LA Supervisor Solis: Litigation Report is an Urgent Call for Action

COUNTY WATCH--The LA County Counsel Annual Litigation Report and the Chief Executive Officer’s Annual Risk Management Report will be heard on Tuesday at an atypical 1pm Board of Supervisors meeting.   

The Board of Supervisors is the defendant in county lawsuits and in FY2014-2015 roughly $61 million dollars or half of the county's total litigation bill was deployed toward fighting the Sheriff's myriad legal battles. 

Supervisor Solis described the reports as “an urgent call for introspection and action."  Self-analysis is critical but the county residents who have been footing the clearly escalating bill for such litigations are entitled to basic information.  That's because the dirty little secret that no one at the county wants us to know, is that half of the county's liability costs goes to lawyer fees, much of which is paid to outside white shoe law firms who have repeatedly refused to disclose their hourly rate or provide anything close to the kind of itemized bill one might expect from a plumber. 

Abetting such preposterous non-disclosure, the County has long been invoking Gov code 6255, which states "the public interest served by not making the record public clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record." Why?  The City of Los Angeles, hardly a paragon of transparency, provides such information.     

The truth is, however, that the only interests served by the county's non-disclosure are those of the outside law firms themselves.  An important example of this fact relates to Richard E. Drooyan who was at first hired pro bono (an arrangement in and of itself, highly unorthodox and fraught with potential conflicts of interest) as General Counsel for the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence but then was hired by the board to be the Implementation Monitor responsible for enacting the CCJV's recommendations.   

Apparently, Mr. Drooyan's compensation went from zero to a salary so unorthodox as to be made a virtual state secret by the board of supervisors who to date have spent thousands of dollars opposing a simple public records act request for the basic terms of Mr. Drooyan's contract.  Even though every one of the County's more than 100,000 employees has their salaries disclosed.  

It’s the salary that they dare not speak of, but it's important for us to know, because frankly we should get our money back. 

Perhaps the most important of the  CCJV recommendations requiring implementation was also the "deliverable" …  whose quality could best be assessed, and frankly, the document-- critical to the well-being of both deputies and inmates --is a disgraceful mess, full of embarrassing typographical errors and until recently, lacking page numbers.  Much more importantly, by not stripping out certain problematic sections, it has had the effect of actually legitimating them.   

One of several egregious examples can be found on page 90 of the revised manual we are told "Sworn personnel may demonstrate a “sparking” of the weapon in an effort to gain voluntary compliance of the suspect."   

How much did we pay to have that rule slip through the cracks?   

Which one of the 63 recommendations of the CCJV did that fall under?  How is sparking a Taser not something like cracking a whip?  

Until we are given such information, the public is left groping in the dark for sane policies on all of the above.  

Until our representative leaders get their house in order there is little chance that the jailhouse will be put in order.   

So, maybe that's a good excuse not to kick meaningful reform down the road any further, but rather kick the 2+ Billion dollar jail plan down the road until the many diversion programs focused on reduction before construction can get funding and get to work. 

While the OIG Max Huntsman's website has a terrific piece on deputies shooting themselves in the foot, one wonders what our OIG thinks of the "Use of Force Manual" and in particular, the language regarding Tasers?  

 

(Eric Preven is a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government.  He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District.)

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 6

Pub: Jan 19, 2016