City of LA could cut 1000 jobs; city attorney Trutanich "troubled," will fight

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Molly Peterson/KPCC

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich addressed a public meeting held Saturday at the Department of Water and Power.

More than a thousand jobs could get eliminated from the payroll of the City of Los Angeles. As Frank Stoltze reported Friday afternoon, a new report from LA's chief administrative officer says cuts are necessary after recent drops in revenue and years of warning about budget shortfalls. The present deficit's estimated around 200 million dollars.

At least one city department poised to see layoffs as a result of the budget crisis in Los Angeles isn't going to go quietly. L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich says cutting a hundred lawyers from his office as proposed could harm the city's treasury and risk public safety.

Trutanich addressed a public meeting held Saturday at the Department of Water and Power to explain that agency's budget plans and possible rate increases. Acting DWP chief David Freeman recognized the city attorney in the back of the room to scattered applause from the fifty-some meeting attendees.

The city attorney criticized the mayor and the city council for defining the "critical core mission of the city -and defending the treasury was not part of it. That troubled me."

Civil settlements deplete city coffers, Trutanich argued. He said cutting staff would weaken the department as it negotiates multimillion dollar settlements on the city's behalf. Trutanich talked about an asbestos case in mediation whose value hovers around 11 million dollars.

Freeman pointed out that proprietary agencies – the port, the DWP, the airport – pay some lawyers with ratepayer money. Trutanich agreed, saying "we've been loading up proprietaries [the DWP, the port, the airport] with lawyers they need."

At a DWP community meeting about that department's budget, LA city attorney Carmen Trutanich told neighborhood council representatives and the public to tell city leaders they object to cuts to his staff.

Trutanich also painted a stark picture of the impacts deep cuts could have on criminal prosecution in Los Angeles. "We do quality of life cases in our criminal division," Trutanich said. "If they cut 200 bodies we will not have a criminal division. You will not have neighborhood prosecutors. Criminal cases won't get tried."

Trutanich urged neighborhood council members to lobby their councilmen to protect the city's legal corps. Freeman got the last word with a joke. "There's an old expression. All the thinking people in LA are for you," he said. "But you need a majority."

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