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Candidates for L.A. city attorney, controller trade jabs at Encino forum

April 25, 2013|By Catherine Saillant
  • Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, second from left, shakes hands with Mike Feuer, his rival in the city attorney race, at a debate last month.
Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich, second from left, shakes hands… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

At an otherwise tame candidates' forum, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich again pounded his rival, Mike Feuer, for an unusual campaign contract that Trutanich said amounted to an unlawful manipulation of city election laws.

"You have to ask yourself why anyone would lie to get $300,000 in matching funds," Trutanich thundered while waving a sheaf of documents that the former prosecutor said proves his case. "He’s lying to you now and he will continue to lie if you elect him."

Feuer, a former state Assemblyman and City Council member, disputed Trutanich's assertion, assuring an Encino audience late Wednesday that the contract had passed scrutiny with the city's Ethics Commission.

He criticized Trutanich for changing what had been, until that moment, a thoughtful exchange of the issues in the city attorney's race. The runoff election is May 21.

"I was determined to focus on quality-of-life issues. I still intend to do that," Feuer said. "I do not think that politics should be stupid to this level. I think we all deserve better than this."

Trutanich, trailing Feuer in a recent USC Price/L.A. Times poll, is attacking Feuer on the same issue in a glossy mailer that was distributed to the debate audience. The dispute revolves around Feuer's "win-bonus" contract with campaign consultant John Shallman.

Feuer said he checked with the Ethics Commission and was told such a contingency-type contract, which initially held that Shallman would not be paid unless Feuer won the race, was acceptable under city campaign finance laws. He said that he did not ask for that advice in writing because he did not feel it was necessary.

Trutanich contends Feuer used the contract to stay below campaign finance limits that entitled him to $300,000 in city matching funds.

After the primary, in which he received 44% of the vote to Trutanich’s 30%, Feuer said he reworked the contract to arrange for three installments of $15,000 each to be paid over the duration of the runoff campaign.

It was one of the testiest moments of the forum put on by the Encino Neighborhood Council. The city attorney debate was followed by a controller's face-off pitting City Councilman Dennis Zine against lawyer Ron Galperin.

The controller candidates jousted over the number of audits that have gone through a City Council audit committee that is chaired by Zine. Galperin told the audience that Zine hadn't done a good job turning the audits into action.

But Zine stoutly defended his record. The audits "are not sitting and dying,'' he said.

"I'm tired of talking about it. We are doing our job."

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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