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Claim by group backing Trutanich draws fire

An independent group makes calls to Westside voters saying Mike Feuer planned to hire former Councilman Jack Weiss as chief of staff. Both deny the claim.

March 29, 2013|By Jean Merl, Los Angeles Times

Longtime Westside leader Barbara Broide said she quickly grew suspicious of a telephone call she received a few days ago. After giving his first name and that of an independent group supporting Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich's reelection, the caller dropped a political bombshell:

Broide said he told her that former lawmaker Mike Feuer, Trutanich's opponent in the May 21 runoff, had promised to hire former City Councilman Jack Weiss — a hot-button figure to some Westside voters — as his chief of staff if Feuer won.

That seemed preposterous to Broide and some others who heard similar rumors from the independent campaign group or in emails or phone calls from individuals backing Trutanich.

"'That's the stupidest thing I ever heard of,'" Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks said she told another Westside activist who called her a few days ago and repeated the rumor. "I said, 'There's no way Feuer would ever do that. Where did you hear that?' "

Weiss, an attorney and businessman who has shown no interest in returning to public life, called the rumor "ridiculous." Feuer spokesman Dave Jacobson called it "complete and utter nonsense."

"Mike has had no conversation — with anyone — about who might serve as his chief of staff were he to win," Jacobson said.

Reached by telephone this week, Broide's caller identified himself as "Andrew" and the organization he represented as L.A. Residents for Accountability to Support Carmen Trutanich for L.A. City Attorney 2013. Records on file with the city Ethics Commission show the group formed shortly before the March 5 primary and spent about $67,000 on mail and consulting services to support Trutanich.

Such "independent expenditure" groups are permissible under campaign finance laws so long as they do not coordinate with the campaign of the candidate they are supporting and comply with city disclosure rules. Records show the group appears to be funded largely by businesswoman Tammy Garcia of Rolling Hills, who also has contributed to the campaigns of Trutanich and other Los Angeles elected officials.

Andrew — who would not give his last name — said he had made "a handful" of calls for the L.A. Residents group to people who had been supportive of a failed attempt to recall Weiss in 2007. He said the calls were "based on a rumor we had heard and would like Mike to respond to." He said he had "never intended to give the impression it was confirmed." When told of Feuer's and Weiss' responses, he said the calls would stop.

Rick Taylor, a consultant for underdog Trutanich, said he had "heard the rumors, just like everybody else," but said that the Trutanich campaign had nothing to do with the phone calls.

Lucks, who supports Feuer, said she heard the rumor from another Westside leader, Jay Handal. Handal said he backs Trutanich but asked Lucks about the rumor only to find out if it was true. Lucks said it could have caused a lot of mischief for Feuer. "It's an obvious lie," Lucks said, "but a dangerous one."

jean.merl@latimes.com

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