City Controller Wendy Greuel is facing new criticism over the use of her city email account to work on campaign business, including providing city documents to her political staff before they were released to the public.
The disclosure of the emails came from the Los Cerrritos Community News, which had obtained them through a formal public records request that the organization said took Greuel's office 90 days to fulfill. The story and the documents released with it portray Greuel using her city controller email account to communicate with her mayoral campaign team on a number of occasions, as well as communicate with her city staff on campaign-related issues like scheduling.
Most of it details fairly routine communication on strategy and planning. The documents also indicate that she released a report produced by her city controller staff on city finances to her campaign team a few hours before she released it to the City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Greuel's campaign acknowledged there was some improper use of the email account.
"As Controller and as a candidate for Mayor, Wendy Greuel has worked 18-hour days for quite some time. She inadvertently forwarded a few emails when using her personal iPad or iPhone and most of the emails were for scheduling purposes or as an FYI including documents that were scheduled for public release," Greuel spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson said in a written
"Greuel recognizes that she could have done a better job of keeping her two email accounts separate. But over a two-year period, there were only about 50-60 emails that were inadvertently forwarded by Greuel.
"Let me be clear that Wendy Greuel's campaign did not benefit from any of these e-mails. And we believe the city resources were not impacted, nor did the city incur material costs from these few forwarded emails. Controller Greuel, however, would not hesitate to reimburse the city, if asked to do so."
Government ethics expert Bob Stern, former president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said improper use of email is a common problem for elected officials, though it is not necessarily a serious offense.
"It's something she shouldn't be doing and is clearly something she should try to avoid," Stern said. "But it's not a huge deal as long as not much staff is being used on it."
City law prohibits city officials from using government resources for campaign work, although it does allow some flexibility in the use of their own time.
There were several email exchanges between Greuel and her campaign consultants John Shallman and Rose Kapolcyznski.
The emails include strategy discussions on how to respond to different issues, such as a Supreme Court decision on campaign finance and the mundane scheduling of lunches with officials to seek their endorsement.
Greuel had faced similar allegations during her 2002 campaign for the City Council against then-Assemblyman Tony Cardenas. He said Greuel had been reprimanded in 1991 by former Mayor Tom Bradley for using a City Hall office and equipment to assist a City Council candidate. Greuel denied any wrongdoing.
The campaign of mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti declined comment. But Rick Jacobs, who formed a political action committee to support Garcetti, said he had a number of questions over Greuel's use of the city system.
"If I was going to run for office, which I would never do, tell me how it is fair for her to be able to use her city staff and city equipment to help run her campaign," Jacobs said. "Anyone else would have to pay for it out of their own pocket."