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Kevin James accuses Greuel of using her office to advance her campaign

The talk-show host says the city attorney's appointment calendars show a number of political meetings being held during work hours. Greuel denies wrongdoing.

January 09, 2013|By Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times
  • Kevin James is trying to block Wendy Greuel's path to winning a spot in the May runoff.
Kevin James is trying to block Wendy Greuel's path to winning a spot… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Kevin James on Tuesday accused rival Wendy Greuel of unlawfully using her position as city controller to advance her campaign for mayor.

Greuel's newly released appointment calendars, James said, show an alarming abundance of campaign meetings and events during business hours, often with city staff assigned to attend.

"If you review the city ethics code, you can find any number of violations as a result of these activities," James told reporters outside City Hall.

Greuel denied wrongdoing, saying nobody on her city staff works on her campaign except as volunteers after hours. "This is campaign silly season," she said.

A Greuel campaign consultant, Dave Jacobson, ridiculed the accusations. "Talk about crime in City Hall," he said. "Kevin James ought to be charged with reckless endangerment of the truth."

The heated rhetoric demonstrated anew how James, an entertainment lawyer with a knack for attracting news cameras, poses a threat to Greuel's candidacy in the March 5th mayoral primary.

A longtime cable talking head and radio talk-show host, James is using the media skills that he honed as a lawyer for such stars as actress Jennifer Aniston to try to block Greuel's path to winning a spot in the May runoff.

James, the only Republican in the race, argues that Greuel and two other mayoral contenders, City Council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti, bear responsibility for the city's poor fiscal condition and can't be trusted to clean up what he characterizes as corruption at City Hall.

It's a message aimed largely at Republicans in the San Fernando Valley. Greuel, a former Republican who became a Democrat in 1992, represented the Valley on the City Council for seven years. She has tried to marginalize James by casting him as too right wing for Democratic-leaning Los Angeles.

"Kevin James is a two-bit political hack with a microphone," Jacobson said. "Give him a camera, and he's like a kid in a candy store. We don't need a candidate who runs for office like he's auditioning to be the next Rush Limbaugh."

Greuel's controller calendars, posted Monday on the Los Cerritos Community News website, showed frequent campaign meetings and events on her schedule since she took office in 2009. Staff from her city office were listed as attending some of them.

The municipal ethics code bars city employees from doing campaign work on city time. But it allows for flexibility in scheduling their work.

James' charges echoed allegations that Greuel faced during her first campaign for City Council in 2002. Her opponent, Tony Cardenas, attacked her for Mayor Tom Bradley's 1991 reprimand of Greuel and five other aides for using City Hall offices and equipment to assist a City Council candidate's campaign. Bradley released a statement expressing "outrage," saying he would not tolerate even the appearance of any violation of his ban on campaign activity at City Hall. Greuel denied she did anything wrong.

After appearing at a City Council hearing on Tuesday, Greuel stepped outside the building to respond to James' allegations. Her city job, she told reporters, is not 9 to 5.

"I'm doing my job as a city controller 24/7, working hard to make sure that we root out waste, fraud and abuse," she said.

James called on City Atty. Carmen Trutanich to review Greuel's calendars for possible referral to an independent law-enforcement agency for investigation. A Trutanich spokesman said his office had not yet received a formal complaint.

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