LA City Controller Wendy Greuel denies the accusations made in an article published by the Los Cerritos Community News. Reporter Randy Economy says he has data showing years of campaigning on the city’s dime. Patrick Healy reports from LA City Hall for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8, 2013.
A calendar obtained through a public records request is sending repercussions through Los Angeles City Hall and the race to become the city's next mayor.
The calendar lists the schedules and appointments for City Controller Wendy Greuel, a mayoral candidate in the March 5 primary. The newspaper that obtained the calendar, and a rival candidate who has seen it, characterize the contents as evidence Greuel has been campaigning on city time and with the help of city staff.
Greuel disputes the characterization, denies any wrongdoing and questions the motives of her critics.
The calendar became an issue Monday with the posting of an article online by Los Cerritos Community News.
"Wendy' Greuel's Official Calendar Shows Years of Campaingning for Mayor on Taxpayer's (sic) Dollar," the headline declared.
"What shocked us when we saw the Controller's calendar was the fact that there were so many campaign events on it," said Kevin James, a former federal prosecutor and talk radio host who is running for mayor as a City Hall outsider.
James called a news conference Tuesday in the plaza below the controller's third floor office in City Hall East. Contending Greuel has made the Controller's office "essentially a front...for her campaign office," James called on the City Attorney to investigate for potential violations of ethics laws.
James spoke directly to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. He will refer the issues raised to the office's so-called "conflict" attorneys for evaluation for possible follow-up on any evidence presented, according to Frank Mateljan of the City Attorney's office.
"I think this is silly season from somebody running for office" Greuel responded later in the day after emerging from a city council committe meeting where she had testified on city audit matters . She works 18-20 hours a day to make time for campaigning around her Controller duties, Greuel said.
The Freedom of Information Act request for her calendar had been made by reporter Randy Economy, who attracted attention last year with an article alleging misconduct in the office of John Noguez, the Los Angeles County Assessor. Economy's reporting was later picked up by larger media outlets.
"We got calls from inside the Controller's office saying, 'I'm sick and tired of working for her mayoral campaign,'" Economy said.
Greuel's office did not immediately respond to his document request, Economy said. But late last year, Economy received more than 600 pages from Greuel's office, then took a month to go through them, he said.
Economy and James pointed out some entries that listed the names of Controller's Office employees assigned as staff at campaign events.
Greuel denied that any employees were on the city's clock, insisting that any city staffers who assisted at her campaign events did so as volunteers, which is permitted.
"If they choose after work to do what they want to do, that's their option," Greuel said.
"It's amazing how many staff volunteers she has, then," James countered.
The duties of the Controller's Office include audits of city departments and programs. During her tenure, the office has "uncovered $165 million in waste, fraud and abuse," by Greuel's count.
James acknowledged that Economy had told him of the investigation several months ago, and Economy acknowledged he regards James as "a hero." But both denied that James "coordinated Greuel hit piece," as the Greuel campaign contended.
"This is not about Kevin James," Economy said. "This is about Wendy Greuel."
Greuel has been considered one of the frontrunners in the mayoral race.
The two LA other City Hall candidates in the mayor's field, councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, declined comment on Greuel's calendar. However, both said they will make their calendars available.