Thursday, March 31, 2011

Perry Mason to LA City Council: Please do not allow Trutanich to play the ACE card

Los Angeles City Councilmembers will soon be asked to vote on the Administrative Citations Program, or "ACE" as City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been calling it, ever since Councilmember Koretz suggested a plan to improve the enforcement of building code violations.

Trutanich may have considered the passage of what seems to have become 'his' ordinance, a done deal, however, an individual who goes by the name 'Perry Mason' may have thrown a wrench in the works.

On Tuesday, March 29, the entice city council, the Mayor, Controller and the press received another email from 'Perry Mason' asking that the brakes be put on Trutanich's "ACE," - something which apparently bears little resemblance to anything Koretz had in mind.

Mason has supplied a lengthy analysis identifying what he (or she?) believes are seven major defects with the Trutanich's "ACE" which will give the City's prosecutor:

1) power to administer what is basically a justice system.
2) power to appoint his prosecutors to be judges.
3) power to instruct his judges on how to decide cases.
4) a financial stake in the outcome of cases.
5) control over the way revenue from fines, penalties and costs are disbursed.
6) Grand Jury-like powers to subpoena witnesses, document and other evidence.
7) power to deny persons forced to appear in his courts the right to a public defender.

Mason makes a compelling case of what appears to be inherent constitutional violations due to conflicts of interest, undue influence and separation of powers issues, and points out that Trutanich's medical marijuana ordinance was recently found to be unconstitutional suggesting that Trutanich's idea of figuring out what is constitutional by asking the judge, was heavily criticized as a violation of separation of powers itself, by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mohr.

Regardless of whether Trutanich's "ACE" is unconstitutional, few would disagree that Trutanich's actions when it comes to exercising his prosecutorial powers, should give the Council and Los Angelenos grave concerns should he succeed in gaining additional powers through his ACE program.

Rather than have the council quash Trutanich's "ACE" altogether, Mason suggests removing the City Attorney's Office from having any control over the program, and handing control to an independent body like the City Ethics Commission.

Trutanich will most likely not be pleased by the unwelcome analysis by Mason, and is probably keen to learn whether Mason, who insists on using a pseudonym for fear of retaliation, is an insider - one of his own people who have gone rouge.

If Trutanich is cut out of his "ACE" it will be a major blow to his aspirations to become DA or even be re-elected as CA. It is likely that Trutanich is becoming increasingly concerned about his political future as former supporters are keeping their distance.

Here's the full text of the Perry Mason email:

For some months now City Attorney Trutanich has been bragging about 'his ACE program' and how he will save the City of Los Angeles with his program. As obnoxious as Trutanich's bragging is, there is some truth to the argument that the ordinance proposed well over a year ago by Councilmembers Kortez and Parks could be a valuable tool in enforcing the City's municipal code without resort to the criminal courts system.

However, in the time that Trutanich has taken to write the ordinance, you might well agree that the original one-page proposal has been hijacked and tortured into eighteen pages of complicated legalese that goes far beyond anything originally envisioned, and has likely become as unconstitutional due to his efforts to inject himself into a power-play position in his "ACE."

Be assured, with a multiplicity of well-concealed legalese, Trutanich has created a program that, even if it were constitutional, is nothing short of a grab for power, influence and cash.

Much has already been written about all that is wrong with Trutanich's "ACE" - just Google the phrase "Trutanich ACE Program" to see what I mean. If Trutanich's "ACE" passes as it is currently written, much more will be written; most likely by civil libertarians as well as the courts. It is not hard to imagine the courts expressing their astonishment that the City Attorney of the nation's second largest city did not understand that his "ACE"  undermines Due Process, Separation of Powers, and Conflict of Interest by authorizing the City's chief prosecutor to:

1) Administer what is basically a justice system.
2) Select and appoint judges, I know, he calls them 'administrative hearing officers,' but they are judges and he has been bragging about how he's going to be able to make his prosecutors into judges for the ACE program, so that's what they are.
3) Instruct his judges on how to decide cases.
4) Have a financial interest in the outcome of cases.
5) Have control over the way revenue from the fines, penalties and costs are disbursed.
6) Grant himself Grand Jury-like powers to subpoena witnesses, document and other evidence, perhaps on as flimsy a suspicion as fueled Trutanich's 'criminal aspects' investigation into the Michael Jackson memorial, or his theory that the student political protesters were 'professionals.'
7) Deny people forced to appear in Trutanich's courts the right to a public defender.

Think I'm joking? Take a real close look at Trutanich's ACE, it's under Council File 10-0085 "Report from City Attorney." Here's the link:

And here's what you will find:

Points 1) 2) & 3) above are contained in Section 11.2.09 of Trutanich's ACE which gives him the power to create the system and staff it with his own judges. Section 11.2.09 in fact reads "The City Attorney shall develop written policies and procedures for the hearing and appeals process in addition to developing written policies and procedures for the selection and appointment of one or more independent Administrative Hearing Officers to hear and decide administrative citation appeals. The administrative hearing shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures promulgated by the City Attorney."

It seems highly likely that there is an inherent conflict of interest and violation of Due Process in allowing the City's prosecutor to set up a court system, staff it with prosecutor-judges, and tell them what to do.

Points 4) & 5) are contained in Section 5.121.11 of Trutanich's ACE, where the conflict of interest would seem to be even more problematic because of Trutanich's ability to control the disposition of money collected by his prosecutor-judges. Section 5.121.11(a) of Trutanich's ACE, called the "Creation and Administration of Fund" reads as follows "There is hereby created and established in the Treasury of the City of Los Angeles a special fund to be known as the Code Compliance Fund (the "Fund"). All monies collected pursuant to Chapter 1, Article 1.2, Sections 11.2.1 and following, of the Los Angeles Municipal Code shall be deposited into the Fund. The fund shall be administered by the City Attorney's Office." So it does at least appear that Trutanich has a considerable financial interest in his ACE because he has the power to disburse those funds after paying himself for the costs of running his Program. Ask yourself, how much of the money that should go to the General Fund will end up paying for Trutanich's prosecutor-judges? My guess is that there won't be much left after all Trutanich's costs are paid.

Point 6) Under Section 11.2.09(B)(6) of Trutanich's ACE, he has given himself Grand Jury-like subpoena powers. The Section allows Trutanich's prosecutor-judge to "subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the City Attorney." This power to order the production of documents, evidence that he otherwise has no power to obtain, presents a very real problem as there is virtually no limit as to what one of his prosecutor-judges can be ordered to force a resident or a corporation to disclose, provided that some obscure violation of the LAMC is alleged.

Point 7) I cannot refer you to any portion of Trutanich's ACE that deals with the provision of a public defender for persons who are forced by citation or subpoena to appear in Trutanich's kangaroo courts. That is because there is no provision in Trutanich's ACE for free legal defense representation. Only those who can afford to pay a defense attorney have that right, it's just too bad for anyone else. You might question why the Office of the Public Defender will not provide their services in Trutanich's ACE courts? The answer is that because the ACE program is essentially a civil proceeding, the Public Defenders Office cannot represent defendants there.

Despite the apparent unconstitutionality of Trutanich's ACE, he has peppered his proposed ordinance with language claiming his "ACE" to be "consistent with due process principles." However, you might recall that key portions of Trutanich's medical marijuana ordinance were recently found to be unconstitutional, suggesting that just because Trutanich says it is constitutional, does not mean that it is. That tends to be decided in real courts of law where Trutanich does not get to choose the judges, or tell them what to do.

Indeed, the Los Angeles Times recently reported on Trutanich's failure to understand why his medical marijuana ordinance was unconstitutional. Trutanich apparently had his deputy ask Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr  for a little guidance, a hint maybe, as to how badly they had done, and how they could fix the problem.

Judge Mohr declined to advise the City Attorney, saying the "request for guidance would violate the separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches." It is astonishing and troubling that Trutanich would embarrass himself and our City by making such a bizarre request from a judge. I don't think Trutanich understands the role of a judge, and looking at the way he has written his "ACE" to give himself control over his judges, you might also agree.

Here's the link to the LA Times report:

Putting aside for a moment the very serious concerns all Los Angelenos should have in giving Trutanich any more power given his track record of bullying, threatening and flat out failing to grasp basic concepts of civil rights, it just doesn't seem right to put any City's Chief Prosecutor in charge of running a system of justice. That's why we have checks and balances; we don't need another McCarthy armed with J. Edgar Hoover powers.

Of course it would be highly desirable to have an alternate justice system that is separate from the traditional criminal court system which is often too busy to enforce Municipal Code violations. Even better if the fines and penalties collected by that alternate system remain in the City, rather than get taken for the most part by Sacramento. But the alternate system has to be fair and just. Letting Trutanich run that alternate system is the functional equivalent of putting the fox in charge of the hen house, and you know it.

Almost everything Trutanich has said and done since taking office screams at you that he cannot be trusted to administer his "ACE" fairly and in the interests of all Los Angelenos, even the ones that sometimes irritate us. Honorable Councilmembers, we are a tolerant and progressive society, not a third world dictatorship where thugs rule under the pretext of "doing the right thing," but it's generally what is right for them, not us.

I realize that the City could benefit in many ways by a properly administered program such as the one first envisioned by CM's Koretz and Parks, and the delay and confusion that Trutanich has caused by obscuring that original vision makes us all the more anxious to get the thing done. There is, however, still a way that this program can be made to comport with the original intent and be legal, fair and cost effective: Simply remove the City Attorney's Office from any role in the program, and place the responsibility for running the program into the hands of an independent body, much like the City Ethics Commission.

It's not such a far fetched idea, and if the program really is self-financing, what difference does it make whether the City Attorney runs it, or some other body? The costs will be recovered regardless. Bear in mind too, that the costs of having proper Administrative Hearing Officers, or judges, can be a lot less than the salary of one of Trutanich's favored deputy city attorneys. There are literally hundreds of highly qualified lawyers who would gladly volunteer their services to the City to be judges. They would gain the resume value and experience of being a judge, and the City would get the benefit of their services for a nominal cost.

Finally, I believe you should be as concerned that Trutanich appears to have taken your unquestioning support for his "ACE" for granted; not only in the remarks he makes, but also in City correspondence. I refer to what Trutanich recently said in his "Partial Response of the City Attorney's Office to the Third Financial Status Report (FSR) for FY 2010/11" which can be found under Council File 10-0600-S60 in the March 23, 2011 Report from City Attorney.

At page 2, of the report Trutanich says "Interfund transfers of City Attorney personnel from General Fund positions to newly-emerging Special Fund and Proprietary staffed positions, however, will more than offset the previous estimates for the ACE start-up and lower than expected attrition factor." 

It certainly looks like Trutanich considers your approval of his "ACE" to be a mere formality, a done deal and he is already budgeting for it. Please don't do it, there is a better way.

I respectfully write to ask you to put a stop to Trutanich's power-grab and to strip the ordinance of any powers granted to the City Attorney's Office, and instead appoint an independent body  to administer this program. In that way, the City of Los Angeles will have a constitutional, fair and effective program that cannot be abused at the whim of an overly ambitious wannabe tyrant.

Once again, I apologize for having to use a fictitious name to contact you. It is not intended to mislead you, only to protect myself from retaliation.

Respectfully yours,

Perry Mason
A pseudonym for a concerned Los Angeleno

One point Mason fails to make is that Trutanich's ACE recently got the 'Thumbs Up' from CAO Miguel Santana from the Mayor's Office. Did Santana realize exactly what he was approving, or will he change his mind after reading Mason's missive?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trutanich Re-Invents History - Claims He Shook Down AEG For $1M

When City Attorney Carmen Trutanich dropped the bombshell of there being 'criminal aspects' regarding AEG's handling of the Michael Jackson memorial, few people expected that one year later, the whole thing would quietly 'go away' with no comment from Trutanich and the curious acceptance by Trutanich of some free tickets to see Lady GaGa at AEG's LA Live.

It now seems Trutanich is trying to re-invent history and now claims to have brokered the $1M deal.

At the time both the LA Times and the LA Daily News reported that AEG had agreed to make a $1M donation to the City of Los Angeles, and credited Councilmembers Jan Perry and Dennis Zine with negotiating the settlement. There was no comment from Trutanich who after a year of investigating had nothing but the growing reputation of being a bully, thug and braggart.

The LA Daily News reporter Rick Orlov interviewed AEG's CEO Tim Leiweke, Councilmembers Perry and Zine, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, and reported that:

'Leiweke and AEG, which sponsored Jackson's world tour before he died, had initially refused to reimburse the city, and he [Leiweke] accused Trutanich of using bully tactics to get the company to pay. Leiweke on Friday insisted that the company agreed to pay because it was the right thing to do, not because it was legally required. In particular, he said it was the efforts by Perry and Councilman Dennis Zine that helped work out the final agreement. "I'm just glad to see this resolved," Zine said. "AEG has stepped up and is doing the right thing to resolve this." Trutanich had no comment.' Orlov said.

No comment? Nothing from the man who one year earlier basically accused AEG of 'criminal aspects?' Not even a lame claim to have somehow been involved in obtaining a donation of $1M? How very unlike the loudmouthed City Attorney not to even try to claim he was even peripherally involved.

Of course, Trutanich may have been advised to keep his big mouth shut because perhaps someone told him that his actions might be seen as using the threat of criminal proceedings to shake down a company like AEG. Doing that could see Trutanich on the wrong end of a 'criminal aspects' investigation himself, or even wearing the handcuffs he so loves to threaten to use.

So it's altogether surprising to see that Truanich is now claiming to actually have been involved in negotiating the $1M donation from AEG.

In a document entitled "Office of the City Attorney Third FSR Budget Briefing 3/23/11 FY 2010/11 Successes To Date," Trutanich now claims that:

"On June 18, 2010, the City Attorney's Office, in conjunction with Councilmember Dennis Zine, was able to negotiate a $1 million donation to the General Fund by AEG and the Estate of Michael Jackson to reimburse costs incurred by the City during the Jackson Memorial Service in July 2009."

Click here to go the City Clerk's website and then use the "Report from the City Attorney" link to download the entire document.

Of course Trutanich's report may be a little incomplete and inaccurate, perhaps it should read:

"On June 18, 2010, the City Attorney's Office concluded it's 'criminal aspects' investigation of AEG's handling of the Michael Jackson memorial. The City Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigations spent an undisclosed sum conducting the 12 month 'criminal aspects' investigation based on rumors from TMZ before coming up with goose eggs, at which time Councilmembers Jan Perry and Dennis Zine were able to negotiate with AEG for a $1M donation to the City's General Fund, and the City Attorney's Officeholder Committee received some free tickets to a Lady GaGa performance."

Is it so easy to re-write history these days? Trutanich made a complete fool of himself and his office with his foolhardy 'criminal aspects' allegations. Perhaps, if he had kept his big mouth shut AEG would have been willing to pick up the tab a lot sooner? But AEG were most likely unwilling to consider doing anything while Trutanich was blundering around claiming to have a 'Bureau of Investigations' working 24/7 to solve the crime of the century.

The people of Los Angeles need to be reminded of the facts and monumental failure of Trutanich to run a prosecutorial agency responsibly before they further empower him to ride roughshod over the City with his bizarre ACE Program.

Interestingly, Truanich included this reference to his ACE Program with the documents containing the myth about his claim to be instrumental in the AEG $1M donation.

Los Angelenos, you've been warned.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trutanich Oath Of Office Picture Removed From Website - ContractGate Scandal Develops

"When LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich took office, his staff removed a handy search tool from the city attorney’s website that allowed the public to search through various city contracts,"according to  FishBowl LA.

However, it seems that Trutanich's removal of the of the search tool is not the only victim of what some might say is selective website editing.

The City Attorney's website also features countless photos of Trutanich "doing the right thing" and the main page displays a rotating photo montage about the office of City Attorney, which of course has a photo of Trutanich. The current Trutanich photo (below) shows Carmen the CLown doing a "meet and greet."

Vital information about a Trutanich Meet & Greet with Korea Daily Leadership Prep Program
informs visitors to the City Attorney website of one of CLown's core functions.
"City Attorney Carmen Trutanich met with students from the Korea Daily Leadership Prep Program, a training course for 4th to 8th graders focused on developing leadership skills in public service. The City Attorney shared with them his insight on leadership, government, and politics," the caption reads.

What is interesting is the photo (below) that was recently deleted to make room for that vital "meet and greet" photo op.

Previously, a photo of Trutanich taking his Oath of Office reminded visitors
to the City Attorney website of the CLown's promises to Los Angelenos.
Just as with the ContractGate removal, no reason was given for why any reference to Trutanich's promises to Los Angelenos was removed. However, followers of Carmen the CLown's antics will recall that Trutanich recently announced that he did not consider himself bound by his campaign pledge not to use the office of City Attorney as a political springboard to high office, to serve a full first term, and to seek a second term.

In the absence of any explanation from the CLown as to why any reminder of promises made should be forgotten, perhaps the only rational explanation it that Trutanich is running from an inconvenient TRUth about his sincerity when it comes to making pledges, promises or undertakings.

This picture of City Attorney Carmen "The CLown" Trutanich taking the Oath of Office
was removed from the City Attorney website, perhaps in anticipation of embarrassing
questions over the CLown's seriousness when it comes to making oaths, promises or pledges. 
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Trutanich had no qualms about reneging on his campaign pledge when he was questioned about rumors that he will run for District Attorney in 2012, one year before his first term as City Attorney expires. Perhaps the removal of the Oath of Office photo was in preparation for the hailstorm of criticism that will greet Trutanich should he officially announce his intentions.

Interestingly, the removal of reference to promises made is not limited to the removal of Trutanich's oath of office photo. It seems that if you want to check on the other promises and pledges made by the CLown by visiting his old campaign website,, you won't even find a Korean "meet and greet."

Despite the byline, "Find the TRUth," the old campaign website now hawks foreign made electronic goods like the giant flat screen tv that Trutanich had installed in his executive office.

Nice cover up, you might say. Doubtless the five candidates who have officially announced their candidacy to replace Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley in 2012, will provide Los Angelenos with some reminders of the CLown's pledges, promises and oaths.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trutanich Transparency Questioned As ContractGate Unfolds

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's commitment to transparency is coming under fire from sources other than TRU is False! Actions taken by Trutanich staffers to remove a search tool that allows the public to search contracts awarded by Trutanich as City Attorney were revealed last week by Fishbowl LA.

The ContractGate scandal started when the Fishbowl LA news piece was published last week. Their website posts "LA Media News, Unspooled," and it is curious that their news piece featuring a San Diego based effort called "Flashlight" (which makes information concerning contributions to politicians and the contracts that politicians award easier for the public to find) chose to use City Attorney Trutanich as the poster child for what not to do.

Fishbowl LA states that: "So long as Flashlight keeps its link index fresh, the site could prove extremely useful as a reporting tool. That said, keeping public information links fresh is not easy. For instance, when LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich took office, his staff removed a handy search tool from the city attorney’s website that allowed the public to search through various city contracts."

Fishbowl LA's allegation appears to be partially borne out by a quick look at the City Attorney's website which has a very untidy and disorganized appearance compared to other City websites. Of course photo-ops of Trutanich feature most prominently, perhaps underlying Trutanich's main goal - self promotion. But if there is a Contract Search Tool, it is well hidden, and we could not find it.

So what is it that Trutanich is trying to make harder to find? Could there be awkward and embarrassing contracts that the City Attorney's Office has awarded?

Trutanich was known to be highly critical of his predecessor, Rocky Delgadillo, for hiring 'politicals' who engaged in fundraising and media promotion on the taxpayer dime, and removal of a contract search tool might make it harder for the public to research precisely why certain people are employed by Trutanich.

It seems that, increasingly, the media are discovering more and more reasons why Trutanich is not the person he claimed to be, and even the Los Angeles Dragnet published a story on ContractGate last week.  The Dragnet has been a strong supporter of Trutanich, however, recently the Dragnet started linking to articles written here revealing less than favorable pieces about the onetime "People's Lawyer."

Whatever the reason, for someone who promised 'Transparency' prominently in his campaign and well into his administration, it seems that FishBowl LA has unearthed yet another reason to believe TRU is False!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trutanich'a ACE Program Hides Power-Grab and Cash Stash

Carmen Trutanich has a plan to save the City's budget problems, as well as his own. It's called the "ACE" Program, aka Administrative Citation Enforcement Program, aka Carmen's Revenge. Just like just about everything else from Carmen the Clown, it ain't what it seems, and it stinks.

Carmen Trutanich's "ACE" Program looks like another power-grab to give the
City Attorney more power, money and influence.
As previously reported, City Attorney Trutanich has a secret plan to gain more power, more money, and greater influence as a "judge-maker." It's all dressed up as an innocent administrative ordinance designed to make code enforcement more efficient. In reality, it gives Trutanich the power to fine city residents and create an alternative "TRU-Justice System" where pesky details like the constitution, separation of powers, due process, and basic notions of fairness won't get in his way.

Council File 10-0085 contains the thinly disguised details of Trutanich's revenge on the City Council for killing his previous power-grab; The TRU Grand Jury. 

After you read the unctuously worded introductory letter, check the text of the proposed ordinances for the following ways Trutanich is making his power-grab:

"I OWN THE STINKIN' JUDGES!" The ACE Program will work for Trutanich because he's designed it to give him the power to chose the judges and tell them what to do. Take a look at Section 11.2.09 "The City Attorney shall create an administrative hearing and appeals process..." and you won't find the word "Judge" mentioned anywhere. That's because Trutanich calls them "Administrative Hearing Officers," but they are judges and they will sit in Trutanich's Kangaroo Courts.

You also won't find any mention of where these "Administrative Hearing Officers" are supposed to come from either. That's because Trutanich already controls the Dispute Resolution Program and guess what? it already has Hearing Officers who currently hear minor disputes. But in order for Trutanich to "make it happen," he will probably use his existing Deputy City Attorneys to sit as Judges. "It's a great way of saving money." he will probably explain. But what he won't tell you is that not only does this give him the power to exert undue influence over his judges, but it also gives him real power; he can be a "judge-maker."

Just imagine the bargaining power Trutanich will have if he can "make" judges. It's probably everything he's ever dreamed of, and everyone else's nightmare.

"GIMME MY GRAND JURY POWERS!" One of the reasons Trutanich gave for wanting his own Grand Jury was the ability to issue subpoenas - legal commands to haul persons into court, and order the production of documents. Trutanich probably still believes he could have proven his crass 'criminal aspects' investigation into the Michael Jackson memorial if he had a Grand Jury that could have ordered the production of AEG CEO Tim Leiwecke's personal records.

Thankfully, our civil liberties were protected when the Council squashed Trutanich's plan. So it's Plan B for Trutanich, and that's why Section 11.2.09(B)(6) gives Trutanich's Judges the power to "... subpoena witnesses, documents and other evidence in accordance with the policies and procedures established by the City Attorney." Nice try, but if you want to be a modern day McCarthy, find a bunch of less well-informed people to empower you.

"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" Section 5.121.11 creates the "Code Compliance Fund." This is where all the money collected by Trutanich's Kangaroo Courts will go. And guess who is in charge of the fund? That's right, according to Section 5.121.11(a) "The fund shall be administered by the City Attorney's Office." Of course, the money collected by Trutanich's Judges will be passed on to the responsible departments and any surplus goes to the General Fund. But, course, Trutanich gets to take his piece of the action; the vig, such as the costs of running the program, his judges' salaries, and any other costs he can tack-on to free himself from the budget control the Mayor and City Council has placed on Trutanich.

This is another one of Trutanich's Secret Weapons that needs to be nixed. Quickly.

The full text of Trutanich's plan is available for download from the City Clerk's file management system which can be accessed using this link:

The text of Trutanich's ACE Program can be found by using the link above to
take you to this screen. Then click the .pdf icon to download the entire file.
Why should anyone care if Trutanich gets these new powers? You might think that the ACE program is  sensible solution to an age-old problem of finding more efficient ways to enforce minor violations of the code. You would be right. Other cities have come up with similar programs, but there are two major differences between what other cities have done, and what Trutanich wants to do.

First, other cities don't give their City Attorney as much power as Trutanich's ACE plan.

Second, other cities don't have a City Attorney who has already demonstrated ample reasons to believe that he cannot be trusted with any more power that he already, regrettably, has.