City Attorney Has Better Case to Make

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

City attorneys are supposed to be lawyers to their cities. They advise city officials on legal matters, defend the city against lawsuits, write ordinances, prosecute city code violators. That kind of thing.

But that job’s not nearly big enough for L.A.’s city attorney, Mike Feuer. He wants to be a crusading consumer advocate, a local Ralph Nader.

He must. How else can you explain his lawsuit last week against Wells Fargo? Why else would he sue a business that’s not even headquartered in Los Angeles?

He claims the bank is mistreating its customers and charging outrageous fees, but that is an issue between a business and its customers. If the customers believe they are aggrieved, they can file a civil suit, seek class-action status if they want, go to a consumer protection agency or complain to bank regulators. There are a number of ways to resolve bank-consumer disputes. The city attorney should’ve gotten involved in this fight about as much as Carrot Top should have gotten between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.

When asked about this, Feuer sent me this: “My job is to stand up and fight for the people I serve, including consumers who we allege are being treated unfairly by an institution in which they have placed their trust.”

That’s where we disagree. A city attorney should advise city officials on legal matters, write ordinances, and, well, re-read the first paragraph if you want.

But if Feuer really believes that, I mean if he really thinks it’s his job to fight for consumers who are being treated unfairly by an institution, he could stand up for L.A.’s citizens against the city. For years motorists have paid to replace tires and axles broken by potholes the city can’t seem to fill. The handicapped have been forced onto the streets because wheelchairs can’t navigate buckled sidewalks the city refused to fix for years. And pedestrians get dinged $197 for steeping into a crosswalk if the numeric countdown has already begun.

I mean, really, Mr. Feuer, $197? What institution is charging outrageous fees?

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