Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Maven's Morning Coffee: grand jury investigation into Sheriff's Department, county assessor keeps his job, Gov. Brown rejects parole for arsonist

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A grand jury is looking into whether L.A. County sheriff's deputies tried to hide an inmate from federal authorities after they discovered he was an FBI informant.

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Today is Wednesday, Dec. 19, and here is what's happening in Los Angeles:


A federal grand jury is investigating whether sheriff's deputies attempted to hide an inmate from federal authorities after they learned that the man was a FBI informant who was collecting information on corrupt deputies, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The grand jury investigation underscores the rift that developed last year between the Sheriff's Department and federal authorities after deputies discovered the FBI had cultivated an inmate informant as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the department's jails," according to the newspaper.


Dianne Feinstein poised to be new head of Senate Judiciary Committee

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) takes to Senate floor

Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Select Committee on Intelligence chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) speaks to members of the media after a hearing on the Benghazi attack last month. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The death of Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye has unlocked the seniority door at the U.S. Senate.  

California Senator Dianne Feinstein could jump committee chairs, putting her in a position to influence major legislation on gun control and immigration.

Feinstein currently serves as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which meets behind closed doors and only speaks formally to the news media once year. She also sits on the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

But the death of Senator Inouye means there is an opening at the top of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Leahy is next in line. Leahy said he'll decide Wednesday whether he wants to move over from Judiciary to Appropriations. And next in line at Judiciary is Dianne Feinstein.

Feinstein would be poised as Judiciary chair to champion two issues close to her heart: immigration and gun control.


Los Angeles Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti looks to connect with Latino voters

Eric Garcetti

Eric Garcetti campaign

L.A. City Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti is leading among Latino voters, according to a recent survey. He is also the only major candidate who can claim some Latino heritage.

A high turnout of Latino voters in 2005 helped make Antonio Villaraigosa L.A.'s first Latino mayor in modern times and then helped re-elect him in 2009.

Though none of the major mayoral candidates in the 2013 campaign has a Spanish surname, one candidate is working to remind Latino voters of their shared ethnicity – and that’s City Councilman Eric Garcetti.

Garcetti is Mexican-American on his father’s side, though some fellow Latino politicians have questioned his background. Assembly Speaker John Perez of Los Angeles told KPCC: “There isn’t a Latino candidate running for mayor that I know of.”

And L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar said of Garcetti: “He says he’s Latino but, you know, that’s for the voters to see or the constituents to see.”

Garcetti, sitting for a recent interview in his council office, recited his paternal ancestry: “Both of my father’s parents were proudly Mexican-American, both spoke Spanish as their first language. My grandfather was born in Mexico, my grandmother’s parents were from Mexico.”


New audit from Wendy Greuel focuses on mileage reimbursement

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Dennis Zine (her potential successor) speak about an audit of the city's mileage reimbursement policies.

L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel summoned reporters to her third floor office Tuesday for her latest indictment of how Los Angeles operates.

“There is troubling evidence that the city regularly overpays mileage reimbursements by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Greuel said.  “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The controller’s number crunchers looked at a sampling of three years of mileage reimbursements by city workers who use their own cars. It found more than $325,000 “was wasted due to overpayments and lack of oversight.”

But that's not a big number in a city with a $7 billion dollar budget.  And it's unclear how much was fraud.

The city paid one Bureau of Street Services worker $30,252.  Auditors found only $2,156 worth of mileage receipts.  It’s unclear whether the paperwork was never filed, lost or the worker defrauded the city.


House passes DNA bill, but Senate may run out of time

Senate Impeachment Committee Begins Hearing For District Judge Porteous

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) says "Katie's Law" is designed to catch suspects who are falling through investigative cracks.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed “Katie’s Law.” It’s named for a college student who was raped and murdered by a man who had been arrested numerous times, but not tied to her crime for several years because his DNA hadn’t been collected. The measure’s sponsor is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank, a former U.S. Attorney.

California already collects DNA from anyone arrested for a felony. Schiff says about half the states in the nation don’t.

"In those cases where it hasn’t been used," says Schiff, "people have gone on and murdered others or raped others and it’s just appalling that when we could take them off the street, when we could identify these people, that we don’t do it."

The bill provides funds to states for DNA collection kits to gather samples from those arrested for murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary and aggravated assault. It uses money already set aside to help reduce a backlog of DNA cases.

Schiff says that backlog has been greatly reduced.  A regional DNA lab — funded by $1.5 million in federal dollars — just opened in Glendale to serve the Foothill communities and take the strain off L.A. County labs.

A Senate version of Katie’s Law still awaits a floor vote. If it isn’t taken up before the end of the year, Schiff’s bill will have to be re-introduced in the new Congress.