When Councilwoman Jan Perry separated from her husband a decade ago, she asked a judge to seal the records. Some of the documents pertained to the couple's troubled financial history, which included two bankruptcies and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of unpaid taxes.
"Other than this legal separation action, I have an unblemished record," Perry wrote while requesting the file to be sealed, according to a 2006 L.A. Times report
. "I do not wish my private life to be available to the public and possibly used against me when and if I choose to run for re-election."
As it turns out, Perry need not have worried. Though Perry's court record was mistakenly left unsealed -- and her checkered finances are now in plain view on the Internet -- they have not come up as an issue even as she mounts a credible campaign for L.A. mayor.
For the last couple of weeks, Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel have faced intense scrutiny over their investments, their trips, their calendars, their contributors and their voting records. Perry herself has done some of the scrutinizing, blasting Greuel with mailers that dredged up the fact that she used to be a Republican.
But Perry -- who typically places third in the polls but seems to be gaining
-- has largely gotten a free pass. The L.A. Times did mention
its own 2006 investigation into Perry's personal finances for the first time during the campaign on Tuesday, at the bottom of a profile. But in a campaign in which Perry presents herself
as "a leader in keeping our city out of bankruptcy," it is more than a little strange that Perry's own bankruptcies aren't more of an issue.
When asked, Eric Hacopian, Perry's campaign consultant, repeated what Perry said about her financial troubles back in 2006, which is that they were mostly the fault of her ex-husband, attorney Doug Galanter. In the 2006 story, Galanter took responsibility for the couple's financial woes, which he said primarily had to do with his law firm.
"The issues are far more his than hers," Hacopian said. "She gets dragged into it. ... You can attack someone for having a divorce, or for marrying the wrong person, but it's not a very good attack line."
Galanter declined to comment to the Weekly. "I'm not inclined to discuss this stuff," he said. "I'm too busy to talk."
The couple filed for bankruptcy twice, in 1994 and 1995. According to the Times report, their debts included money owed to banks and credit card companies.
Helen Sanchez, a Perry spokeswoman, said in a statement that "the lion's share" of the couple's debt was due to the collapse of Galanter's law firm.
"Basically, this was more than 20 years ago, so to get a completely accurate account we would need to go through statements," Sanchez said. "However, to the best of Jan's recollection, the lion's share of their debt was due to the failure of her ex-husband's law firm."
The couple failed to fully pay their taxes every year from 1989 through 2001. As of 2006, they owed $270,000 in back taxes. According to the 2006 report, Perry had accepted responsibility for half of the couple's tax debt and was paying it off at a rate of $4,500 per month.
In 2004, the state Franchise Tax Board filed a lien against Perry -- and not against her husband, from whom she was then separated -- in the amount of $41,825. The lien was for unpaid taxes dating back to the late 1990s. It was paid off and released three years later. Another 11 liens were filed against Perry and Galanter jointly.
Perry also defaulted on her mortgage in 2003, falling $7,700 behind before catching up with the payments, which apparently had nothing to do with her estranged husband.
As a member of the City Council, Perry earns nearly $180,000 a year.
Update: 4:30 p.m.
As if on cue, Working Californians -- the IBEW-funded group backing Wendy Greuel -- released a radio ad today attacking Perry's finances:
It's possible the group sees her emerging as a threat to make the runoff. Also of note: It's interesting that this is coming from an independent group, not from Greuel or Garcetti. Assuming Greuel and Garcetti make the runoff, both will want Perry's endorsement. So perhaps neither one is comfortable attacking her directly. Just a thought.
First posted at 6:30 a.m.