The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a petition today asking that the county of Los Angeles release invoices detailing the amounts of money billed by private law firms in lawsuits filed against the Sheriff's Department and its personnel.
The petition was filed on behalf of taxpayer Eric Preven, who, along with the ACLU, has submitted several California Public Records Act requests for information on money paid to private attorneys as well as the contracts between the county and individuals hired to oversee implementation of the recommendations of the Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence.
The County Counsel's office denied the requests, according to the petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
A representative of the County Counsel's office could not be immediately reached.
"We are asking the officials of Los Angeles County to be transparent and tell taxpayers how their money is being spent on private attorneys to defend deputies accused of savage beatings and other illegal actions," said Peter Eliasberg, legal director for the ACLU Foundation of SoCal.
During the fiscal year 2011-12, lawsuits against the Sheriff's Department cost the county $37 million, not including the costs the county paid to private lawyers to defend the Sheriff's Department, according to Supervisor Gloria Molina.
County Counsel John Krattili responded to the CPRA requests by saying that billing records that document the tasks and time for which private firms were billing the county are exempt from disclosure, according to the ACLU's court papers.
"The county is paying out millions of dollars to private law firms, and when we, the people, ask to learn more about how that money is being spent, the answer is 'none of your business,"' according to the ACLU.
"Sorry, that doesn't cut it," Preven said. "We're demanding an end to the secrecy around practices that may well have cost the taxpayers far more than they've saved."
-- City News Service