Sunday, April 10, 2011

Trutanich Talks Pot Shops, Crime and Moving Billboards

The Los Angeles city attorney is also already looking for a local storefront for an office to run his district attorney campaign.

By Mike Szymanski | 4-7-11 | 4:30pm

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich spoke to members of the Studio City Chamber of Commerce Thursday afternoon about what his offices does in fighting crime, how medical marijuana shops will soon be closed, and what is being done about moving billboards.

“I try to explain it this way: we are the guards at the bank gates of the city’s money,” Trutanich told the chamber members at a luncheon held at the Out Take Bistro. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

The San Pedro resident, who brought up four children, and once had an office on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, said 70 percent of every crime that goes through the Los Angeles Police Department comes through his office. His staff of 300 attorneys handle about 110,000 police reports, and they take 75,000 cases a year. He credits some of his vigorous prosecutions with the lowered crime rates in the city.

On the civil site, about 2,800 cases have been filed against the city and remain open, that’s not including 7,800 worker’s comp cases. Budget cuts have hit his office, like all city offices, and he said no one has been hired, not even an office worker, and he has a $300,000 surplus so far.

Trutanich said about $60 million to $90 million of debt that people and companies owe to the city is still outstanding and needs to be collected.

In order to deal with some of the heavy workload, the former U.S. Coast Guard man patterned a program as if it were part of a military reserve detail. He has volunteer attorneys just out of law school come in to train for 30 days and then spend four-and-a-half months working in a courtroom with an attorney as an apprentice, and then they are active deputy city attorneys.

“It is like a reserve cop, you can't tell the difference,” Trutanich explained. “And by the end of it, they have more face time with judges and courtroom experience than some of the partners in the firms that they’ll eventually work for.”

The reserve program has since been adopted by San Diego and Sacramento and received national media attention as a model for cash-strapped city attorneys.

“Truly the termites are holding the house together,” Trutanich quipped about the budget crisis.

During his term, 85 civil cases have been tried, and five resulted in negative results, he said.

As far as the medical marijuana shops, he said 200 of them exist in the city borders, and 43 received letters to close down. About 50 to 60 lawsuits are still pending about the lottery system and other reasons to stay open, but Trutanich said most of the rulings in court have been on the city’s side, and the shops must close down.

About the mobile signs law that was also a pet project for City Councilman Paul Krekorian, Trutanich said, “I know there are some people who think they can get around it by saying the signs are not mobile if they are behind a bicycle or something like that.”

He is referring to signs that are driven through the streets, or left in parking spaces all day.

“I told my staff this morning in a meeting that I don’t care if the sign is behind a bicycle, a horse or a camel, if it’s movable like that then it is illegal, and we will prosecute.”

Trutanich is already making plans to run for Los Angeles County District Attorney position in 2012 and is looking for an office to run his campaign on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. He said things are not strained between him and present district attorney Steve Cooley.

“Steve and I shared a cigar last night, we’re working well together,” Trutanich said. “And we’ll probably have another cigar soon again."

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