OK, where to start? Well, how about with the contract that the East Hollywood BID signed with the City of Los Angeles?1 Right there on pages two and three, in section 2.6(B), it says:
Corporation shall maintain an ongoing liaison relationship with the community. Corporation’s responsibilities encompass the following areas:
B. Newsletters. Corporation shall prepare a District newsletter to be produced on a quarterly basis, at a minimum, and shall distribute this newsletter to all assessed property owners in the District. Corporation may, at Corporation’s option, provide the newsletter by standard mail or electronic transmission. The newsletter will be designed to facilitate and maximize the exchange of information between Corporation, City, and the members ofthe District. Each issue of the newsletter shall be submitted in duplicate to the City Clerk for reference.
So this explains why BID Analyst and City Clerk staffer Eugene Van Cise wrote to Nicole Shahenian, executive director of the East Hollywood BID, one fine day in May 2016:
I have invoices for $387.30, $72,291.74 and 146,852.71. Miranda has rejected payment because of our records indicate that we have not received the following newsletters:
2012: All 4 quarters.
2013: All 4 quarters.
2014: 1st & 2nd quarters.
2015: All 4 quarters.
2016: 1st quarter.
If you have these available, you may email them to me.
Please contact me if you should have any questions.
Add it up, friend! That’s almost $220,000 that Miranda Paster was holding back from the BID because they had failed to perform a clause in their contract for four years straight. This is quite a contrast to what Holly Wolcott told me in March of that year to the effect that the City had no power to make BIDs comply with CPRA even though compliance with CPRA is also a requirement in their contract.
Really, I’m beginning to think she was just lying to me because no one wants to comply with CPRA, but everyone wants freaking newsletters (?!) And why was Miranda Paster all of a sudden looking four years into the past for instances of noncompliance? Well, we will probably never know, but we can at least follow the rest of this story! Read on for a painfully detailed recounting (not to mention copies of the damned newsletters)!
So in answer to that same email linked to above, Nicole replied:
Here is the 2016 1 st Quarter BID News. It was mailed out last week so you should also be getting a hard copy shortly.
I will compile what I have of the others and send to you this afternoon. I am skeptical of being able to find all of the 2012 ones. That was the year I was on medical leave and I am not sure what happened while I was out. I will let you know what I find! But in the event that I can’t locate them, how do I proceed?
Isn’t she nervous? Can you imagine having to explain to your boss that you were out $220,000 because you didn’t send in your quarterly newsletters for four years? And you might not be able to fix it? And your boss was freaking Leron Gubler? Leron Freaking Gubler?? It’s not a pretty scenario, is it? No wonder she’s panicking.
Moving on to the next installment, we learn from Eugene what to do:
Give me what you have and I’ll explain 2012 to Miranda.
Eugene isn’t giving out much comfort, is he? And his reticence has the usual effect on the by now hyperventilating-into-a-bag Nicole Shahenian. She starts babbling. After all, $220,000 is a lot of money, especially if you have to explain to Leron Gubler why you don’t have it. My comments are interspersed in red:
I have been researching what has happened with our BIDNews issues that you are missing. Clearly, I have not been doing a good enough job keeping up on this. I apologize. Always begin with an apology when you are well and truly busted. They teach this in lackey school, but it’s a good lesson for all of us. By way of explanation I can only say that is seems we feel behind at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 when I was on medical leave and have not caught up properly since. I was sick, although I seem to have misplaced the note from my doctor. Will my mom do instead? For several of the issues it appears we covered happenings of multiple quarters in one newsletter. There are several that we are missing all together. It was the dog, Eugene. It ate my homework. I know how ridiculous it sounds, but it really happened.
There are a few newsletters that you didn’t have amongst your list. I have attached above. Although I haven’t done what you asked, I did something else instead. Do I get an A for effort at least? I am not sure what to do about the quarters that we did not publish the newsletter, they date back many years. Should I go back and try and recreate? There’s no way to fix this, so I’m going to make a ludicrous suggestion in the hope that you will see how ludicrous it all is and just go back to not enforcing the contract like you’ve done for the last four years. Is it working?! Any advice on how to proceed would be greatly appreciated. I am so sorry for this. There is no such thing as too many apologies. I myself am sorry for pointing that out. It’s my fault for repeating myself. I am so sorry for this.
As you know, the EHBID is very small and operates without any dedicated support staff. They all freaking say this. Freaking Blair Besten can’t comply with CPRA because her staff is very small. I get the same nonsense from Tim Byk of the Brentwood Village BID, from Laurie Sale of the Palisades BID, from some lady whose name I forgot from the Village at Sherman Oaks, from Susan Levi from SLAIT, the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, the Media District, South Park. They all freaking whine about how understaffed they are. Sheesh. I have more to say about this issue below Having an already full plate with my Hollywood Chamber duties, Don’t forget that I have a real job, Eugene. And my real boss, Leron Freaking Gubler, eats lunch with the mayor, who I believe is your boss I admittedly have let things fall too far behind. I just didn’t realize how far. Like I said, there’s no such thing as too many apologies. Not with $220,000 at stake. I am a bit surprised that I have not had outreach from your office prior to this about the missing items. This is really your fault for not asking sooner. It may have been easier to address if we had caught this back in 2013 when the problems first started occurring… It’s really really your fault for not asking sooner. And there’s some sense to this, actually. Why DIDN’T they ask sooner?
Regardless, I am eager to get this resolved. Please let me know what you recommend. Additionally, I can assure you that going forward this will not happen again. Apologies aren’t enough, gotta promise never to do it again. I have made some internal changes to elevate the priority of getting the newsletter out on time and in your hands by each quarter’s deadline.
But this perennial excuse that BIDs pull out about being understaffed is pretty interesting. I’m not kidding when I say that every one of my clients2 whines about how understaffed they are and how burdensome and overbroad my requests are. So isn’t it interesting to see right there in the contract that they all, every one of them, signs with the City, this clause right here:
2.5 SUPPORT SERVICES. Corporation assumes responsibility for the contracting for support services as required, and paying for all such direct and indirect expenses as may be necessary for the timely completion of work. Any obligations or expenditures for items not budgeted shall not be paid through assessments collected for the District. In administering subcontracts as necessary for providing District programs, improvements or activities, Corporation shall comply with all applicable State, County and City laws and regulations.
So they’re actually contractually obligated not to be understaffed (and to comply with all laws, like e.g. CPRA). That is, when they say they’re too understaffed to send quarterly newsletters, too understaffed to comply with CPRA, they might as well be saying that they’re breaking their contract with the City. Why in the world do they think this is OK?
Oh yes, because until 2016 no one had ever really forced them to comply. Nicole Shahenian, no matter how distastefully self-serving one might find her little rant, has an excellent point when she asks why Miranda Paster didn’t mention the missing newsletters in 2012. This is the same reason why there’s a statute of limitations on most crimes; so that the government can’t come at you all salty and convict and punish you years and years after all the evidence and the witnesses and everyone’s memories have faded away and all chance of making amends or putting on a defense have evaporated. I really wonder if Miranda Paster’s newfound insistence on the importance of contractual compliance had anything to do with my scrutiny? Certainly we will NEVER know that!
Image of Nicole Shahenian started its life as a public record, which I obtained from Southern California Public Radio, but it’s since been so substantially transformed by my own ingenuity and so very mixed with the labor of my hand and brain that, in the Lockean sense, it has been transmutated into private property and is, therefore, ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.