Civil Litigation Costing LA Millions … Reducing the Law Suits has to be a City Hall Priority

Budget Advocates

NC BUDGET ADVOCATES—LA Neighborood Council Budget Advocates Janet Kim, Carol Newman, Michael Menjivar, and Ricardo Ramirez met with Chief of Staff Leela Ann Kapur and Budget Director Michiko Reyes from the City Attorney’s office to share recommendations, challenges, and successes concerning the city’s liability issue and lawsuits.

The City Attorney, Mike Feuer, acts as a legal advisor to the City, prosecuting all misdemeanor offenses that occur in The City of Los Angeles, as well as defending civil litigation against The City. The office of the City Attorney’s office drafts each municipal law, advises the Mayor, City Council, and city departments, as well as prosecuting misdemeanor crimes such as domestic violence, DUIs, and vandalism. The office covers four branches: Municipal Law; Civil Litigation; Proprietary; and Criminal/Special Litigation. 

The City, due primarily to infrastructure issues, faces millions of dollars in civil litigation. The Budget Advisors had numerous recommendations to address the legal goals of The City, including looming litigation numbers, vis a vis the budget, as well as The City’s homelessness crisis. 

Recommendations include: 

  • Expand the training program on risk management with the CAO’s office, City departments, the Mayor’s office, and LAPD.      
  • For the City Attorney, to support a recommendation to establish a Liability Task Force to investigate and provide steps to address the skyrocketing liability claims. 
  • Instruct City Attorney to identify accountability plan to encourage City departments to take significant steps to address liability claims   
  • Increase support staff 
  • Increase funding to support the proactive solicitation of grants for program enhancement, especially in the fields of risk mitigation and criminal justice reformation 
  • Provide funding for homeless coordinator position to assist with the rising homeless crisis   
  • Funding for technology upgrades

For perspective, in fiscal year 2017-2018, the City Attorney’s Office was budgeted $132,317,890. For 2 consecutive fiscal years now, liability claims against the City have exceeded $100,000,000 per fiscal year, and show no signs of abatement. 

While the liability claims expenditures come from the General Fund, the primary focus of the department should be identifying and testing programs and trainings to dramatically reduce the growing claims against the City. 

The meeting also addressed successes of the City Attorney’s Office. The office has been working across city departments and has a particularly strong working relationship with Councilmember Paul Krekorian to implement greater risk management programs. The Office is similarly succeeding at developing its various funding sources, including attaining private grants for program enhancements. The Office has seen increases in its budget in recent years to hire additional attorneys, and has similarly been proactive by increasing resources dedicated to the rising homelessness crisis in the City. Similarly, the Office worked with the Information Technology Agency (ITA) department to procure eDiscovery, a necessary upgrade to the Office’s IT. 

The City Attorney’s Office is integral to the success of Los Angeles, across many different issues. As a conduit between neighborhood concerns and The City, the continued relationship and line of communication between the Budget Advisors and the City Attorney’s Office is crucial and welcomed.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a CityWatch columnist. This is part of an ongoing series on the work of the 2017-2018 Budget Advocate Committee.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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