UPDATE: Controller Wendy Greuel took her claims against City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich to KABC Morning Talk Show host Doug McIntyre Thursday. Here’s the audio (greuel.mp3).
First, he pulled a grandstand play over Michael Jackson, giving the City Council just 72 hours to clean up the messy problem of how much the funeral extravaganza cost and who will pay.
Then, he laid down the law to the Planning Commission over their latest giveaway to the well-connected in such harsh term that one member went before the City Council to complain he found it “disturbing and frankly a little bit frightening.”
Now, City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich finds himself in a power struggle with City Controller Wendy Greuel in a replay of the yearlong fight between their predecessors, Rocky Delgadillo and Laura Chick.
Is this Rocky II? Is Nuch the tough sheriff trying to clean up Deadwood and its outlaw City Hall? Or a gunslinger riding into a new town and making his mark no matter who gets hurt?
The latest flap with Greuel is the most intriguing although it’s far from clear at this point whether it’s the opening round of what will be a long fight or just a misunderstanding that will disappear as quickly as it began.
The heart of the matter is Chick’s attempt to audit the City Attorney’s worker compensation claims management system, an effort undertaken in the belief millions of dollars were being wasted. Delgadillo sued her on behalf of the city after she issued subpoenas to his staff, arguing the Controller overstepped her authority under the City Charter and lacks the power to audit the activities of elected officials.
During their campaigns, both Trutanich and Greuel promised to resolve the dispute one way or another to ensure the Controller got the full authority that Chick wanted. But that hasn’t proved so easy to deliver since the case was already before a judge who just ruled tentatively the Charter does not give the Controller the authority Chick wanted.
Greuel wasn’t happy with Trutanich over how he handled this. She had wanted him to go to court with her before they were sworn in and tell the judge they were on the same side but he balked, arguing that even if he were in office, he could not act unilaterally without the Council’s permission.
After the judge ruled, Chick’s attorney Fred Woocher sent a letter on behalf on Greuel seeking a stipulated agreement establishing the Controller’s authority.
The lawyer handling the case in the City Attorney’s office, Valerie Flores, sent back a letter on Friday saying Woocher didn’t know what he was talking about (trutanichletter.pdf) since the lawsuit was against Chick, not the Controller’s office, so Greuel isn’t a party to it and Woocher represents Chick, not Greuel.
That didn’t sit well with Greuel who fired back a letter (greuelTrutanich.pdf) on Tuesday to Trutanich saying that she was “dismayed” by his failure to live up to his promises and threatened to take the issue to voters if he didn’t.
“I am the voice at this point in time to say we need to protect taxpayers’ dollars,” Greuel told the Times Wednesday.
Who could disagree with that. Let’s see how whether they move forward together in that direction or whether the fight between Trutanich and City Hall escalates.