Chapter 14. The Office

When Liz woke up at 2:03 am, she reached for the smooth wood hand cross in the basket on her bedside table.  It was made by an artisan to fit into the hand.  She prayed for a few minutes and held onto the cross while she dozed off. 

She didn’t need an alarm to wake up anymore.  She woke up at four am—give or take 5 minutes– naturally every weekday morning.  Swinging her legs onto the rag rug, she slipped out of bed quietly and headed into the bathroom to put on her gym clothes and shoes by the light of the nightlight, so she wouldn’t wake Brian.  Her work clothes and shoes were already in a garment bag in the SUV. She shook out her hair, brushed her teeth, and walked out of the master bedroom soundlessly.

An early riser like her parents, Liz needed quiet time in the early morning with the Almighty, but she didn’t want to miss her morning work-out. Her office offered flexible work schedules beginning at 6:30 am. She had opted to start at 6:30 and so that she could leave in the early afternoon to pick her children up from school and take them to any scheduled appointments or lessons. 

Brian had the morning shift with the children most weekday mornings.  He got them up at 7, gave them breakfast, checked their homework, made sure they each practiced piano for 10 to 15 minutes, gave them their sack lunches, and drove the boys to Christ the King.  They were a good team.

Liz was on a tight morning schedule. After her 20-minute prayer and meditation time, she wrote a note to the family, signed it with the emoji she created for herself before emojis were invented, and left it in the middle of the kitchen table.   She grabbed her purse and keys, and backed out of the garage for the quick drive downtown in the predawn darkness. 

The gym’s underground parking lot at 4:45 am was practically empty except for a few other early morning regulars, so she was able to snatch a space next to the entrance to the gym. She was on the treadmill a few minutes later.  Her usual weekday work-out consisted of 30 minutes on the treadmill and 10 minutes of strengthening exercises and stretching.  

It seemed to be a constant battle of the bulge these past few years—actually, since Sean was born six years ago.  She didn’t even think about her weight until she had difficulty losing her pregnancy pounds after his birth, shortly before her 40th birthday. After her work-out, she showered, dressed, put on her make-up, did her hair and grabbed a cup of coffee in the women’s locker room to take to work.  Five minutes later she was in the office.  

If she wasn’t in trial or in an all-day mediation, she worked straight through for eight hours until 2:30, eating her lunch at her desk, while pouring over documents and reading cases.  Her commute back to St. Michael’s was 15 to 20 minutes in the early afternoon, depending on the traffic.  She was at Christ the King at 2:50 pm to pick the boys up from school, and home shortly after 3. 

It had been a busy first day back at work after a week off. Sometimes, she wondered whether it was worth taking time off at all—there were 112 emails and 8 phone messages from the week to go through and respond to, and a stack of current files to review.  She had also gotten a new case while she was gone.


Sandy, Liz’s assistant rapped on her open door to let her boss know that she was there. 

“There’s a Giovanni Galiano from LAPD contracts division out front to see you. Should I bring him back?”  

“No, thanks, Sandy, I’ll go and get him.  I need the steps.”

Liz switched out of her orthopedic sandals into her pumps, and headed out the door.  She glanced down at her fitbit–7624 steps so far—most of which she had clocked early that morning on the treadmill.  She figured that she would get in at least another 500 steps down the long hall and back to fetch Gio and bring him to her office. She usually clocked a few thousand around the office and on the long trek to and from her car.  

She passed through the locked doors and put her hand out to Gio as he walked toward her.

“What’s up, Gio?”  

“We have a problem with that 40-million-dollar data processing contract we awarded to Data Analytics last year.

“Was that the contract to process and track payments on deadbeat dads in the City?” Liz asked, as she slid her security card over the reader and motioned him to follow her through the doors down the long hall.

“Yeah. One of the bidders, Data Delivery Systems, is contesting the award, and sent us a public records request for records relating to the award.”

“Ok, let’s go back to my office and talk about it.  Do you have the request with you?

“Yep, right here.” Gio raised the envelope he was handling.

“Did you move offices?” Gio asked, as they passed the door leading to Liz’s old office.  

“Yep. They finished remodeling this end of the hall and put us back in the corner—but at least I have a good view of the mall and the courthouse from this side of the building.”

 She opened the door to the Law Enforcement Division, and led the way to her office.  “And the occasional crow comes to keep me company on my window ledge.  I think he likes the orchids and African violets on my sill.” 

She sat down in the leather swivel chair behind her desk as Gio chose the chair closest to the desk opposite her, and looked out the large window at the dark clouds forming.

 He handed her the letter, and Liz starting skimming through the first page. 

“Well, they have a well-known law firm–McDonald & Haskell–but they’re hired guns.  

It’s addressed to the LAPD Deputy Chief—so the response will come from your office, but I can help you draft it.  They’re asking for documents reflecting the type of bidding process used, the authority for that process, documents responding to the Request for Proposals, or RFP, and the like.”

“Right, but read the last paragraph. That’s the reason the I’m here.”

Liz turned to the last page of the letter and glanced down at the paragraph of the letter, and then to the remaining pages. 

They threatened to file an Ex Parte Application for a Temporary Restraining Order—a TRO– to prevent Data Analytics from further performing the contract, and attached the application, but there’s no case number. And they didn’t attach the writ. Let me check the court website to see if it’s been filed.”

Liz pulled the court website up on her computer, inputted the case name, and scrolled down the page. “The TRO application hasn’t been filed, or at least it hasn’t been entered yet on the court database. They’re trying to threaten you into backing down from the award to Data Analytics.  

She thought for a moment.  “Seems like I approved that contract to go to the City Council a while back.  Do you remember when that was?”

“The Council approved it over a year ago, and Data Analytics began performing about 11 months ago.  They are almost a year into a five-year contract.”

“Okay.  After you locate the records they are asking you for, email me copies of them, and I’ll draft a response for your review.  I’ll also retrieve my file on this and start drafting an opposition to the TRO, in case they file it. 

Hearings on TRO’s are set within a couple of weeks or so after filing, so we will need to turn out a quick opposition if they file and serve it. That’s all we can do for now. They will have to file the Petition for Writ of Mandamus at the same time, which they didn’t attach to the letter.” 

Liz smiled at Gio.  “Don’t worry.  As I recall, the award of that contract was based on rock solid information, and the Contract Review Panel agreed.  Also, the fact that they waited almost a year to contest it does not bode well for a TRO or even for a Petition for a Writ.  Send me the documents when you collect them, and call me if you get anything else from them.”

She stood.  “I’ll walk you back to the elevators.”

On her way back to her office, Liz stopped off at the file cabinets and pulled the file on the LAPD data processing RFP, tucked it under her arm, and headed back to her office.  


Liz was engrossed in her work a few hours later when the phone rang.  She set aside the file she was working on, and picked up the phone on the second ring. Unlike most of her colleagues in the office, Liz liked to answer her own phone. 

“Liz O’Connell.  Hi Gio.  No, I haven’t received it. When did you receive your copy? Ok. When is the hearing?  Yes, of course.  Email me the documents you received, and I’ll call you later after I’ve seen the pleading.”

After hanging up the phone, Liz walked over to her assistant’s cubicle: “Sandy, would you please call down to the Council’s administrative staff to see if they were served with an Ex Parte TRO application attached to a Petition for Writ of Mandate?  According to the client, the hearing is in 10 days, and if it’s been properly served, my opposition needs to be filed by Friday.”

Sandy buzzed her a few minutes later. “They were just served. They will send it up in a few minutes.”

Checking her email when she returned to her office, Liz realized that the requested records along with a copy of the Petition for Writ of Mandate and a Temporary restraining order were in her inbox from Gio.  Deciding to get a head start on the response to the lawsuit, she pulled up a new pleading macro and typed in the case name, number, and title of the pleading: “City of Los Angeles’ Opposition to Temporary Restraining Order.” 

Liz had handled many TRO cases.  She began typing the introduction to her Opposition without hesitation: “On March 28, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council approved a contract with Data Analytics for court related services to be provided to the LAPD’s, Bureau of Family Support Operations. The contracted services include receiving payments on family support cases, tracking and entering the payments, and depositing the payments.  Data Analytics (DA) began providing the contracted services on April 1, 2020.

Petitioner, Data Delivery Systems (DDS) cannot meet its extraordinary burden to justify the issuance of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) to prevent Data Analytics from continuing to perform a contract approved by the City Council 11 months ago. The contract was awarded pursuant to a Request for Proposals.  The proposals were evaluated by three neutral evaluators in accordance with City ordinances, policies and procedures.  Data Analytics was the recommended proposer.”

She continued writing the background facts, telling the story of how DDS filed a request for a review when they learned that they were second out of three bids. The City Review Panel unanimously agreed that two of their three allegations lacked merit and as to the third allegation, two of the three panelists agreed that there was no merit to the allegation.  Moreover, the City Review Panel rendered its decision nine months ago, and DDS waited until now to file its application.  

An hour had passed when Liz picked up her mug to take a sip of tea and realized that it was almost empty. Still thinking about the case, she absent-mindedly picked up the mug with the tea bag in it, and walked to the division kitchen area to fill it with hot water. She stopped in Alison Gray’s office on the way back. 

“Hi neighbor, gotta minute?” she asked as she poked her head in. Allison looked up from her work. “Always for you.”  

Ali was not only her down-the-hall neighbor at work, but also lived just a few blocks away from her in St. Michael’s Cove.  They had been friends since Ali joined the office eight years ago. 

“Have you been before the new Department 82 judge, yet—Monica Morales?” Liz asked.  “I have a TRO in her court.” 

Ali nodded. “I was before her a couple of weeks ago. She’s very thorough, and was fair, I thought.  But she’s a no-nonsense judge.  She doesn’t suffer fools.  She chewed out a couple of attorneys in open court for not being prepared. . . 

She added, “That’s not you—so you won’t have a problem with her.”

“Good to know. Thanks!”  Liz turned to leave, then stopped. 

“By the way, I hear that a new yarn shop is opening in the community center in the old Carnegie library building.  Should be open in May.”  

“Well, I guess we’ll need to check it out when it opens,” Ali grinned.  “Any excuse to find something new to knit.  Good luck on the TRO.”