@THE GUSS REPORT- If the lawsuit filed last week by diminutive LAPD Captain Lillian Carranza was a stand-alone story, the title of today’s column might be “Small Cop Stands Tall.” But it isn’t stand-alone at all.
More than a year ago, I was the first writer in LA to tell the story of LAFD Deputy Chief John Vidovich, who was tasked a few years prior to his recent retirement with cleaning up the city’s Fire Prevention Bureau and its thousands of backlogged inspections. Along the way, he uncovered extensive fraud, which Garcetti (and his chief of staff Ana Guerrero) tried to blame on him.
Garcetti, Vidovich alleges, threw him under the bus in order to get financial support from national firefighter unions for Garcetti’s seemingly endless pursuit of higher office. Vidovich said that his exposing the fraud cost the local firefighter union a lot in member wages. The LA Times, which told the story solely from Garcetti’s point of view, has of late been stalking Vidovich on social media after he and his attorney refused to comment on his subsequent $5 million lawsuit against the city.
Vidovich has blocked at least one Times reporter from following him online.
Now, the Carranza’s suit, in which she alleges that the LAPD falsifies its crime stats, establishes a pattern against Garcetti. In essence, two high-level, life-long first responders have exposed how the Mayor makes his mayoralty seem more successful at protecting the public than it really is.
That is, unless you believe that there is absolutely no political pressure from Mayor Garcetti on his respective LAFD and LAPD Chiefs, Ralph Terrazas and Charlie Beck, to cook their books. And who really believes that anyway, given Garcetti’s incessant travels to outposts around the country where only presidential aspirants go, despite Garcetti’s protesting too much that he loves his current job as the City of LA’s chief executive.
If ever there was a way to play this difficult hand poorly, Chief Beck seems to have found it.
In a press conference prior to last week’s LAPD Police Commission meeting, coincidentally held in the remote Van Nuys City Hall location within Carranza’s purview, Beck was so indignant and dismissive of Carranza’s claims that he labeled them (and ostensibly Carranza herself) not only as lies, but “damn lies,” and suggested her motivation was money and retribution for being passed over for a promotion.
This 2014 piece by LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero tells the story of Carranza’s earlier litigation and her chief antagonizer, the notorious (and now former) LAPD Detective Frank Lyga.
It is short-sighted for Beck to demonize Carranza for what amounts to litigation that helped rid the LAPD of a bad and dangerous cop. (Lyga was subsequently relieved of duty and fired later in 2014; he received a $50,000 settlement in 2016 to essentially disappear.) The message Beck sends by condemning Carranza is “do not rock the boat,” even when it is completely justified. Back in 2014, the LAPD admitted that it (ahem) “mis-categorized” tens of thousands of its violent crime stats, so the credibility factor is now on Carranza’s side of the ledger.
And where do you think Beck’s motivation comes from? From an appearance-conscious mayor who now has a history of fudging his numbers, as well as being less than truthful about his political pursuits.
And speaking of Garcetti fudging his numbers, I am about to release my own 2014 report exposing Garcetti’s falsified animal shelter “No Kill” claims. The report was commissioned from me by Los Angeles City Council president Herb Wesson during our nearly 3-hour meeting in his City Hall office on January 3, 2014.
At that meeting, Wesson asked me to show him where all the figurative LA Animal Services “bodies and fraud is buried.” Wesson told me six months earlier to the day, on July 3, 2013, that he would use it to call for an audit of LAAS, and that (LA City Councilmember Paul) “…Koretz will second it, to give him cover.”
Ultimately, the nearly 90-page report – a deep dive into problems at LAAS – was used by LA City Controller Ron Galperin not as a roadmap to solve LA’s endless humane crises, but instead as a film negative, which Galperin used to circumvent the problems in his subsequent phony audit. That phony audit is what Garcetti has since used to falsely his claim that LA is (as of next month) “No Kill.”
When my report is laid side-by-side with Galperin’s audit, Garcetti and Galperin will have a lot of explaining to do. The question is whether the LA media will demand accountability for the city’s homeless animals. And Garcetti’s allegedly fake fire and police stats.
It will be yet one more condemnation of Garcetti’s mayoralty, showing that he is less about leadership here in LA and more about misleading the public in pursuit of his next job. Let’s hope that Carranza holds Garcetti’s and Beck’s feet to the fire to expose the true crime stats, their testimony and her eventual likely cash settlement to the light of day.
Post-Script: Last week, I directly asked LAPD Chief Charlie Beck why his department has yet to take any reports on the incessant burglaries plaguing a Sherman Oaks condo. By the end of last week, a detective was finally on the case.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.