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L.A. Times sues city to get information on security costs for Garcetti trips

L.A. Times sues city to get information on security costs for Garcetti trips
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, in Tornillo, Texas, last month. The Times has gone to court in an attempt to obtain records related to Garcetti's security costs when he travels out of state. (Larry W. Smith / EPA/Shutterstock)

The Los Angeles Times sued L.A. on Thursday after the city refused to turn over records detailing taxpayer costs for security on out-of-state trips taken by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The lawsuit, which accuses Los Angeles of violating the California Public Records Act and the California Constitution, seeks a court order to make the city turn over any information that is not exempt from public disclosure.

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Garcetti has frequently traveled outside California and the country: In September, The Times reported he had spent nearly a third of his time out of state in the previous 12 months, heading to cities including Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and Berlin. As he weighs running for president, Garcetti has repeatedly made trips to political battlegrounds including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

To better understand what those trips cost taxpayers, Times reporter Dakota Smith made repeated requests to the Los Angeles Police Department for detailed information about the expense of providing security for Garcetti and his family on their travels, first in August of last year, then this April. Smith had sought information about trips that occurred over roughly two years.

In addition to the overall costs, Smith asked for the number of guards or officers accompanying the mayor, his family or staffers on each trip; the number of hours that each officer or security guard worked during trips; and costs including food, lodging and travel incurred by the security team during their travels outside California, according to emails included in the suit.

The LAPD declined to provide the information, saying it could put the mayor and his security team in danger. In a June letter included in the lawsuit, the department said any record that identifies how many people were protecting the mayor or which shifts they worked “exposes the Mayor and his family to threats arising from vulnerabilities in the provision of security.”

Smith also asked Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar about the security costs. In April, she emailed him to request details on what the city spent on hotels, car rentals, meals, airplane tickets and other expenses for security guards or police when Garcetti traveled to Iowa this spring.

Comisar replied in an email that “for his security, the mayor’s protective detail travels with him wherever he goes,” but did not provide any other details, according to the lawsuit.

So far, the city has not provided any public records in response to the August and April requests, The Times said in its suit. Each time, the city told The Times it would provide information or records, only to reject the request soon afterward, according to the lawsuit.

The Times argued that the city had failed to explain how providing information about taxpayer costs for security would put the mayor in jeopardy. In the lawsuit, attorneys Jeff Glasser, Kelli Sager and Dan Laidman stated that Angelenos were entitled to know how much the trips were costing taxpayers, “so that they can make their own informed judgment about the way city resources are spent.”

Politicians routinely face scrutiny over such travel: News outlets and nonprofit watchdog groups have reported on how much the federal government spent to protect Ivanka and Eric Trump and their families on an Aspen, Colo., ski trip, what the Obama administration spent for security for family vacations, and travel spending by mayors of Chicago, Baltimore and Seattle, the lawsuit pointed out.

Comisar, the mayoral spokesman, said Thursday that he could not comment on pending litigation. Ivor Pine, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said his office had yet to review the lawsuit and also declined to comment.

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