
"The numbers that are the cornerstone of her campaign don't add up," Garcetti said. "This is flim-flam."
Greuel has been making the $160 million claim every day for months. But it only came into question this week, when Greuel repeated the figure in her first TV ad
The Garcetti campaign pounced on the claim before the TV ad even hit the airwaves on Tuesday, arguing that Greuel's audits only recovered $239,000. At a debate on Tuesday night, Garcetti let Greuel make the claim again without challenging it.
But after the L.A. Times followed up on Wednesday
, Garcetti decided to personally get into the fray. Summoning reporters to his Studio City campaign headquarters this morning, Garcetti cited the Times report in attacking Greuel's assertions.
"It's clear from independent analysis that the numbers simply don't add up," he said. "Let's be honest with the people of Los Angeles."
The Greuel campaign defended the statistic, issuing statements of support from former controllers Laura Chick and Rick Tuttle, who have each endorsed her campaign.
"The $160 million is really just the tip of the iceberg," said John Shallman, Greuel's strategist. "We're getting Eric Garcetti saying everything's great, and we're not wasting any money in Los Angeles. He can't close his eyes and wish it were so."
Greuel has made exposing waste a key part of her campaign. But the key drivers of the city's $216 million deficit are more politically difficult to take on: wages, pensions, retiree health care and workers compensation. Greuel has been promising for more than a year to release an audit of the city's pension systems, but it has yet to appear.