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Friday
Mar082013

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Corruption case, Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, jailed assessor makes $1.16 million bail, to be released from L.A. County jail after wealthy benefactor puts up collateral....

* Los Angeles Times:  "L.A. County Assessor John Noguez makes bail in corruption case" - From the LAT:

Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez, who has been in jail since his October arrest on two dozen corruption charges, finally made bail Friday.

Noguez is accused of taking $185,000 in bribes from Ramin Salari, a prominent property-tax consultant and generous Noguez campaign fundraiser. In return for the cash, Noguez is alleged to have lowered property-tax bills for some of Salari’s wealthy clients. Since his arrest, Noguez has struggled to raise money for his $1.16 million bail.  A key hurdle has been proving that whatever money he uses for his defense is not derived from the alleged criminal enterprise.

Noguez cleared that hurdle Friday morning, after a wealthy benefactor put up property as collateral, according to Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman. Huntsman declined to identify the donor but said the person had received “no obvious tax breaks” from Noguez.

Noguez’s attorney, Michael Proctor, said a group of Noguez supporters put up the money but acknowledged there was one person who put up more than the rest. Proctor also declined to identify that donor. Proctor has been critical of the high-bail amount and fighting for Noguez’s release for nearly five months...............

Friday
Mar082013

POLITICS/LEGAL: Los Angeles County Superior Court system, announcement, closure of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services program, part of court budget-cutting....

* Inland Valley Daily Bulletin:  "Los Angeles County Superior Court system will close its Alternative Dispute Resolution Services" - From the IVDB:

The Los Angeles County Superior Court department that helps resolve cases before they reach a courtroom will shutter by June 28. Alternative Dispute Resolution Services, which has existed for more than 20 years and is the largest of its kind in the United States, will shut down.

The closure is one of several steps that the Superior Court is taking to save between $55 million and $85 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year, said Mary Hearn, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Superior Court. Superior Court officials in November announced a plan to close all courtrooms in 10 community courthouses.

But the closure of the department, which was announced Thursday, will just add to a congested court system, said Richard J. Burdge, president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. "ADR is a program that traditionally has relieved a lot of the pressure on the courts by taking care of cases without going to trial," Burdge said.

Tony Molino, past president of the South Bay Bar Association, said the program's elimination will also cause a backlog of cases.

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Molino said the loss of the department will result in it taking longer for civil trials to begin. "It's going to be five years to get a court date," he said. . . . . . . .

Burdge also contends there are not enough private resolution programs available to handle the county cases. Cases that have low financial values may not go to private dispute resolution or mediation programs because it may not be cost effective, he said. Some people may try to work issues out themselves and others will end up in court, which will just end up adding to the case loads, Burdge said.

Beginning Monday, the department will stop accepting referrals to its resolution panels................

Friday
Mar082013

SACRAMENTO: CalPERS, long-term care insurance, editorial, "A reckless promise again haunts CalPERS"....

***Following up on earlier items noted here and here....

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "A reckless promise again haunts CalPERS" - From the Bee:

The honchos at the California Public Employees' Retirement System are in hot water again. Higher-than-expected claims and lower-than-expected returns on investments have forced the CalPERS board to raise premiums for its long-term care insurance by a whopping 85 percent.

Policyholders are understandably upset. Back in the go-go '90s, when CalPERS was actively hawking what was then the relatively novel insurance product that provides nursing home and assisted living care, it led customers to believe that premiums would never rise. In fact, as The Bee's Jon Ortiz has reported, a 1998 sales brochure strongly suggested just that. "With this option, your plan is designed to remain level and won't increase each year," the brochure promised.

CalPERS actuaries were as wrong about long-term care as they were when they told the Legislature the next year that substantially increasing public employee pension benefits would not raise costs to state and local governments. When the stock market tumbled, employer pension costs soared. So have premiums for long-term care insurance.................

Friday
Mar082013

L.A. CITY HALL: Mayor's race, runoff election, San Fernando Valley to be a key battleground....

* Daily News:  "San Fernando Valley a key battleground in L.A. mayor's race" - From the DN:

With a mayor's race between two City Hall veterans looking like a tight, tough battle, the San Fernando Valley is shaping up as a key battleground over the next 10 weeks. Both City Controller Wendy Greuel and City Councilman Eric Garcetti can claim ties to the Valley, and both plan to campaign hard in every district. Garcetti grew up in Encino, while Greuel lives in Studio City and represented the area as a City Council member.

"I think this will be such a close election, no candidate can write off any part of the city," said Tom Hogen-Esch, director of the Center for Southern California Studies at California State University, Northridge. "The Valley is such a large block of voters that neither can write it off. "It has changed from the 1970s and 1980s so there are more areas to be contested, but one would expect Greuel to do better in the area she used to represent, as well as having a more natural base in the West and Northwest Valley."

Garcetti won Tuesday's primary over Greuel by a 33-29 percent margin. But Greuel carried the five voter-rich Valley City Council districts. Garcetti carried seven of the 10 other districts in the city.

The Valley long has been a key factor in the election of the Los Angeles mayor....................

Friday
Mar082013

L.A. CITY HALL: Editorial, "What we learned from L.A.'s March 5 election"; commentary, "Los Angeles voting reflects dysfunction"....

* Daily News (editorial):  "What we learned from L.A.'s March 5 election" - From the DN:

The Los Angeles city primary election results are in. They answered some questions and raised others. Here are five things we learned -- or, notably, have yet to learn -- after Tuesday's voting.

1. After a predictable result in the mayoral primary, setting up a runoff between Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel, what comes next is harder to know.

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2. Turnout was shockingly low. Or not so shockingly.

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3. The public says career politicians are bums but doesn't throw them out.

4. Voters saw what a mess Measure A was.

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5. Unions displayed their power..............

***ALSO:

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "Los Angeles voting reflects dysfunction"