Los Angeles city employee union leaders appear to disagree with the saying “don’t kill the messenger.”

At a labor forum, questions from union leaders to mayoral candidates seemed aimed at finding out which candidate might be willing to get rid of Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana if elected, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Santana was appointed to the position that provides guidance to both the city council and mayor on budget issues in July 2009 when the city was facing a $530 million deficit.

He’s had the task of finding places the city could cut its budget, which has resulted in recommendations that include laying off thousands of city employees, reforming pension benefits and privatizing some city functions. City employee unions oppose all those ideas.

Councilwoman Jan Perry defended Santana, but the other candidates, including Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilman Eric Garcetti and former prosecutor Kevin James either side-stepped the question or declined to comment.

According to the Times report, Alan Peshek, a city employee and SEIU member who participated in last week’s candidate forum, said Santana is hurting the city by “always demanding cutbacks and layoffs,” in a statement issued by the union. “The next elected mayor should make wiser staffing choices,” he said.

The SEIU is expected to provide a candidate endorsement in March, just prior to the election, according to the news report. A runoff is slated for May if no candidate wins a majority.

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