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L.A. councilman seeks to end internal city dispute

Paul Koretz proposes dismissing a suit between the former city attorney and former city controller and changing the city Charter, but the two sides have yet to agree on the payment of attorneys' fees.

September 03, 2009|Maeve Reston

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz has asked his colleagues to end the dispute between the former city attorney and the former city controller over whether the controller can audit programs in the offices of elected officials.

Koretz wants the council to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to prevent his office from being audited.

But a sticking point remains: Who should pay the more than $100,000 in legal fees incurred by former City Controller Laura Chick over the course of her legal fight with Delgadillo, who was forced from office this spring by city term limits.

The dispute arose last year when Delgadillo blocked Chick from auditing the workers compensation program in his office. Chick issued subpoenas to six of Delgadillo's employees. He, in turn, sued Chick, arguing that she was acting outside the scope of her authority under the city charter.

Koretz's proposal would also ask the city attorney, controller and legislative analysts to draft a ballot measure that would change the charter to clarify that the controller can audit all aspects of city offices held by nonelected officials, as well as some programs in the offices of elected officials.

"The idea is to not to waste time and money continuing this lawsuit, and to create greater transparency and clarity in terms of who the city controller can audit and how," Koretz said Wednesday. Last year, the council ordered Delgadillo and Chick to "stand down" and said that no legal bills should be paid "until the matter is resolved."

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich has said he does not want the council to dismiss the lawsuit until there is an agreement that the city will not pay the attorney fees. William Carter, chief deputy to Trutanich, said the office supports Koretz's proposal and has already drafted language for the charter amendment.

"We favor a dismissal if there are waivers of attorneys' fees," Carter said. "We feel it's important the city should not have to pay these costs."

City Controller Wendy Greuel believes the attorney fees should be paid and that the matter should not be a condition of dismissing the lawsuit. A spokesman for Greuel said she believes that the case should be dismissed expeditiously so that no additional taxpayer funds are spent, and that Koretz's motion contains factual inaccuracies.

Greuel contends the council never voted against paying attorney fees and simply wanted Delgadillo and Chick to work out their differences.

"The two issues -- dismissal of the lawsuit and the attorneys' fees -- are not linked together," Greuel spokesman Ben Golombek said. "It's unfortunate that Councilman Koretz didn't work with our office to get the correct information."

Koretz said he is working with both offices on the details of the proposal.

Before Greuel and Trutanich took office, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Mark V. Mooney issued a preliminary ruling stating that the City Charter did not give Chick the power to audit a worker's compensation program in Delgadillo's office.

Both Chick and Greuel criticized the ruling. The judge agreed to delay his final ruling to see if the two sides can reach a resolution.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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