Friday, September 16, 2011
Trutanich Campaign Treasurer Disputes Claim of Illegal Donation of Space
Long Beach Attorney Says She Has Filed Complaints With FPPC, Ethics Commission
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
The treasurer for Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s 2009 campaign yesterday vehemently denied charges that the candidate had received an illegal in-kind donation in the form of free rent for his headquarters space.
Long Beach attorney Christina McGovern said she filed complaints with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and Fair Political Practices Commission on Monday, based on accusations raised on the Los Angeles Dragnet blog, which is associated with Deputy District Attorney David Berger, a former top aide to Trutanich who has become a persistent critic of his former boss.
McGovern said she is not acquainted with Berger, Trutanich, or anyone who worked on Trutanich’s campaign, although she had gathered, based on comments on the Dragnet blog, that Berger and Trutanich did not enjoy cordial relations.
“You take everything at face value, and given the source, you draw your own conclusions,” she said.
‘The Bad Apple’
The attorney explained that she decided to take a look at the campaign reports cited on the bog, and “what I found, I thought merited further investigation by these watchdog organizations.”
McGovern said her actions were motivated by her belief that “someone we’ve elected to enforce the laws should be held accountable to following them himself,” and that as a lawyer, she was concerned about how “it’s always the one lawyer, the bad apple, who always gives the profession a bad name.
“I don’t have a personal stake in it,” she said.
David Gould, who served as campaign treasurer for Trutanich’s successful city attorney bid two years ago, yesterday contended “nothing in an allegation like [those raised in the blog and McGovern’s complaints] is true,” insisting:
“Everything was paid for, and it was all disclosed.”
Gould said that after the election was over, the Ethics Commission “audited the entire campaign” and “came up with no findings whatsoever,” which is “public record.” He suggested that the commission was unlikely to consider a complaint regarding the campaign in light of this.
He added that the FPCC “has no authority over city elections,” and would redirect the complaint filed with it to the Ethics Commission. A representative of the Ethics Commission said that the agency has a policy of not confirming or denying the filing of a complaint.
The FPCC and Trutanich’s current consultant for his possible district attorney candidacy, John Shallman, did not return calls seeking comment.
Both the complaints and blog allege that Trutanich’s headquarters space at Allen Realty Plaza in Studio City was used by the campaign from at least November 2008 until Election Day, May 19, 2009, but that only four payments were listed in campaign finance reports as being made to Allen Realty Plaza LLC during that time, leading the blogger and complainant to conclude no other rent was paid.
Gould, however, explained the rent payments—which varied from month to month because the cost of utilities was included—did not always appear on the “Schedule E” portion of the filings for campaign expenditures, but sometimes were listed in “Schedule F” as an accrued expense, if the rent that month had not been paid before the report was filed, as was the case in April and May 2009.
Rents from October 2008, when the campaign first occupied the space, through December of 2008, Gould said, were listed in reports as having been paid to “Barry M. Allen, a Law Corp.,” which was a related entity to Allen Realty, and the report covering this period reflects three payments of $2,025 were made to “Barry M. Allen, a Law Corp.”
A report filed in January 2009 reflects a $2,790.00 payment to “Barry M. Allen, a Law Corp.,” and a February filing reflects a $2,145 payment. The March rent, Gould said, was shown in a $452 payment to Allen Realty reported in April, which reflected the pro-rated rent for the space up until the primary election.
This same report listed a payment of $2,053 for the April rent as still being owed to Allen Realty at the time of filing.
‘Not an Expert’
The report filed in May 2009 indicated the April rent had been paid, and that a total of $5,073 was outstanding to Allen Realty for the May rent and reimbursement of $3,020 in office-related expenses.
Gould said the office was vacated after May, and no further payments were made after the $5,073 was paid.
McGovern, when told of Gould’s explanation, said that she is “certainly not an expert, which is why I thought it was necessary to file the complaints” and let the commissions decide if any violations had occurred.
“It that’s the truth, then that will be made public,” McGovern said.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company