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L.A. council keeps suit opposing controller audits alive

Members weigh a bid to kill the legal action filed by then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo against then-Controller Laura Chick in 2008. But they take no action.

September 11, 2009|Maeve Reston

The Los Angeles City Council breathed new life this week into a lawsuit over whether the city controller can conduct performance audits in the offices of other elected officials.

It was once seen as an unnecessary squabble that would end when then-Controller Laura Chick and then-City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo finished their terms this summer.

But after a closed-door briefing by lawyers for new City Atty. Carmen Trutanich on Wednesday, at least some council members signaled that they weren't too keen about letting the controller review their books to see how well programs are managed in their offices.

The council was weighing a proposal by Councilman Paul Koretz to dismiss the Chick-Delgadillo lawsuit, which would have been a victory for new Controller Wendy Greuel. That did not happen.

Acting at the council's direction Thursday, Assistant City Atty. Valerie Flores asked Superior Court Judge Michael V. Mooney to enter a final judgment that would allow his tentative ruling to stand. In that June ruling, Mooney sided with Delgadillo -- finding the City Charter gave the controller no power to conduct such performance audits. The dispute began in 2008 when Delgadillo sued Chick after she tried to audit a program in his office.

During his election campaign, Trutanich said he disagreed with Delgadillo's lawsuit. But his chief deputy, William Carter, contends that the case could not be dismissed without the council's permission.

Mooney told lawyers for both sides Thursday that he was giving them another month to try to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Greuel said she believes Trutanich's aides told the council the judge's tentative decision should stand. "That flawed decision limits the controller's powers to audit programs in Los Angeles so we can look at saving taxpayer dollars," she said.

Carter said Greuel was speculating and declined to discuss the office's advice.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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