Dirty Doings Alleged in City Attorney’s Office

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Los Angeles city attorney defamed a Fire Department watchdog, accusing him of targeting minority women attorneys, after he criticized the City Attorney’s Office for withholding records, the watchdog claims in court.
     Independent Assessor Stephen Miller had been locked in a three-year battle with the former city attorney, Carmen Trutanich, over access to information on employee misconduct in the Fire Department.
     Miller last week filed a dense 95-page federal civil rights complaint against Los Angeles, Trutanich, his chief deputy William Carter, and assistant city attorneys Pedro Echeverria, Zna Houston, Janet Jackson and Vivienne Swanigan, alleging free speech violations, harassment, retaliation and defamation.
     Miller seeks a jury trial to “vindicate and protect” his constitutional rights, and a court order enjoining the defendants from denying his requests for Fire Department records.
     Miller was appointed to his post after a 2006 audit exposed a culture of harassment and hazing in the Fire Department, according to the complaint.
     In 2009, voters approved an amendment to the City Charter to appoint an independent assessor. Miller says the amendment gives him access to all information in the Fire Department. The Board of Fire Commissioners appointed him to the position in October 2009.
     Miller says his troubles with the City Attorney’s Office began just months into his tenure, when he criticized the office in a report on the Fire Department’s disciplinary process.
     Trutanich’s attorneys, in “malicious retaliation,” advised the fire department to shut Miller out of disciplinary meetings, claiming he did not have authority to look at private litigation files, according to the lawsuit. Miller says he has faced obstruction ever since.
     Miller claims he lodged a state bar complaint in early 2012 against Trutanich, Carter, Echeverria, Houston, Jackson and Swanigan, for their refusal to give him “unfettered access” to Fire Department records.
     The state bar closed its investigation into Trutanich and its attorneys in August 2012.
     But in the midst of Trutanich’s re-election bid for city attorney, the L.A. Times reported that Miller had filed a state bar complaint against Trutanich, alleging misconduct in January 2013.
     Miller claims that defendant Carter defamed him in the article by saying he was waging a “smear campaign against dedicated, career pubic servants,” and suggesting that Miller’s actions were politically motivated.
     The dispute came to head on July 1, when Houston and Jackson filed a lawsuit against Miller alleging race and gender discrimination and retaliation, according to the complaint.
     The city attorneys, both African-American, claimed that former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was complicit in Miller’s alleged harassment.
     In his countersuit, Miller calls the complaint “frivolous,” and says it was filed “for the sole purpose of harassing Villaraigosa, Miller and the City of Los Angeles.”
     “The true purpose in filing and serving their lawsuit is to aggressively use race, gender and sex as a tactical coercive weapon to advance their own retaliatory motives and strategies in an effort to protect themselves from the consequences of and to profit from their misconduct,” the complaint states.
     Mike Feuer defeated Trutanich in this year’s city elections.
     Miller seeks compensatory and punitive damages and costs.
     He is represented by Dennis Wagner with Wagner & Pelayes of Riverside.
     Neither the City Attorney’s Office nor the Fire Department responded to requests for comment.

%d bloggers like this: