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Paying the Price for Antonio’s Mistakes — The Mayor’s Damage Control Operation

Not long before he was whacked for betrayal  while saying Hail Marys in a boat on Lake Tahoe, Fredo Corleone complained to his brother Michael about the way he was treated.
“I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over …I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!”

Now that he’s resigned as Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Jimmy Blackman has time to say his Hail Marys, watch “The Godfather” movies and feel a special empathy with Fredo Corleone.

Replace “older brother” with “most loyal soldier” and you can hear Fredo’s complaint in  Blackman’s dilemma as he was passed over for chief of staff, Austin Beutner’s team took power in the mayor’s office and the “Ticketgate” scandal erupted.

Loyalty, like Corleone family blood, no longer meant a damn thing.

Blackman was the guy who was always there for Antonio, connecting the favors to campaign contributors, arranging the tickets to sports and entertainment events, linking the mayor to the City Council and political world outside City Hall.

He was a trustworthy confidant, a pal. Yet, he was the odd man out when the mayor’s dreams of becoming governor were shattered, when his administration was branded far and wide as a failure, when outsiders indifferent to and ignorant of politics were brought in to run the show.

Who needs a bagman when there’s no money to raise for the next campaign, when the big-time favors are being dispensed by Wall Street types who think running a city is no different than making a deal, taking over a failing company or manipulating the stock market?

His farewell email to
friends and colleagues sounded like a suicide note to many with its
expressions of deep gratitude to everyone in his work and private life,
even his ex-wife, his vows of undying loyalty to the mayor, man who at
times had almost been like a brother and now had so little use for money
as city, county and state investigators were gathering evidence of
failing to report valuable gifts and possible illegal conflicts of

Those had to be tough days leading up to Blackman’s decision to resign.

was no longer just a political problem and lawyers got involved as they
mayor went into damage control mode in an effort to contain the fallout
from his flagrant disregard of ethics laws.

You can be sure
Blackman felt like Fredo hearing his brother Michael tell him: “You’re
nothing to me now. You’re not a brother, you’re not a friend. I don’t
want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you…”

There is a lot that’s sad in Blackman’s farewell message where he sees
himself as the devoted team player who wants “no parties, no fan fare,
and no long good byes,” just “closure from this chapter in my
professional life” and some time to thing things through after his final
day in two weeks.

And there’s something oddly ominous In the
“thousands of stories that will remain with me.  Those who know the most
say the least. One day the real story of the Villaraigosa
administration will be written (not by me).”

Blackman denied in
an email to the LA Times that “Ticketgate” had anything to do with his
resignation.: “I am not a part of any inquiry into this issue, nobody
has asked to
speak with me about it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my

Maybe. But when investigators get involved and start
examining emails and phone logs and questioning witnesses, those who
are targets soon learn the tried and true rule: First one to tell all to
the prosecutor gets immunity.

The mayor’s lawyers and advisers
have taken their first step in controlling the damage of Ticketgate.
There will be others as they try to get him off with a fine and an

But if investigators look hard enough they will find
“thousands of stories” behind the gifts of tickets and meals and fine
wines and that will inevitably lead them, if it hasn’t already, to Jimmy
Blackman, one of “those who know the most” and wants to “say the least”
– unless, of course, he feels betrayed and has no alternative but to
tell “the real story of the Villaraigosa administration.”

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29 Responses to Paying the Price for Antonio’s Mistakes — The Mayor’s Damage Control Operation

  1. Sandy Sand says:

    In a real Hollywood ending, and this is Hollywood, after all, Blackman’s (appropriate name) farewell email is a suicide note, and his version of the insider secrets are safely locked away, only to be opened upon his death.
    Fade to black, open up on final scene … Blackman on beach in Mexico where there’s no chance of extradtion. Nothing about these guys is honest, not even their own deaths.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The light is beginning to turn reddish as the sun falls…
    BEUTNER: Jimmy, you were always interested in politics, in history. I remember you talking about Hitler back in ’43. We were young then.
    BLACKMAN: Yeah, I still read a lot. They bring me stuff.
    BEUTNER: You were around the old timers who dreamed up how the Families should be organized, how they based it on the old Roman legions, and called them ‘Regimes’… with the ‘Capos’ and ‘Soldiers,’ and it worked.
    BLACKMAN: Yeah, it worked. Those were great old days. We was like the Roman Empire. The Villaraigosa Administration was like the Roman Empire.
    BEUTNER: (sadly) Yeah, it was once.
    They both puff on their cigars. BLACKMAN lets himself be
    carried away by thoughts of old days of glory; BEUTNER thinks
    of other days too.
    BEUTNER: (very gently) The Roman Empire… when a plot against the Emperor failed, the plotters were always given a chance to let their families keep their fortunes.
    BLACKMAN: Yeah, but only the rich guys. The little guys got knocked off. If they got arrested and executed, all their estate went to the Emperor. If they just went home and killed themselves, up front, nothing happened.
    BEUTNER: Yeah, that was a good break. A nice deal.
    BLACKMAN looks at BEUTNER; he understands.
    BLACKMAN: They went home and sat in a hot bath and opened their veins, and bled to death. Sometimes they gave a little party before they did it.
    BEUTNER throws away his cigar. BLACKMAN puffs on his.
    BEUTNER: Don’t worry about anything, Jimmy Five-Angels.
    BLACKMAN: Thanks, Austin. Thanks.
    They shake hands. The FBI Agents come out to let BEUTNER out the gate. BLACKMAN is led back to the house.
    FBI MAN #1: Your lawyer tell you he can get that 600 years reduced to 500?
    BLACKMAN puffs on his cigar and reflects.
    BLACKMAN: You boys sure you can’t get me a broad for tonight? Give me a little party?
    FBI MAN #2: We got some nice books.
    BLACKMAN puffs on his cigar and gives the Agent a smile an old man gives a child. He starts upstairs.
    BLACKMAN: I guess I’ll just take a hot bath.

  3. G. Shepherd says:

    Bruno? Are you 1:32 p.m.? Well, whoever you are, that really deserves a screen credit.
    Your Pal,

  4. Michael Trujillo says:

    For those of you who think I post “anonymously” i don’t.
    Happy to use my real name and say that Jimmy Blackman did the same job for 13 years – sometimes people need change.
    Not everyone is lucky like Ron who loved his job for 24 years until he got fired by the Daily News — one day someone will write that story, but it won’t be Ron.
    The comments posted here are some real hate filled screeds its unfortunate because sometimes they make valid points but that gets covered up by some vitriol dripping from the posts left here by Ron and others on this blog.
    Me saying Jimmmy Blackman is a good person, isn’t to change anyones mind, because the people who come here have their opinions already and aren’t going to be persuaded either way.
    But to infer that Jimmy has something to hide is high school gossip and anyone trying to read anything into it other than what the guy said has read one too many mystery novels.
    Sadly, when you compare the senior staff of the Villaraigosa administration to the last two-term Mayor Richard Riordan – more people left Riordan by year 5 than Antonio – but you wouldn’t know that reading any of the posts here.
    People have a crazy narrative they want to push – fine, i get it. Sometimes the truth is pretty darn boring — Jimmy leaving while news worthy isn’t all that unusual.

  5. Anonymous says:

    no such thing as being an elected official in LA without corruption in your life. period. I post anonymously to protect myself from additional retaliation. these are criminals in office, inmates running the asylum.

  6. Anonymous says:

    no such thing as being an elected official in LA without corruption in your life. period. I post anonymously to protect myself from additional retaliation. these are criminals in office, inmates running the asylum.

  7. Anonymous says:

    If Jimmy’s departure is nothing more than a “pretty darn boring” to seek a change of scenery, why does his farewell email read like a suicide note?

  8. Anonymous says:

    G Shepherd: Credit the writing to M. Puzo and F.F. Coppola, who wrote that scene for Tom Hagen and Frankie Pantangeli…

  9. Anonymous says:

    To Mike Trujillo, you must really think we are all idiots to be swayed by louts like you. Do you realize that many of us are insiders who have first hand knowledge of what goes on.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Another loyal friend under the Villaraigosa bus.

  11. Anonymous says:

    To M. Trujillo, I am a very concerned taxpayer that is outraged by what this administration has been getting away with. Everyone on my block is now alert and talking about the corruption,lack of accountability and shameless spin coming out of city hall.

  12. In Eagle Rock says:

    I think this was a good post by Ron with a pat on the back due for the “drama” aspect.
    It might be a bit much for some, but in relation to the hijinks we have observed going on in the administration of Mayor Villaraigosa, it’s low key stuff. Only the City of Bell stories were more bizarre.
    Trujillo criticizes the kinds of postings here for the “hate” aspect showing through but I don’t hate Antonio and I used to work with him for years when he was a good guy. I just think he’s totally corrupted and is singly responsible for doing more damage to the city’s quality of life, the economy and the city infrastructure than any other L.A. mayor.
    Surrounding oneself with talent for achieving a successful administration wasn’t happenning. The game plan was to amass whatever publicity could boost Antonio to the next greater office, like he did when he was CM in CD-14.
    No, you don’t have to hate him to say what he’s done is slimy, weasely, devoid of any statesmanlike quality and totally unworthy of being the mayor of a major city or even a minor city. His goals were, in the apt phrasing of the L.A. Weekly’s revealing “11% Mayor” story, just “All about Antonio.”
    And the friends along for the glory ride and there to catch the cash from campaign funding and taxpayers alike formed their loyalty along those financial reasons. Non-profits are not penniless, just as a public utility, DWP should work for the city’s people, it turns a “profit,” declares surplus funds and diverts over $200 million to the city’s general fund.
    It worked well for a while as a tool for Antonio building a 1,000 officer LAPD to claim in those campaign brochures for governor but Antonio’s own misdeeds and greed kept that rung of the ladder out of reach. That another thing to add to his “dream with me” category of achievements- like that first campaign promise to have a “transparent” administration.
    Defend him all you want, he still is a rotten politician and person. He had the opportunity to do some good for the city but his narcissism and greed pushed all those ideas aside, and nothing local (such as “city” business) holds his interest if it’s not putting him in the spotlight or getting some cash in the campaign coffers, and lately, just free tickets will work.
    And that betrayal by him of former supporters is what grates so heavily on our sensibilities. He’s earned all his criticisms and then some added for his total arrogance.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Antonio on the advice of his Chief budget strategist, M. Szabo, has created an alarming rift between unions, which will result in devastating damage to the City. When there is a family feud nothing good comes out of it. Darker days are ahead for the City. Where are the adults?

  14. Walter Moore says:

    I stopped counting the rats jumping off the S.S. Villaraigosa back in November, when the number hit 13.
    I’ve lost count of how many have jumped since then.
    This particular departure is interesting because he apparently has nowhere to go.
    And, really, where does one go when one has wasted a decade “working” for someone who thinks his job description is to maximize photo-ops per day; who has accomplished nothing other than to spend America’s second-biggest city to, if not beyond, the brink of bankruptcy; and who may be only days away from an indictment for Ticketgate?
    Perhaps there’s an opening in the field of . . . witness protection?
    Is there ANY explanation for this departure other than a desire to be somewhere else — ANYWHERE else, with or without a job — when criminal charges hit?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Villaraigosa has surrounded himself with nobodies. Szabo, Carson, Carr, Trujillo, Beutner, and the City is paying a high price for their ineptitude. Where is Council President Garcetti? Well,it confirms what we knew all along. NO BALLS! And he wants to be Mayor? He has failed the test of leadership. Enough with pretty faces and empty suits.

  16. Walter Moore says:

    I don’t think it’s a matter of ineptitude at all.
    The people who put him that office — the unions, developers and “non-profits” — are getting exactly what they wanted: taxpayers’ money.
    It’s not as though he’s a real leader. He is a figurehead, a puppet for the people who really run the City.
    Those around him are presumably smart enough to know that their only mission is to get publicity for the next campaign. Unfortunately for him and them, he’s “done.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    Whatever epitaphs you losers are writing here mean little.
    Antonio is still the mayor for another three years or so, and all you have to look forward to is the next mayor, Zev Yaroslavsky.
    Someone once called elections as “rotating the rascals”. Just who do you think is going to change the LA culture?
    Certainly not the main slanderers and libelers on this blog, Kaye and Abel (almost sounds like Cain and Abel, doesn’t it?)
    No one elected offical ever pleases everyone. Maybe if you guys quit whining and actually ran for something yourselves, you could learn the difficulties of balancing elected life, governance and practical politics. Politics is the art of compromise, and none of you seem to get that.
    Go on back to your Slamming Guide and try to dirty someone else up. Jimmy Blackman does not deserve to be trashed by the likes of you.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This is a fun soap opera to read and comment about. How does this help my neighborhood and city?

  19. Curious says:

    Mr Trujillo,
    While I understand the premise of staff moving on to other horizons, especially in the beginning of a mayor’s final term. Some say politics is dirty and feel it’s not worth selling their soul over. Others wish to secure a new post while bargaining power is still somewhat advantageous. That is, leaving in the beginning of a second term is good strategy for their next job. They have the time and are not yet in desperation mode.
    I think Jimmy knew politics and would have stayed on board to the end.
    Rumors in City Hall flew shortly after Kramer left. Jimmy was expected to take over her post. When that didn’t happen, we heard he was looking for another job, not because of the aforementioned, but because he was not awarded what seemed “rightfully his” given the service he provided (right or wrong/corrupt or not) to AV. He was loyal to Antonio; ‘discreetly did his dirty work and, perhaps, was willing to sell his soul to keep his boss happy. Skipping over Jimmy makes the Godfather look like a saint.
    Could you please tell us why, when Robin Kramer left, Jimmy Blackman was not promoted to her post?
    Thank you, in advance, for an answer.
    -Curious in City Hall

  20. Walter Moore says:

    Some of us actually HAVE run for office.
    This blog may wind up having no impact at all. However, the first step in getting people to take action is making them understand there is a problem. Unfortunately, the local media don’t excel at that. Thanks to the internet, we can help fill in the gaps.
    The next step — in which some of us are also involved — is getting real people, from the real world, to run for office, and getting others to help spread the word.
    I don’t think any of us would be complaining — or at least not as much — if we believed the people in office were acting in good faith. People can, after all, reasonably disagree on things like whether to promote or discourage increased density; whether to promote mass transit and, if so, what type of mass transit; etc.
    The current crop at City Hall, however, is not acting in good faith. You’ve got a Mayor who spends all his time flitting from one photo-op to the next. You have a City Council that has overspent the city into bankruptcy territory, yet spends its time passing faux “boycotts,” and you have one audit after another showing waste and mismanagement, yet no one taking action on them.
    We have a Council Member who does not live in the district he is supposed to represent. We have a Mayor who takes tickets worth tens of thousands of dollars from companies to which he gives hundreds of millions of dollars of our tax money.
    Talking alone won’t solve it — you’re absolutely right. But silence guarantees the bad guys will win. So we need to identify the problems, propose solutions, get candidates, and spread the word.
    We also need to understand that we will have to agree to disagree on certain issues. We all agree, however, that we need HONEST people in government who will act in good faith to try to achieve the public interest, rather than career politicians who cater to their special interest cronies.
    Fair enough?

  21. Ron, I thought I was the only blogger to quote from the Godfather series.
    Don’t you have any respect?
    Paul Hatfield

  22. Anonymous says:

    Bizarre analogy. Fredo was disloyal, and that’s why he was offed after his mother’s death. This Ron Kaye guy not only doesn’t get The Godfather; he certainly doesn’t get Jimmy Blackman. Maybe he was the “Bag man”– but Kaye doesn’t provide any evidence or otherwise make a good case. Kaye certainly doesn’t display any journalistic qualities on this blog. He couldn’t really have been an editor at any respectable newspaper.

  23. Trouble with Tony: Scene two, take two says:

    As Jimmy climbs the stairs to take that bath, the lights fade and the camera shifts to the next scene.
    Getty House, master bedroom
    Antonio, Lu and Monkey
    Lu: Oh Tony, Oooh Tony, what’s up (pause) with Jimmy?
    (sounds of Monkey growling)
    Tony: Lu, baby, Jimmy’s served me well. But there comes a time when a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
    Lu: What do you mean sweetie? Don’t forget to pet Monkey. He gets jealous, you know.
    Tony: I had to plan for my, I mean, our future. I had to put Austin and Jeff before him.
    Lu: I don’t understand. How will that help my career, I mean, our future?
    Tony: I need to plan beyond, uh, the here and now.
    Lu: But I thought you liked it when I did that.
    Tony: Of course I do. I mean beyond the here and now of the bedroom.
    Lu: But why them?
    Tony: Jimmy’s been good to me, but he cannot provide what we need for our future and it is important for him to move on, following his, um, vacation. Austin can get me one of those high paying consultant jobs I’ll need to keep me, us, living the way we’ve become accustomed to. And, if not him, we have Jeff.
    Lu: But life is great. We’re doing great. Please pass the Dom Perignon honey.
    Tony: Yes my sweets. But, I have to continue to live this way well pass what the City will provide. The pensions just go so far you know.
    Lu: Are you saying we can’t stay here after your term?
    Tony: Yes, we must be realistic and consider these things.
    Lu: Oh Tony, you are so entrepreneurial and so realistic. You’re the man. What sort of consulting will you do?
    Tony: Lu, that’s irrelevant. It’s just gotta be something that pays 30 thousand a month or so. Actually, I’ll need two such consulting jobs for my needs.
    Lu: Tony, you even did the math. You are so intelligent. That’s what I love about you. Any company will be lucky to get your advice. What about Jimmy? He’s been so good to us.
    Tony: Jimmy will do fine. After he takes the blame for the scandals those nasty reporters so selfishly divulged, he’ll be taken care of.
    Lu: What blame? What do you mean by those nasty reporters?
    Tony: Oh honey, I’m not talking about you. Your Betty stories are great, inspiring and so uplifting. I mean those reporters that are watching me, invading my social life and scrutinizing those deals I had Jimmy give away.
    Lu: Yes, how dare they. Don’t they know how blessed the crowds are to see us? You are a true public servant.
    Tony: I did it for the people of Los Angeles.
    Lu: What about those contracts and deals?
    Tony: Why waste time on processes, opinions, panels and all that, especially when those panels do as I say? I had to make things happen properly. I have the final say. Loyalty to me is the same as loyalty to the people of LA. I owe it to Eli, the Wassermans, Tim and the people. I’m humble enough to know it’s not just about me. It’s about what others can do for me, for us.
    Lu: That’s what I love about you, your humility.
    Tony: The people don’t seem to understand that those tickets help me help the people through our friends. It’s my way of giving back to the people.
    Lu: Tony, you must keep your head up. Someday people will know the real Tony.
    Maybe Jimmy can run my charity.
    Tony: I’m not sure Jimmy’s into dogs and youth work projects. He probably has his sights set for a higher salary.
    Lu: But, Tony, the kids and teens work for free and we can pass the savings to Jimmy.
    Tony: Honey Bunch, it’s great what you do and we’ll be sure to get the City resources behind you and your fundraising as long as I’m in office. But, really, Jimmy needs to hide out for now. Those tickets are just the tip of the iceberg; there’s several years of personal and city matters that need to rest so we can move forward.
    Lu: Oh, I see. Is this part of your strategy?
    Tony: Yes dear. It’s all part of running this City. It’s a tough job.
    Lu: Tony, you are so smart.
    Tony: That’s the plan. Hey, where’s Monkey?
    Lu: He’s right there under the covers by your legs.
    Tony: Uh, I thought that was, uh, pass me the Dom Perignon please.
    Lu: Here you go my love. Let’s toast to Jimmy.
    Tony: To Jimmy and to us and all that’s to come.
    (sound of the champagne glasses clinking)
    (sound of Monkey growling)

  24. AnonymouslyYours says:

    Trouble with Tony, very funny!
    If Lu ever sees the light, People of Los Angeles duck and cover! Because when all the air races out of her head, a gigantic hurricane will be unleashed on unsuspecting citizens.

  25. Anonymous says:

    How sad, Jimmy found out the hard way “there is no loyalty.” He probably has to sign a confidentiality agreement to get paid off not to say a word to anyone about what he knows. I’m sure this has deflected his over sized ego. Its funny how the Antonio groupies and staffers have such a denial attitude about the Failure of the Mayor. Do they really believe it or just say it cause they’re afraid? I heard yesterday that when the city negoiated the lawsuit with Time Warner when Antonio first became Mayor, the negoiation stated all city council members would get FREE Time Warner cable. I always wondered why on my Time Warner bill it has info on the city of LA. How can we find out?

  26. City Dave says:

    Many people who are writing on this blog are long-time city hall employees (long before mini mayor)….many of us have retired but we remember the 3 administrations before this one and all were much better. The creepiness and sleaziness that have permeated the city by “the puppet” are palpable. We hope he and his ilk will just go away before they can do anymore major damage. Just like Bush and Cheney you can’t rewrite history. Next time let’s elect someone with smarts.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Mike Trujillo is the last idiot to be posting on this blog. I’m a Latino who was insulted by his bullshit racist letter he sent the media about LA Clean Sweep. He’s a politicial consultant loser plain and simple. Its not “hate” Mike you moron, its more disgust, anger, frustration because of what the Failure of a Mayor and city council morons have done and ruined our city. You have nerve talking about Jimmy. Both of you are weak men who threaten and use your titles to put the fear in people. You have little man syndrome and think you’re more then you are. Maybe you should study and find out why your last campaigns have FAILED. I guarantee if there was a polling of what the People of LA thought of Antonio and city council, those numbers would be much lower then any politician even Bell politicians.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Moore:
    You call what you did “running for office”?
    I was talking about a real run, not some self promoting quixotic mini campaign where you never have a chance of getting even close to winning.
    You raised so little money and spent it so foolishy that another self promoter with the unlikely name of Zuma Dog did better than you did. How embarassing.
    I meant a real campaign where one has a shot at winning. All you proved was how difficult it is to get elected and why those who manage it are entitled to some respect.
    Mr. Moore, you are just a loser.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Moore:
    You call what you did “running for office”?
    I was talking about a real run, not some self promoting quixotic mini campaign where you never have a chance of getting even close to winning.
    You raised so little money and spent it so foolishy that another self promoter with the unlikely name of Zuma Dog did better than you did. How embarassing.
    I meant a real campaign where one has a shot at winning. All you proved was how difficult it is to get elected and why those who manage it are entitled to some respect.
    Mr. Moore, you are just a loser.

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