Politics & Policy

Rocky Month

An ambitious politician gets his comeuppance, and a shameful episode for the LAPD.

Early tomorrow morning, while most of Los Angeles remains blissfully asleep, even before the first purple hints of dawn begin to glow in the Southern California sky, one man in the city will be lying abed restlessly and mercilessly awake. He will stare at the ceiling and listen for the car coming down the street, the same car he has heard at this same time every morning for almost a month. As the car draws nearer to his home the man will hear the thwack-swisshh, thwack-swisshh, thwack-swisshh of the day’s edition of the Los Angeles Times landing and skidding first on his neighbors’ front walkways and then on his own.

There was a time when, if the man chanced to be awake to hear them at all, these were welcome sounds, for the paper that arrived at his front door might have carried an account of some political victory he had achieved or perhaps even a flattering profile. No longer. Tomorrow morning, the thwack-swisshh of the newspaper landing at his doorstep will to him be like the hammering and sawing of gallows being erected, gallows on which he will soon be hanged.

The sleepless man is Rockard “Rocky” Delgadillo, city attorney for Los Angeles. For most of the last month or so, seldom has a day gone by that the local news here didn’t include some embarrassing new revelation about the man, and on those days when Delgadillo himself wasn’t getting whacked with the mallet of public scorn he had to stand helplessly by and watch as his wife Michelle got clobbered with it. And even when there was nothing new to report about the woeful couple, the editorialists and op-ed writers at the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News busied themselves in gleefully rehashing what was already known.

Over the last month we have learned:

‐ Delgadillo was fined $11,450 for 30 counts of violating campaign-finance laws.

‐ In 2004, he allowed his wife to drive his city-owned GMC Yukon in violation of city ethics rules.

‐ While driving the Yukon, his wife was involved in a minor traffic accident that caused about $1,200 in damage to the vehicle. Delgadillo had it repaired at taxpayer expense.

‐ His wife was uninsured when she was involved in another traffic accident in 2004. She was also uninsured from June 2005 to February 2007.

‐ His wife failed to pay state taxes on her home-based consulting business. She also failed to obtain the required city business license.

‐ His wife was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant dating from 1998. She had been cited by a California Highway Patrol officer for driving with an expired driver’s license, for not having required liability insurance, and for driving an unregistered car. She failed to appear in court for the citation, resulting in a $2,000 bench warrant.

‐ Delgadillo himself drove his personal car without insurance from June 2005 to July 2006.

‐ He enlisted city-paid staff members to run personal errands for him and baby-sit his two young children.

None of this, of course, approaches a bribe-money-in-the-freezer level of malfeasance. What it all suggests, rather, is a household in disarray, one in which many of the minor conventions of modern life — don’t drive without a license and insurance, pay your taxes, go to court for your traffic tickets, pay for what you break — are ignored and even flouted.

It was bad enough that the Delgadillos allowed these infractions to accumulate in the first place, but what has sunk the city attorney, who until recently might have been described as a man with a bright future in politics, is the ham-fisted way he handled the matters when they came to light. First he stonewalled reporters — and looked like a buffoon in the process — when they were so impertinent as to inquire about his wife’s accident in the city-owned Yukon. He laid low for a week, presumably soliciting input from handlers and giving careful consideration to what he should say, then held a press conference to address the issue. But rather than save himself, he proceeded to make an even bigger hash of things, fumbling what should have been simple questions about his own and his wife’s driving and insurance histories. Even worse, he made a pathetic attempt to claim some moral high ground by revealing he had reimbursed the city — three years after the fact — for the cost of the body work on the Yukon his wife had dented. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Sure it is.

Delgadillo’s troubles began to mount, perhaps not coincidentally, after he took to the microphones on June 7 to denounce what he believed to be preferential treatment for a certain dim-witted and recently incarcerated hotel heiress. When said dim-witted heiress had served only three days of a 45-day jail sentence earned for driving on a suspended license, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca ordered her released to serve the remainder of her sentence under house arrest, allegedly for medical reasons. Delgadillo, who until recently exulted in every bit of media attention he could get, condemned the move and vowed to challenge it in court. (The dim-witted heiress was indeed redeposited in the jug, alas not for life.)

The interagency row added Baca to the list of people already at odds with Delgadillo, a list that includes L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and L.A. County district attorney Steve Cooley, and it could have been any one of the three or all of them who alerted reporters to Delgadillo’s little trove of peccadilloes. Villaraigosa and Delgadillo feign civility in public but are known to loathe each other, and the mayor has himself been cuffed around in the media recently after being exposed as a philanderer. Every column inch of newsprint devoted to Delgadillo’s troubles is one less that might expose Villaraigosa’s. Delgadillo has also expressed interest in running to unseat Cooley next year, but it now appears that campaign has been smothered in its crib.

Finally, on July 3, the Los Angeles Times pounded what may be the final nail in the gallows when it ran an editorial calling on Delgadillo to resign. A once bright political future is suddenly and very plainly much less so.

THE LAPD BACKS DOWN FROM A MOB

Still smarting over the fallout from the violent end to the immigration march and rally held in Los Angeles on May 1, the leadership of the LAPD has demonstrated just how far it will go in acquiescing to illegal immigrants and their supporters. On June 23, a group of about 100 people opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants gathered for a march and rally in the Crenshaw area of South Los Angeles. The group, led by homeless activist Ted Hayes and members of the Minutemen, had secured all the required city permits for the march, which was scheduled to conclude with a rally at L.A.’s Leimert Park.

As the group neared the park, however, they were met by a large contingent of counter protesters who threatened violence if the march was allowed to proceed. Helmeted cops kept the two groups apart while both sides negotiated with senior LAPD officers, including three deputy chiefs. The decision was made to appease the counter protesters by barring the marchers from entering the park as their permit allowed. Cops were even ordered to stand by while counter protesters deflated the tires on two police cars and scrawled graffiti on another. Thus was peace secured at the expense of enforcing the law and protecting the rights of people whose opinions are held in contempt at City Hall. Cops who were there tell me it was a humiliating experience.

Whatever one’s opinion might be on amnesty for illegal aliens, it should go without saying that both sides in the debate enjoy the same First Amendment rights to express their views in a lawful manner. We have seen on a number of occasions that the entire municipal apparatus of the city of Los Angeles can be mobilized to guarantee the rights of illegal immigrants and their supporters to march and carry on until they’re blue in the face. Shame on those who refused to do the same for people who hold a different opinion.

Back on May 8 I described how Deputy Chief Lee Carter and Commander Lou Gray, the two senior LAPD officers in charge during the May Day melee, were forced to walk the plank over the violence that occurred at MacArthur Park. I concluded the column with a question and a prediction:

And now a question occurs: What will happen next time? [Mayor] Villaraigosa has made no secret of his sympathy and even his support for illegal aliens demanding amnesty, and [LAPD chief William] Bratton has been little more than the mayor’s sock puppet on this issue. In the sacking of Deputy Chief Carter and Commander Gray they have sent a very clear message to the rest of the LAPD: Woe be unto anyone who lays a hand on our people, no matter how many bottles they’re throwing at you. The next confrontation may come next May Day, it may come sooner, but you can bet no career-minded senior cop is going to risk the stars on his collar by being aggressive when things get out of hand. Better to let them burn it all down than take the blame if one of them gets hurt.

Please forgive me for saying I told you so.

Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.

Jack Dunphy served with the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 30 years. Now retired from the LAPD, he works as a police officer in a neighboring city. Jack Dunphy is his nom de cyber.

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