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Rocky redux

Should L.A.'s top law enforcement official answer to the same standard as an ordinary police officer?

June 22, 2007

LOS ANGELES' flailing city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, solemnly proclaimed the other day that he holds himself to a high standard of conduct. That's appropriate. He is, as he's fond of pointing out, the city's top law enforcement official; he charges others with crimes and thus needs to adhere rigorously to the laws and rules that he enforces.

So does he? We have watched with bemusement at first and now growing concern as early reports of Delgadillo's wife driving with a suspended license have deepened into a pattern of neglect, inattention and insincerity. Over the last two weeks, Times staff writers Patrick McGreevy and Matt Lait have reported that Delgadillo allowed his wife to misuse his city car, and that when she crashed it, he let the city pay $1,222 to repair the damage. He permitted his auto insurance to lapse, which he first denied and then admitted. And now comes the latest disclosure: He had subordinates baby-sit his children and do chores around his house. Throughout this gathering torrent of revelations, Delgadillo has alternately ducked questions, professed to coming clean and admitted to still more misstatements.

At his mea-culpa news conference on Monday, Delgadillo promised to earn back the public's trust and intoned that, in the case of the city money used to pick up the pieces after the car accident, he repaid it "because it was the right thing to do." That's a perfect epitome of our city attorney in recent days: He wants credit for doing the right thing, but he only did it three years after the fact and after The Times disclosed his wrongdoing. Given that, his protestations that staff members looked after his kids on their own time can only be regarded with utmost skepticism. It's safe to say that Delgadillo's next apology to the media will go even less smoothly than the last.

As readers consider the question of what standard Delgadillo should be held to, here's a sobering observation: Any police officer who committed Delgadillo's offenses would be fired, and appropriately so. Why does the city's top law enforcement official get a better deal than its rank and file?

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