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Lawsuit alleging that Feuer manipulated ethics laws is thrown out

Judge finds meritless claims by an activist that City Atty.-elect Mike Feuer intentionally delayed paying campaign consultant John Shallman in order to qualify for taxpayer-provided matching funds.

May 30, 2013|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
  • In a harshly worded ruling, Judge Richard Rico agreed with Mike Feuer, shown with supporters on election night, that the suit was more about political gamesmanship than protecting the public interest.
In a harshly worded ruling, Judge Richard Rico agreed with Mike Feuer, shown… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

A lawsuit alleging that City Atty.-elect Mike Feuer manipulated ethics laws to financially benefit his campaign has been thrown out of court. The action had been filed by a supporter of Feuer's rival, Carmen Trutanich.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Rico found meritless the claims by plaintiff Laura Lake that Feuer intentionally delayed paying campaign consultant John Shallman in order to qualify for taxpayer-provided matching funds.

The suit, filed in the midst of the campaign, named both Feuer and Shallman as defendants.

In a harshly worded ruling, Rico agreed with Feuer's contention that the suit was more about political gamesmanship than protecting the public interest, as Lake alleged.

"It is difficult for this court to come to any other conclusion than that proposed by the defendants, this complaint is merely a politically motivated complaint meant to chill the political speech of a rival," Rico wrote in his tentative ruling this week.

Lake, a Westside activist, said the decision would "gag whistle-blowers" who attempt in future campaigns to call out misdeeds. She vowed to appeal.

"We think the judge made a mistake," Lake said. "This wasn't about a campaign but about enforcing spending limits."

The suit, filed in late March, alleged that Feuer improperly received $650,000 in public matching funds by not paying Shallman until late in the race. The delay allowed Feuer to keep his spending below city law thresholds that qualified him for the funds, Lake alleged.

Feuer defeated Trutanich 62% to 38% in the May 21 municipal election. Alex Ponder, a Feuer spokesman, said the court's decision should put the dispute to rest.

"The court affirmed what we have known since the beginning: that this was a baseless and politically motivated lawsuit," Ponder said in a prepared statement. "Mike is focused on his transition to the office of city attorney and looks forward to working with everyone in Los Angeles who wants to build a bright future for our city."

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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