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LA city attorney race: Bitter accusations fly in Trutanich vs. Feuer

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his wife, Noreen.
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his wife, Noreen.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and former State Assemblyman Mike Feuer are locked in what’s shaping up to be the most bitter race of the campaign season. Each has accused the other of violating city campaign rules, with Trutanich saying Feuer may be “morally unfit” for office. Feuer’s camp has accused the incumbent of a “smear campaign.”

Trutanich, who finished second in the primary and trails Feuer by double digits in polls, has asked the Ethics Commission and L.A. County District Attorney to investigate whether Feuer illegally accepted matching funds from the city.

Under an unusual arrangement in the political world, Feuer’s campaign consultant agreed to work for just $1. The deal called for the consultant, John Shallman, to receive a bonus if Feuer won the primary. That means the consultant’s fee didn’t show up in Feuer’s campaign finance reports, and was not counted against his spending limits under matching fund rules.

“This is an attempt to hide how much money you’re spending until after the fact,” Trutanich said Friday outside his City Hall office. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

Trutanich's allies have filed a lawsuit against Feuer, seeking his return of $300,000 in city matching funds.

A spokesman for Feuer said the city Ethics Commission signed off on the deal. He also said Feuer will now provide regular payments to Shallman and those will show up on campaign finance reports.

“Mr. Feuer and Mr. Shallman executed a new contract for the general election that provides for regular, periodic payments,” spokesman Dave Jacobsen said. He called the Trutanich accusations a “political gimmick.”

The Ethics Commission does not comment on its investigations or advice it may have provided a candidate.

The Feuer campaign fired back at Trutanich, filing its own ethics complaint accusing him of illegally coordinating his campaign with an independent expenditure committee, “LA Residents.”

“Unfortunately, it appears that rather than focusing on his own campaign, Mr. Trutanich has been coordinating attacks with an [independent committee] against Mr. Feuer in a blatant attempt to spread lies,” Jacobson said.

The complaint claims a private attorney who works for Trutanich provided the group with phone lists of neighborhood leaders to call.

The Trutanich camp has denied any connection to the independent group.