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Surprise! Rocky was better off not talking

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I take everything back.

Yes, I know I said it was a big mistake for Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo to remain silent about who was driving his city vehicle when it rammed into a pole in 2004, causing $1,222 in damage.

But now that I’ve heard him try to explain, I think silence was the smarter approach.

When Delgadillo was 30 minutes late to his own press conference Monday, I assumed it was because he was carefully preparing to set the record straight. As it turned out, very little was cleared up. His staff ended up having to scramble to correct the raft of misinformation he blurted out during the latest installment of the Rocky Horror Show.

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I’d like to hold back this little tidbit until later in the column, but I can’t help myself:

From June 2005 until July 2006, the city attorney himself had no insurance on his personal vehicle.

You see what I mean?

Somebody should have had the sense to duct tape Rocky’s mouth shut.

After stonewalling for more than a week, Delgadillo finally admitted Monday that his wife needed to get to her doctor’s office in a hurry in 2004, while he was out of town. Her car wasn’t running, he said, so she took his city-owned GMC Yukon and accidentally banged it into a pole.

This little escapade could not have surprised anyone familiar with Michelle Delgadillo’s driving history, which has included license suspensions, failure to show proof of insurance and in 1998, a bench warrant for her various misadventures.

Rocky Delgadillo’s staff handled the paperwork on his wife’s 2004 accident, and the city attorney said he was unaware that a required report on the accident was never filed with the city.

Of course that doesn’t explain why he thought you and I should pay for the repairs. Delgadillo said he thought it was OK for his wife to use the car. The city’s policy, he claimed, is ambiguous.

OK, so I’m putting my San Jose State education up against that of a man who went to Harvard and Columbia. But I’ve read both the municipal code and the Los Angeles Ethics Commission policy, and I’m here to tell you I find no ambiguity and nothing to suggest that it’s OK to let family members drive city vehicles.

“For me there’s been no ambiguity,” said City Controller Laura Chick, who as an elected official is subject to the same policy as Delgadillo. “It’s been very clear.”

As the Ethics Commission puts it, an elected official can use a city vehicle for personal use, but “may not loan or direct staff or others to use the vehicle at any time to perform the elected official’s personal errands.” Nor could the city official’s family members, one would presume, use the car for personal errands.

But it only gets better, friends.

Delgadillo said at the press conference that he has always been insured, and he refused to answer questions about his wife’s insurance record, calling it a private matter.

Is it a private matter if he let her drive a city car without insurance or a license? I don’t think so.

Delgadillo also initially insisted that when his wife had an unrelated fender bender in the family car early in 2004, she was insured. He said she didn’t show proof of insurance to the other driver because it was such a minor accident.

Well, excuse me, but none of this was adding up, so I stayed after the press conference to ask a few more questions. Delgadillo claimed his wife didn’t learn of her 2004 license suspension until 2006, so she didn’t know she was driving without a valid license. But how, then, could she have been insured? Insurance companies run checks for license suspensions when policies come up for renewal.

Delgadillo’s aides promised to check insurance policy records and get back to me, but they may now regret it.

It turns out that Michelle Delgadillo was insured when she had the fender bender in her husband’s city car, but had no insurance during the 2004 accident in the family car, nor was she insured from June 2005 to February 2007.

But that didn’t stop her from driving. We know that she was pulled over in September 2005 for an illegal turn. I don’t know how many press conferences it’s going to take to figure out why she wasn’t also cited for driving without insurance.

As for Delgadillo, he now claims that although he didn’t know it at the time, because his wife handled these matters, he had no insurance for 13 months beginning in June 2005 when their policy apparently was canceled because of his wife’s problems.

A Delgadillo aide told me the city attorney bought himself an insurance policy in 2006 when he discovered this snafu, which raises a couple of questions:

Why did he say at Monday’s press conference that he had never been uninsured? And did his wife continue driving even after they became aware she had no license and no insurance?

I’d love to know the answers, but if I were managing Rocky, I’d reach for the duct tape.

steve.lopez@latimes.com


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