Tuesday, August 12, 2008
City Attorney Sues City Controller, Says She Cannot Audit Him
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo sued the city controller yesterday, seeking to enjoin her from conducting a performance audit against his office.
Controller Laua Chick told the MetNews that she was “absolutely convinced that the city attorney is…incorrect and has a conflict of interest in denying the controller’s entry into his office,”and asked, “What is he afraid of? What doesn’t he want the public to see?”
The controversy between the two city-wide elected officials began in March when Councilman Tony Cardenas requested a legal opinion from the city attorney concerning whether Chick could compel the performance audit of the city’s anti-gang programs if those programs were transferred to the mayor’s office.
In response, Delgadillo’s office issued a formal opinion that the city controller lacks authority to compel performance audits of city offices, including programs housed within those offices. That same day, Delgadillo said in his Los Angeles Superior Court complaint, Chick expressed her disagreement with the city attorney’s opinion at a public meeting of the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development.
Rather than seek judicial review of the formal opinion, the complaint alleged, Chick “opted to launch her challenge by seeking to compel the performance audit of a ‘program’ administered by another elected official through the issuance of subpoena,” and “targeted” Delgadillo’s office.
The city attorney’s complaint said the city attorney’s formal opinion is entitled to deference, and is supported by language in the city charter. It contends that permitting Chick to conduct an audit of the city attorney’s office would mean that every elected official would be subject to a performance review by another elected official, except the controller herself.
A spokesman for Delgadillo said in a statement yesterday that the charter is “clear” that an elected official could not conduct a performance audit of another elected official to “prevent political mischief,” and asserted that it is the province of the voters to evaluate their elected officials.
The complaint noted that Chick is barred from unning for another term as controller and suggests that because she may run for other elected office, she has targeted the city attorney’s office for a “personal, politically motivated purpose.”
It also accuses Chick of using information from prior audits to “prepare a roadmap for opposition candidates to attack former Mayor [James] Hahn’s leadership.”
However, Chick insisted “this is not about a personal fight.” She denied that she was running for another public office, adding “I’m fighting for future controllers and the public.”
Chick also defended her discussions of prior audits with mayoral candidates as a briefing of the candidates on public documents already posted on her website.
“There was nothing political, nothing secret. It was ‘Have you read my audit? Are you there?” Are you paying attention?’” she said.
She called Delgadillo “disingenuous,” because he was preparing this complaint while making overtures at settlement. She said she rejected Delgadillo’s suggestion of submitting the issue to mediation before an alternative dispute resolution panel or a panel specially appointed by former Mayor Richard Riordan—under whom Delgadillo served as deputy mayor—on Friday because neither resolution would be visible by the public.
Further, Chick contended Delgadillo’s legal argument is “completely wrong minded.” She said she interprets the charter as giving her authority to audit all departments and all programs, irregardless of where the programs are housed.
“The charter mandates me to look into anything that involving taxpayer dollars,” Chick said. “I welcome the opportunity to have this issued decided [by the court]” she said because Delgadillo is “blocking the public’s ability to know, and I can’t let that happen.”
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company