ALMOST CERTAIN ETHICS VIOLATION - LA City Controller Wendy Greuel's campaign for mayor has come under scrutiny after a Cerritos newspaper published emails showing the Controller soliciting campaign contributions, discussing endorsements and communicating with campaign staff during office hours using her official lacity.org email address, in apparent violation of Los Angeles' Ethics laws.
In January, the Los Cerritos Community News sent a public records request to Greuel's office asking for any emails between Greuel's office and campaign managers John Shallman and Rose Kapolczynski, as well as emails from Brian D'Arcy, the head of IBEW Local 18, whose SuperPAC, Working Californians, has spent millions in support of Greuel's mayoral campaign.
According to LCCN, Greuel's office initially balked at the records request saying it "was voluminous and encompasses tens of thousands of pages", but relented after the newspaper sent a letter on April 12th threatening to file a lawsuit.
In the end, LCCN received only 130 pages of material, including dozens of emails sent to and from various campaign staff and contributors using Greuel's official governmental email address during normal business hours.
Campaign consultants I talked with said such activity violates section 49.5.5b of the LA Municipal Code which states:
"No City official or employee of an agency shall engage in campaign-related activities, such as fundraising, the development of electronic or written materials, or research, for a campaign for any elective office or ballot measure
- during the hours for which he or she is receiving pay to engage in City business or
- using City facilities, equipment, supplies or other City resources.
"The emails confirm that Greuel is running her mayoral campaign out of the Auditor/Contoller's Office of Los Angeles using taxpayer resources, a clear violation of California state law," said Brian Hews, President of Hews Media Group, and Publisher of Los Cerritos Community Newspaper. "The emails document in great detail how Wendy Greuel is using one of the most powerful offices in the City of Los Angeles to leverage campaign support, coordinate political events, and garner major endorsements from some of the biggest political forces in Southern California,"Greuel campaign spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson characterized the email exchanges using Greuel's governmental email address as "inadvertent".
"As Controller and as a candidate for Mayor, Wendy Greuel has worked 18-hour days for quite some time. She inadvertently forwarded a few emails when using her personal iPad or iPhone and most of the emails were for scheduling purposes or as an FYI including documents that were scheduled for public release," Wilkinson said in a written statement.
However, the emails include numerous conversations between a Who's Who of political players in Los Angeles, Greuel's campaign staff, campaign contributors and the staff of the Controller's office discussing everything from scheduling issues to how to handle media relations.
And in one case, Greuel may have violated yet another statute prohibiting the sharing of confidential information acquired in the course of her official duties when she forwarded a Preliminary Financial Report her office prepared for fiscal year 2011-2012 to her campaign staff two and a half hours before giving the document to Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council and the City Clerk.
An investigation from the LA Ethics Commission of these issues will likely take months, stretching well past Election Day. Regardless of their findings the damage may already be done.
During the campaign, Greuel has tried to portray herself as the best candidate to root out "waste, fraud and abuse" in City Hall, and in recent days stepped up her attacks against opponent Eric Garcetti, attempting to tie him to developer Juri Ripinksy, a convicted felon, and also claiming Garcetti had taken "illegal" votes on a Clear Channel billboard settlement. It's unclear how much traction these claims will have once LCCN's allegations are more widely known.
A poll released by the LA Times on Sunday showed Garcetti leading Greuel by 10 points.
(Marta Evry posts regularly at Venice for Change where this piece was first posted. ) Photo credit: Marta Evry
Vol 11 Issue 34
Pub: Apr 26, 2013