LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Current L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich faced off against four major opponents competing for L.A. County District Attorney at a candidate forum Wednesday.

Trutanich is the only candidate who most voters recognize.

He engaged directly with four of his major opponents for the first time in a give-and-take on the issues.

Chief Deputy D.A. Jackie Lacey took him on, questioning whether the city attorney, whose office primarily prosecutes misdemeanor cases too minor for the D.A. to bother with, is qualified to be district attorney.

“I don’t know with regard to the city attorney how we can judge after just a few years what he would be like as the district attorney,” Lacey said.

“It’s naive to think that this office, the city attorney’s office, handles misdemeanors. What is a misdemeanor in the City of Los Angeles would be a felony in any other part of the United States,” Trutanich retorted.

During a discussion of the death penalty, Deputy D.A. Danette Meyers asked how qualified Trutanich is, because he has not worked on a death penalty case since he was a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office two decades ago.

“He just said to us that he for the past 20 years has been doing the payroll, so that means that he has been out of the D.A.’s office for 20 years. I think it’s very telling
Out–for 20-years,” Meyers said.

“The death penalty has no bearing on that whatsoever. I spent 20 years making a payroll and running an office and being a manager and then came back into government and did a very effective job of running the city attorney’s office,” Trutanich responded.

Lacey raised questions about the role of the city attorney’s office in the recent controversy about la fire department response times and the release of public information under what’s know as he HIPAA law.

“The mayor severely criticized the answer and the legal advice that was gotten by the city attorney’s office in that matter. The bottom line is what you will not have is someone who plays games,” Lacey said.

“What the public will get with me is someone who understands the issue before they comment on it. The issue is not response times with the fire department. The issue is HIPAA and HIPAA provides that only certain information because the public must be protected,” Trutanich said.

But the toughest question at the forum, moderated by L.A. Times Editor-at-Large Jim Newton, came from a reader, who wondered if he wins the district attorney election, how long it will take Trutanich to start running for California attorney general.

“I’m making no pledges,” Trutanich responded lightheartedly.

After the forum I asked Trutanich about his promise to serve out his full term, as city attorney, before running for higher office — a pledge he made to the voters during his city attorney campaign.

“You know, I have a crystal ball on my desk. You’ve seen it. It doesn’t work,” he said, adding that when he made that pledge after district attorney Steve Cooley, who’s now retiring, led him to believe he would serve eight more years.


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