You can tell a lot about a guy from the people he chooses as his friends — and his enemies.
The mayor counts as friends a circle that includes lobbyists, developers and big shots who are getting rich off of the public business and see opportunities to get even richer.
And there’ are people like Brian D’Arcy — the DWP union boss who thinks labor negotiations are a game of blackmail and gets spectacular union contracts and promises of thousands of more jobs from the mayor when everybody else is hurting and taking pay cuts or losing jobs.
Then, there are his enemies, enemies of his own making, people like the DWP managers he dismisses collectively as incompetent and recalcitrant without having the guts to offer specific names or do anything about them during his five years as mayor.
And City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has become Antonio’s Enemy No.1 because he poses the greatest danger as the only independent elected city official, the only one who isn’t owned by the same crowd of insider profiteers that hover around everyone else in City Hall.
The mayor’s way of dealing with Trutanich is to break his promises and gut his department by slashing his budget by more than a third this year and next.
Trutanich is no one to be messed with lightly. He fired off a letter to the mayor and put it up on his website accusing Antonio of political cynicism and “a remarkable lack of leadership and imagination” that puts “public safety and the protection of taxpayer dollars at substantial risk.”
“You have apparently lost faith in and given up on the innate ingenuity and work ethic of its residents and employees, who have suggested and implemented innovative cost-saving measures that can lead us through these challenging budgetary times. Moreover, your proposed Budget fails to recognize the core missions of the City and thereby continues to place public safety and the protection of taxpayer dollars at substantial risk.
“In short, your proposals will only exacerbate the budget crisis looming in the future and appear to be motivated by some agenda other than the continued success of all of the public safety offices in this City, including the City Attorney’s Office.”
Trutanich notes the mayor’s budget only cuts his own office’s spending by 2.6 percent 2.6% r, and “despite a so-called ‘hard hiring freeze’ for other City employees, your office continues to hire political staff.”
The impact on losing 100 more attorneys, Trutanich said, will be dramatic in terms of his ability to defend the city against $2 billion in pending liability claims and will force him to discontinue prosecuting discretionary cases involving “gang injunctions and related prosecutions; the Safer City Initiative; the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program; the Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program; the Housing and Problem Properties Program; environmental and consumer protection; code or “broken window” enforcement; domestic violence
prosecutions; and many other non-priorable criminal offenses.”
For a political cynic like the mayor, the decision to go to war is a big mistake, a blunder that violates the first precept in Machiavelli’s bible of political manipulation: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
The disintegration of the mayor’s political strategy is happening so fast it is hard to keep up. But the signs of his desperation are clear enough.
He dismissed the likes of Eli Broad and RIchard Riordan from the day he took office as mayor and then suddenly, as budget crisis was crashing down on him, turned to them and surrendered his authority to their guy Austin Beutner, a fabulously rich corporate takeover financier with nothing better to do since he fell off a bike and nearly killed himself.
Three months later, Beutner has become the extra-legal de facto mayor, calling the shots in nearly a dozen key departments on everything from economic development to the sale of city assets to reduce the massive budget deficits.
This week he took on yet another major job for his dollar-a-year salary as interim general manager of the Department of Water and Power, a dual role that tramples on the city charter’s intent to provide checks and balances to ensure civilian oversight on policy and prevent corruption.
Interviewed by Warren Olney on KCRW’s Which Way LA? (link to podcast, Beutner comes up at 27:45 minute mark), the 9th DWP boss in 10 years showed he was a quick study in the fine art of saying little specific but implying a great deal, thus leaving all his options open: Get a green energy plan together, be transparent enough to sell it so he can get the rate hikes the mayor wants and reduce the political tensions enough to be able to hire a professional utility manager for the first time in years.
Even as he was chatting with Olney, the mayor was praising D’Arcy as “part of the solution” and waving his enemies list in front of editors and reporters at the LA Times, defaming without naming names the DWP management as “”wall to wall…at the highest levels…the biggest defenders of the status quo.”
“For four years, I’ve battled a bureaucracy that just won’t respond to the policy direction,” Villaraigosa said. “It’s been an absolute war. Getting through that Byzantine bureaucracy is very difficult . We’ve got to figure out a way to make that agency more transparent.
“They undermined [former General Manager Ronald] Deaton, they undermined [former General Manager David] Nahai. Even [outgoing General Manager S. David] Freeman. I’m talking about that upper-level management . You can’t fire them. They just go back to the Civil Service system” and they lose about $15,000 in salary as well as their city-provided cars, but they stay in the DWP. They out-wait you. They’ve out-waited everybody.”
The funny thing about that is Nick Patsaouras told him the same thing two years ago with the only difference being that the then DWP Commission President identified by name those who wanted to open up the books and were capable of doing a good job and those in the way.
Patsaouras got fired for his trouble and his solution, creation of a Rate Payer Advocate, was killed because transparency was the last thing the mayor wanted.
But it has reared its head and left the mayor and his allies scrambling to derail it by putting it under the control of the compliant Controller Wendy Greuel even as some members of the City Council are showing signs of getting uppity with an awakening public demanding better of them than they have seen in a long time.
Read Trutanich’s letter in full, a declaration of war between elect officials in LA that has no precedent in recent history:
CARMEN A. TRUTANICH
Honorable Mayor Villaraigosa:
This letter is in response to your proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2010/11 issued on April 20, 2010. Needless to say, I am deeply disappointed in your proposal, which displays a remarkable lack of leadership and imagination, and further demonstrates a fundamental failure of management on the part of the Mayor’s Office.
The proposed Budget is not a successful strategy to protect and promote the fiscal health and public safety of our City, and clearly fails to recognize and appreciate the basic skills necessary to efficiently manage its resources and employees. Rather than creatively and effectively managing this City, you have apparently lost faith in and given up on the innate ingenuity and work ethic of its residents and employees, who have suggested and implemented innovative cost-saving measures that can lead us through these challenging budgetary times. Moreover, your proposed Budget fails to recognize the core missions of the City and thereby continues to place public safety and the protection of taxpayer dollars at substantial risk. In short, your proposals will only exacerbate the budget crisis looming in the future and appear to be motivated by some agenda other than the continued success of all of the public safety offices in this City, including the City Attorney’s Office.
It is also obvious that your proposals cynically protect political positions at
the expense of public safety and essential services. For example, I note with
great dismay that the proposed Budget recommends only a 2.6% reduction for
the Mayor’s Office. I also understand that, despite a so-called “hard hiring
freeze” for other City employees, your office continues to hire political staff, which
is not tasked to perform public safety functions. In comparison, the Office of the
City Attorney, which is a designated public safety office under the City Charter,
has been targeted for a reduction of 18% (or approximately $17 million), which is
unprecedented for any City public safety agency and will result in the
unnecessary layoff of over 100 prosecutors and support staff. Such a severe
reduction to this Office constitutes an assault to public safety and a diminished
capacity to protect the City’s treasury. Our City and its residents need and
deserve reasoned and competent management In the effective delivery of
essential services, not the wasteful protection of overtly and costly political
positions proposed in your Budget.
In addition to being misleading, the proposed Budget disproportionately
impacts this Office compared to other public safety offices. As you are aware,
priorto the issuance of the proposed Budget, representatives of both your office
and the CAO advised this Office that a 10% (or $9.3 million) reduction, which
could be offset by any savings derived from anticipated furloughs, would be
recommended for this Office. In addition to offsets or “credits” for any furlough
savings, our Office was advised that any remaining deficit could be addressed
and any layoffs avoided through cooperative or “incentivized” agreements with
other departments, in which our budget would be credited by revenues collected
or saved by this’ Office. Specifically, our Office provided your office with
materials and inforrnation regarding several such cost-saving and revenue-
generating projects, including the consolidation of the Workers’ Compensation
Program and certain debt and tax collections activities within our Office, as well
as the proposed Administrative Code Enforcement program. Obviously, I was
surprised and shocked to see your recommendation for an 18% (or $17 million)
reduction, with no credits for furloughs, for this Office. The credibility of your
office has been sorely tested and damaged by this and other recent actions.
It is beyond dispute that, as required under the City Charter, the Office of
the City Attorney provides and performs vital and essential and mandated public
safety services and financial protection to the City and its citizens. As you know,
there are three primary and core public safety agencies under the Charter: the
Los Angeles Police Department; the Los Angeles Fire Department; and the City
Attorney’s Office. Your proposed FY 2010/11 Budget recommends an 18%
reduction in the funding for the Office of the City Attorney, which, when combined
with the 16% reduction imposed during FY 2009/10, equates to a total reduction of more than 30% over two budget cycles. This is the largest reduction suffered
by any public safety agency in the City and poses an unacceptable risk to public
safety. On the other hand, your proposed Budget proposes a 2% reduction for
LAFD and an increase of 1% for LAPD.
As a public safety agency, I believe this Office should be treated no
differently than LAFD or LAPD, especially given the critical support and
successful defense our Office provides to these departments each day. There is
no rational basis to increase the LAPD by 1 %, while simultaneously reducing the
number of prosecutors handling its cases by the proposed 18%. Without city
prosecutors, persons arrested by LAPD will be released without being charged.
As noted by the late Chief Daryl Gates in response to proposed budget cuts to
the City Attorney’s Office in 1982, “[I]t makes no sense for the Police Department
to apprehend (a criminal) and then find the prosecution cannot be completed.”
(See copy of attached article in Los Angeles Times, 117/82). It should also be
noted, that in 1982, then-Chief Gates publicly stated that he was prepared and
committed to share resources with the City Attorney’s Office in order to
accomplish the joint mission of the two departments, namely, to protect our
residents from crime. To date, there has been no effort by your office or the
LAPD to act in a similarly gracious partnership of true shared-sacrificed in our
This Office has more discretion in deciding whether to file and prosecute
criminal cases, as opposed to defending civil liability cases filed against the City
by private parties. As such, in the event this Office suffers the proposed 18%
reductions and layoffs, I will have no choice but to discontinue prosecuting those
criminal matters in which I have some limited discretion. These matters include
the following: gang injunctions and related prosecutions; the Safer City Initiative;
the Neighborhood Prosecutor Program; the Citywide Nuisance Abatement
Program; the Housing and Problem Properties Program; environmental and
consumer protection; code or “broken window” enforcement; domestic violence
prosecutions; and many other non-priorable criminal offenses.
Under the mandate of the City Charter, this Office also serves as the
guardian of the City’s treasury. Although the Mayor proposes the budget and the
Council approves it, this Office aggressively defends it everyday from liability and
lawsuits that seek to deplete it through frivolous and unreasonable damage
claims. Every reduction in the number of deputy city attorneys defending the City
against frivolous lawsuits exposes the City to potentially more millions of dollars
in damages and payouts to private lawyers looking for a payday from the City’s
Since I took office in July 2009, our attorneys have vigorously andsuccessfully protected the City by winning 32 out of 32 civil trials – and saving theCity over $100 million in potential damage awards. Obviously, had the City been held liable at trial, the jury or the court could have ordered damages and costs significantly higher than the last pre-trial settlement offer, which could have totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Although this Office
has been extraordinarily successful over the past nine months, the loss of any additional attorneys will greatly diminish our ability to further protect the City’s treasury from such liability damage claims.
Moreover, additional reductions to our budget will not limit the City’s
liability. Rather, such reductions will expose the City’s treasury to even more or
potentially higher liability payouts. This Office does not create liability – other
departments within the City engage in activities that create tens of millions of
dollars of potential liability each year. Currently, our Office is defending the City
against nearly $2 billion in civil liability claims, which if lost, will be paid by the
taxpayers. As the City’s lawyers, we are solely responsible under the Charter to
defend the City against these and other potential liabilities created by other
departments. Therefore, when you reduce the budget of this Office by 18%, I
cannot magically reduce the number of civil liability cases currently pending
against this City by a corresponding 18% or lower the City’s potential exposure
by even one dollar. Even though you may want to layoff employees of this
Office who tirelessly and professionally defend this City, you cannot wish away
the thousands of pending lawsuits demanding potentially billions of dollars from
the taxpayers of this City. Unlike sidewalks to be fixed or trees to be trimmed,
you cannot pick and choose which civil lawsuits to ignore. Each and every one
of these thousands of lawsuits must be answered and defended. Losing just one
of these cases, due to a lack of experienced or a sufficient number of counsel,
could cost the City millions of dollars in damages and wipe out any potential
savings you mistakenly and shortsightedly believe can be accomplished through
further reductions to this Office.
In fact, rather than suffer the additional and punitive proposed 18%
reduction, this Office must be recognized and rewarded for its tremendous
success in reducing costs and eliminating its deficit during FY 2009/10. When I
assumed Office on July 1, 2009, there was a deficit of over $18 million. Since
that date, our employees have successfully generated savings that have reduced
the deficit, which is now targeted to be entirely eliminated by the end of FY
2009/10 on June 30. We have accomplished this success through a combination
of ERIP, furloughs, reductions in costs for outside counsel, vendors and litigation
expenses, as well as increased subrogation collections and environmental and
consumer protection penalties – and just plain hard work.
Our employees have accomplished and endured all cost-saving measuresthey have been asked to implement and will deliver a balanced budget.Unfortunately, other City departments have apparently not been able to properlymanage and balance their own budgets. Despite our success and sacrifice,however; our employees are again being asked to bear the burden of those other departments that have not been properly managed and will suffer a disproportionate share of the reductions – all to the very grave risk to publicsafety and the City treasury. Moreover, such reductions will result in even more potential liability for the City due to lack of staff necessary to defend against lawsuits or prevent such lawsuits through adequate risk management and municipal counsel.
The Office of the City Attorney and its employees clearly recognize and
understand the serious and unprecedented financial challenges facing the City.
Our employees have worked hard and sacrificed much over the past year to
reduce costs and accomplish increasingly more with fewer resources. In fact, as
you well know, I personally advised you and your staff on multiple occasions that
this Office and its employees were willing and prepared to take on more
responsibility, including the City’s entire Workers’ Compensation and debt/tax
collections programs, in order to assist the’ City in reducing costs and generating
much-needed revenue. As I stated, there is no need to contract out such work
to outside vendors and contractors when we have experienced and dedicated
City employees who can more efficiently handle such matters.
Our success to date in bearing our share of the burden and reducing the
City’s deficit is proven and easy to measure. We have successfully performed
our duties, while at the same time dramatically cutting costs and reducing staff
from the General Fund. For example, this Office will reach the targeted goal of
less than 750 General Fund positions well before June 30, 2010, which
significantly exceeds the $8.6 million in savings requested in the Mid-Year
Financial Status report issued in January 2010.
Your recommended ·18% reduction to this Office and resulting 100 layoffs
will reduce our staff to an untenable 650 General Fund positions. Such a
reduction will constitute a budget loss of nearly 35% and more than 200 General
Fund positions in just one year. The proposed 18% reduction and layoffs will
severely impair the ability of this Office to provide the public safety and fiscal
protection services mandated by my authority under the Charter.
I cannot emphasize enough that we are a public safety office – protecting
both the safety and health of our citizens and our City treasury. Prosecuting
crimes and defending the City treasury are core missions of this City, and our
Office and its prosecutors, litigators, investigators and their support staff perform these essential services in a highly professional and cost effective manner.
Accordingly, I will firmly and publicly object to your proposed
disproportionate reductions and resulting layoffs that will significantly impact
essential and core City services provided by this Office. I will address my
concerns to the Council, where I intend to demonstrate the serious flaws in your
proposed Budget. I anticipate that the Council will provide much needed
guidance and direction, and eventually allocate and approve appropriate funds to.
fully support the essential services provided by this Office without the need for
any layoffs of prosecutors, litigators, investigators or their support staff.
Ultimately, I will take whatever actions are necessary in order to ensure
that the Office of the City Attorney is able to perform its mandated role under the
Charter to protect the City’s residents and its treasury. The City deserves
Carmen A. Trutanich