Thursday, May 14, 2009
Zine Joins Attorneys’ Call for Investigation of Weiss’ Campaign Fundraising
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis P. Zine yesterday criticized Los Angeles city attorney candidate and fellow council member Jack Weiss at a press conference calling for an investigation into Weiss’ campaign fundraising.
Joined by Deputy District Attorney David Berger, a candidate for city attorney in the primary election who has since thrown his support behind Weiss’ run-off opponent Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, Zine told a small but vocal crowd of Trutanich supporters that Weiss lacked the “integrity,” “ethics,” and “diligence” to become the city’s chief prosecutor.
“I know, after sitting next to Jack Weiss for eight years, Mr. Trutanich is the man I strongly support,” he said. Zine has also supported Trutanich financially, having given $1,000 to Trutanich’s campaign, according to reports filed with the City Ethic’s Commission.
Zine opined that Weiss was “not very aggressive in terms of defending our taxpayers” during his tenure on the City Council, citing as an example Weiss’ behavior during the settlement negotiations of firefighter Tennie Pierce’s discrimination claims against the city.
Sued the City
Pierce, who is African American, sued the city after eating two bites of dog food-laced spaghetti, claiming racial discrimination. The City Council agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle his case in 2006, with Zine the lone dissenter. But Zine said Weiss later changed sides to join Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his veto of the settlement.
“As a city attorney, you need to have integrity,” Zine insisted. “If you don’t have integrity, if you don’t have ethics, then you shouldn’t be in government and you shouldn’t be in the city attorney’s office.”
Zine also said that when he was in the council chambers he would often find Weiss’ seat empty, claiming that the candidate had “missed hundreds” of meetings and was “not attending to the duties [he was] sworn to do.”
“I’m known for saying it like it is, and I’m saying Carmen Trutanich needs to be city attorney.”
Kevin James, a onetime assistant U.S. attorney who now hosts a radio show and said he lives in Weiss’ council district, said “some law enforcement agency with appropriate jurisdiction” should investigate Weiss’ campaign fundraising.
James suggested that an investigation could be conducted by the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division without raising issues of impropriety based on District Attorney Steve Cooley having endorsed Trutanich.
When Berger came to speak, he accused Weiss of “playing fast and loose with the laws of our city,” harping on Weiss’ failure to return any money raised at an April 27 fundraiser hosted by Kelly Candaele, then a member of the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System Board of Directors, who has since resigned.
City commissioners and board appointees are barred from appearing on fundraising invitations, and Berger emphasized that Weiss had “voted for the law that made what Kelly Candaele had done in his presence unlawful.”
The attorney, whose platform during the primary election was based on attacking Weiss, claimed that the councilman “has a history of campaign finance violations that goes back to 2001,” when Weiss won his seat on the city council representing the Fifth District, which includes parts of west Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
Berger also called on Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to “do the right thing” and withdraw his endorsement of Weiss, following suit with Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who withdrew his co-endorsement of Weiss in April based on Weiss’ negative campaigning.
However the Weiss campaign yesterday announced in a release that it had secured the endorsement of Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas.
Weiss’ campaign manager Ace Smith, who was in the audience yesterday, dismissed the statements made during the press conference as “just reckless, frankly close to libelous charges launches by a campaign on the decline.”
Smith suggested that Trutanich’s failure to make an appearance at the event “speaks volumes about the lack of seriousness of the charges,” and criticized the candidate for lacking the “courage to stand out here himself.”
Accompanying Smith were former Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven G. Madison, currently a partner with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP, and Michael J. Gennaco, currently with the Office of Independent Review.
Gennaco cautioned, “you always have to consider the motivations behind the allegations,” while Madison commented that “what we’re seeing here is…partisan politics infecting the criminal justice system,” insisting that the criminal justice system should not be used to “investigate my political enemy.”
He also called James’ proposal of having the Public Integrity Division investigate Weiss “poppycock.,” explaining that Cooley and his entire office would be precluded from conducting such an investigation.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company