Los Angeles City Controller James Hahn said Saturday night that Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner made "a $3-million mistake" when he was city attorney with his attack on the Police Department's since-disbanded Public Disorder Intelligence Division.
As a result of Reiner's comments, the city attorney's office was forced to withdraw from defending the department in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit charging that the division illegally spied on law-abiding citizens.
The city had to hire private counsel at a cost in excess of $3 million, Hahn said.
Endorsed Hahn Opponent
Hahn's comments came only days after Reiner endorsed Westside attorney Lisa Specht, one of the controller's main opponents in the April 9 election for city attorney. Specht is to begin airing television commercials this week featuring Reiner, who left the city attorney's office in December when he was sworn in as district attorney.
But Hahn, who is leading Specht and three other contenders in the race for city attorney, said "there is no connection" between Reiner's endorsement of Specht and Hahn's comments about the PDID case.
During the taping of a KNBC "News Conference" show Saturday night, Hahn was asked if there was a lesson to be learned from the Reiner episode.
"One of the things that the city attorney has got to learn is that you don't have absolutely free speech all of the time," Hahn said, "Sure, it was good for Mr. Reiner to get off his chest how bad that he felt that the Police Department had acted."
'Kept My Mouth Shut'
But then Hahn said: "I remember that many clients I had as a private attorney I couldn't stand, but at least I learned to keep my mouth shut because an attorney has a duty to protect the rights of his client."
Asked then whether Reiner had made a mistake, Hahn said: "I think it's obvious that the fact that we had to hire outside counsel to defend the city in that case . . . that was a $3-million mistake."
While the ACLU lawsuit was pending, Reiner lashed out at members of the PDID, saying a band "of zealot officers believe it is completely appropriate . . . to abuse every single moral or ethical precept that is involved in society."
The ACLU suit was eventually settled out of court in the ACLU's favor. Reiner has steadfastly defended his PDID comments as one of the most satisfying things he did as city attorney. He could not be reached for comment Saturday night on Hahn's remarks.