Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said Monday that he spent his first 100 days in office completely reviewing the municipal law office and has begun implementing his reorganization plan.
He said the changes reflect his main priorities: keeping neighborhoods safe, conducting "meaningful" police reform and saving taxpayers' dollars from high judgments and settlements.
His moves also reflect a subtle criticism of Mayor James K. Hahn, who was city attorney for 16 years.
Several longtime veterans of the city attorney's office complained that some of their colleagues are being moved aside to make room for new hires. They also complained that Delgadillo is creating new high-level positions that will produce an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
Delgadillo defended his actions Monday, saying that change in any organization is difficult but that he hopes to make the office a premier municipal law office. He met with about a third of his staff Monday, outlining his plans and answering questions.
Team of Influential, Unofficial Advisors
"I've said many times that change is uncomfortable, especially for an entity that's been under the same leadership for 16 years, but change is a good thing," Delgadillo said in an interview. "What Jim [Hahn] did for 16 years was great for Jim Hahn. As time goes on, inertia takes over. I've taken a fresh look at the office."
Delgadillo, who is holding his first elected office, worked for former Mayor Richard Riordan, a constant critic of the city attorney's office. Delgadillo is taking a page out of Riordan's book by relying on a team of influential, unofficial advisors.
The city attorney had a high-profile transition team, led by O'Melveny & Myers' litigation partner Mark R. Steinberg. It helped with the reorganization plan and will continue to advise him. Delgadillo also hired McKinsey Consulting to help with the plan.
Steinberg said he believes Delgadillo is attempting to return to the pre-Hahn era when Burt Pines was city attorney. Pines, who held the job for eight years until 1981, was credited with raising the profile--and reputation--of the city attorney's office. Pines serves as one of Delgadillo's advisors.
"I think Burt came in with the idea he was going to do it differently where it made sense to do it differently," Steinberg said. "This was an office devoted to excellence. I think some of Rocky's hires--Terree A. Bowers and George Cardona--are emblematic of that kind of approach."
Bowers, a well-known local attorney and former federal prosecutor, is Delgadillo's chief deputy. Cardona, a UCLA law professor and another former federal prosecutor, was hired to run the new criminal division.
Under Delgadillo's plan, the duties of the office will be split into four areas: appellate, civil liability management, criminal and municipal counsel. He already has hired six special assistants and seven other directors and coordinators, many of whom are not lawyers. One of those will oversee education programs, including literacy and mentoring.
Police Litigation Unit Dismantled
But the shift that is raising the most eyebrows in City Hall is Delgadillo's dismantling of the police litigation unit created by Hahn several years ago. Before the city got hit with LAPD Rampart Division corruption-related lawsuits, Hahn consolidated all police matters into one office headed by Deputy City Atty. Cecil Marr.
But while Delgadillo is abolishing that office, he is maintaining a general counsel position for the Los Angeles Police Department that attends management meetings and advises Chief Bernard C. Parks.
Delgadillo said that attorney, Cheryl Ward, is in a prime position to help the LAPD avoid lawsuits or, at least, better anticipate them.
Delgadillo also is seeking a $3.6-million technology upgrade so that lawyers no longer will be forced to share outdated computers and rotary telephones. It is a plan that is long overdue, he said.
Overall, Delgadillo said he is attempting to boost the office's reputation and encourage more private-sector attorneys to work for the city. "I want city attorneys to walk around the streets of L.A. and feel they're the premier public-sector lawyers," Delgadillo said.
But Delgadillo's other goals seem even more lofty. "I do believe that government can provide an improved quality of life," he said. "We can, in a strategic way, take back neighborhoods of poverty, racism and quality of life problems."