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L.A. council members want city attorney to resolve probe of Michael Jackson memorial

The city attorney's 'criminal investigation' of the event is hampering officials' efforts to recoup some of the $3.2-million cost of police and other city services from L.A. Live developer AEG.

December 07, 2009|By Phil Willon and Maeve Reston
  • A woman waits in front of Staples Center last July for the Michael Jackson memorial to begin. Los Angeles officials say police and other city services for the event cost more than $3 million.
A woman waits in front of Staples Center last July for the Michael Jackson… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry said Monday that entertainment company AEG probably will not help defray the $3.2-million cost of police and other city services for the Michael Jackson memorial until the city attorney resolves his "criminal investigation" into the spending.

"Threats are not conductive to asking people to make a donation," Perry said, referring to the inquiry ordered by City Atty. Carmen Trutanich. Later, she added, "We're faced with the sword hanging over AEG's head. . . . I do not expect that AEG will do anything while the threat of prosecution is hanging over their head."

Members of the council's public safety panel asked Trutanich to update them by Friday on the status of his investigation into the city's costs during the July memorial at Staples Center.

Chief Deputy City Atty. William Carter said city prosecutors had no comment on Perry's statement or on the status of their investigation.

Perry, who represents a downtown district that has been revitalized by Anschutz Entertainment Group's Staples Center and L.A. Live development, said there has been unnecessary drama after the Jackson memorial.

Jackson died unexpectedly as AEG was promoting his international comeback tour.

Before Trutanich announced in July that he was looking into "criminal aspects" surrounding the memorial, Perry said she and officials from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office had productive conversations with the head of AEG, Tim Leiweke, about a donation to defray some costs.

Public Safety Committee Chairman Greig Smith said Trutanich has not shared any details about his investigation. "There is nothing gained by prolonging this any further," Smith said. "We are going to be partners with AEG for a long, long time and the last thing we want to do is have an unproductive relationship, so it's in all our best interests to resolve this quickly."

Councilman Dennis Zine, who served on Trutanich's transition committee and has called for AEG to reimburse the city, said he planned to personally ask the city attorney to appear to provide an update on the inquiry. It's unfair to AEG to allow speculation about a criminal investigation to linger, he said.

"There appears to be a cloud over their head. We need to get that removed," Zine said. "To the benefit of AEG/Staples, for the benefit of the city of Los Angeles, we need to close this matter one way or another."

In October, Leiweke told The Times that he and Trutanich had discussed reimbursement during a private meeting over the summer. But when Trutanich said he'd "go after" the company if it didn't pay $6 million, Leiweke said, he walked away from discussions.

Trutanich acknowledged meeting with Leiweke but told The Times he never asked for $6 million and did not make any threats. The figure he discussed with Leiweke, he said in October, was closer to $2 million or $3 million.

Shortly after the memorial, Villaraigosa said it would be "nonsensical" to bill AEG or the Jackson family for the cost, since neither had any authority over the city's response to the private event.

However, the controversy was stirred up again in September after the Jackson estate agreed to pay Glendale $125,000 to reimburse the cost of police protection during Jackson's funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park.

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