The plan within city government to strip the City Attorney of the authority to act as its legal advisor is a bad idea. It takes power away from voters, dividing the office’s work in such a way that part of it is no longer accountable to voters, but to elected officials.
The motion submitted by Councilman Paul Krekorian aims to strip the City Attorney, now Carmen Trutanich, of the task of providing legal advice to the City Council. The stated goal is to allow the City Attorney to set aside its legal work to focus on public safety. They also argue that it would be less expensive and would accelerate the ordinance approval process.
This actually seems to be a way to take advantage of unrelated circumstances to get the City Council attorneys that answer to the interests of the council members rather that provide an impartial opinion that is accountable to the voters. That would break the balance of municipal power.
It is true that Trutanich’s tenure has been controversial, that he does not enjoy great popularity among voters, and has butted heads on repeated occasions with council members. But that is no argument for changing the local system of government.
Equally invalid are the council members’ complaints about the Attorney’s inefficiency in providing legal advice when the council itself has cut its budget repeatedly, reducing the office’s legal staff.
In the case of the position of county assessor, we support the concept behind Measure A, because it is an administrative task that may be better suited to the county bureaucracy. Even voters know very little about the candidates for this post at election time.
This is not the case of the City Attorney. He is the voters’ representative who must ensure, for example, that ordinances are legal. A team of attorneys whose employment depends on the council is another thing altogether.
If the council members do not like Trutanich, they can vote against him in March, but not take advantage of circumstances to grab more power at the voters’ expense.