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City Attorney Carmen Trutanich: Q & A with Brentwood News

Carmen Trutanich
Q: For those in Brentwood who don’t know you so well, tell us what we should know about Carmen Trutanich?

A: I grew up in working-class San Pedro. I started out prosecuting gang and environmental crimes in the DA’s office. Later I went into private practice. Although I was the underdog and the outsider, I was elected City Attorney the first time I ran for any office in 2009, at age 57.

Q: When I hear the name Carmen Trutanich, the first thing that comes to mind is your pledge to serve two full terms as City Attorney (and not seek higher office), signing a pledge saying if you broke this promise, you’d buy a full-page ad in the LA Times saying “I am a liar†and that you’d contribute $100,000 to LA’s Best After School Enrichment Program. I am guessing this pledge won you many votes in your original race against Jack Weiss, which you won. But then you ran for District Attorney, breaking your pledge. What, if anything, are you willing to do to make good on this pledge? Will you be running any “I am a liar†ads? Will you make a contribution to LA’s Best? How do you justify the original pledge? Do you wish now you hadn’t made it? Is there anything you can or will do to remove this pledge as a talking point — or at least mitigate it somehow? I know I’m not alone when I say this whole pledge thing is the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the name Carmen Trutanich. Please explain where you stand now on this whole “pledge†matter.

A: I have secured $105,000 in pledges for LA’s BEST – $45,000 is already in hand, including $10,000 from me. Carla Sanger, LA’s BEST executive director, in an August 15 letter to me, said: “I want to express my personal appreciation to you for making good on your promise to raise $100,000 for the program.â€

The pledge was concocted by John Shallman, formerly my campaign consultant, now Mike Feuer’s. Shallman has admitted the pledge was his mistake. But the buck stops here, and I am willing to live with the consequences. The good part is that the kids of LA’s BEST are winning!

As for Shallman – I wish he would live up to his obligations as forthrightly as I have lived up to mine. By this I mean, it is the height of hypocrisy for the Feuer-Shallman team to attack me on the pledge issue when Shallman has consistently failed to pay his income taxes; as reported in the Los Angeles Times in March, the IRS has placed a $1.5 million lien on Shallman’s home because he has not paid his taxes for years. And now Feuer has the gall to ask voters to trust him with the job of busting law breakers in the city of Los Angeles after he hires a serial tax delinquent as his top political adviser. Who does Feuer think he’s fooling?

Q: What have been your top accomplishments during your first term? What do you want to accomplish in a second term?

A: Crime is down 23 percent since I took office. I filed injunctions against three street gangs and a notorious “tagging crew†responsible for thousands of square feet of graffiti. And I am suing two banks for allowing hundreds of their foreclosed properties to fall into disrepair, blighting neighborhoods.

My administration has successfully defended the city against $235 million in civil liability lawsuits filed by those who thought the city would be easy pickings. Past administrations too often settled “bad†cases instead of fighting them. That has changed under my leadership.

I have also gone after deadbeats. We are now collecting bad debts and taxes owed to the city at a rate almost four times better than that of my predecessor. I have slashed the city’s spending on expensive outside attorneys by two-thirds, saving taxpayers’ tens of millions of dollars. No city department has been more diligent in protecting taxpayers.

In a second term I would continue to build a staff that fearlessly gives its best advice to its City Hall clients, no matter how politically disagreeable that advice might be. I also want to develop more programs to steer youthful offenders into alternative sentencing programs that teach them civic and job skills. Jails do not make good citizens. Education does.

Q: Some say you don’t get along well with the City Council and the City Hall bureaucracy. What do you make of this claim?

A: My independence has upset City Hall insiders. I challenged the insiders to go outside their comfort zone and follow my lead after I became the first elected city official in LA history to invite a city controller to audit his or her department. I also urged closing the loophole that now allows LA’s elected officials to avoid mandatory audits.

I rankled the insider culture again when I sued Northern Trust, a top financial adviser to the city’s giant, civilian pension fund. The bank, I alleged, defrauded taxpayers and city employees by making $95 million in illegal, risky investment bets. The pension board’s political appointees wanted no part of a lawsuit whose subtext was that the board had neglected to prudently manage the public’s money.

Recently Mayor Villaraigosa said LA’s chief legal adviser should be hired not elected. But recent scandals in several small cities in LA county show that appointed city attorneys too often become lapdogs and enablers for corrupt mayors and councils.

Q: Why Carmen Trutanich instead of Mike Feuer?

A: If you want a career politician who fought term limits to keep his Sacramento job; someone who will bring Sacramento’s “fiddle-while-Rome-burns†mind-set to City Hall; a Sacramento politician who led the fight to shift criminals from state prisons to our over-crowded local jails – resulting in more early releases of convicted bad guys; someone who has spent almost no time in court enforcing the laws – then vote for my opponent.

But if you want a City Attorney who is a seasoned litigator, who has prosecuted gang members and polluters in dozens and dozens of jury trials, an outsider with a proven record of independence who earns the highest marks from the law profession’s top rating group, who runs the third biggest public law firm in California and brings the keen eye of a fellow taxpayer to City Hall – then vote for me.

Q: What public office are you eyeing next?

A: I am not eyeing any other elected posts. Being reelected city attorney and serving for another four years would be the proud capstone of my career as an elected public official.

in News
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