Yesterday evening, BID-lawyer-to-the-stars Jeffrey Charles Briggs passed along almost 200 emails between Media District BID executive director Lisa Schechter and various people at the City of Los Angeles. These are available en masse at Archive.Org. As always, there’s a lot of chaff in there and a few super-interesting things.1 Perhaps today’s story is an example of the latter.
It began on February 28, when Rita Moreno, newly of the Neighborhood and Business Improvement Division of the City Clerk’s office, the unit that’s meant to oversee the operations of BIDs and make sure that they follow the law and stuff, emailed a bunch of BIDdies to introduce herself and note that only a few of them had their meeting times posted on their websites. Of course, the Brown Act explicitly requires BIDs to notice their meetings on their websites,2 but that’s actually not why Rita was on about this. She was just trying to find out when they met so that she could attend. In fact, it’s not even clear that Rita Moreno knew about the Brown Act requirement.
However, the very next day, our old friend Lisa Schechter of the Hollywood Media District BID, who is not generally known for her law-abiding behavior but who has by now been educated by years of our intense scrutiny to the point where, I hope, she’s beginning to realize that it’s just easier to follow the law,3 wrote back to Rita Moreno, fishing for praise from this unlikely authority figure:
Just to reiterate, all of our meetings are posted in accordance with the Brown Act (Committee as well as Board) – Further you have been placed on our automatic distribution list which triggers and [sic] email directly to you for all of our meetings. If you should require any further information please do not hesitate to contact myself or our operations manager, Jim Omahen.
And, a couple hours later, Rita Moreno replied:
Yes…you got a star ★
And if you’re new to BID studies, you’re probably wondering why this puerile exchange is not just idiotic, sycophantic, and moronic, but also deeply offensive and discouraging to anyone who cares about the rule of law in Los Angeles. Well, read on!
See, BIDs don’t just post their meeting times and locations on their websites because they’re good citizens. In fact, they’re not good citizens. Like all other government agencies4 in the great state of California, they post this information on their websites because they are required to by law, specifically by the Brown Act at §54954.2(a):
The agenda shall specify the time and location of the regular meeting and shall be posted in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public and on the local agency’s Internet Web site, if the local agency has one.
And furthermore, BIDs aren’t just subject to the Brown Act because they thought it would be nice to be open and transparent, but, at least in part, because they are legally required by the Property and Business Improvement District Law at §36612 to be subject to it:
… an owners’ association shall comply with the Ralph M. Brown Act … at all times when matters within the subject matter of the district are heard, discussed, or deliberated
And finally, BIDs are required by the terms of their contracts to comply with the Brown Act. And the City Clerk’s office is in charge of making sure that BIDs comply with their contracts with the City and also with making sure that BIDs follow the law.
However, it’s well-known by now that not only will the Clerk not enforce BIDs’ contracts, but that Holly Wolcott explicitly denies that she even has the power to do so. Although, I guess, I should, in what passes for fairness, note that recently, Miranda Paster, the head of the Clerk’s BID-overseeing unit, has taken some baby steps towards contract enforcement, even though to-date they’ve been only about the most trivial things imaginable. And thus it’s no surprise, but it is a disappointment, to see Rita Moreno praising BIDs who do what’s explicitly required of them by posting their meeting times on their websites, and ignoring the fact that the ones that don’t post are actually breaking the law and also violating their contracts with the City.
And one of these violators, the infamous Larchmont Village BID, located in South Central Hollywood white supremacist stronghold Larchmont Village, well-known to be serial violators of the law, flouters of the California Public Records Act, and all-round antisocial characters, has been refusing to post its agendas on its website for years now, despite multiple requests. These people are beyond stubborn in their refusal to comply with laws.
For instance, it took me six months and two distinct threats of litigation, one from me personally and one from an actual lawyer,5 to get a copy of their freaking bylaws out of them. I needed a copy of their bylaws so I could see their regular meeting schedule,6 so I could have some hope of finding out if and when they actually meet. Well, after all that their bylaws arrived, and I was astonished to find that the freaking bylaws explicitly allow Brown Act violations. Evidently not only is the Clerk’s office not willing to reprimand the Larchmont BIDdies for not posting their agendas, even as they award gold stars to BIDdies who do post, but no one at the Clerk’s office ever took the time to read the LVBID’s bylaws to see if they met minimal legal requirements for contracting with the City. They do not.
And that’s the story of how our City government doesn’t punish people who break the law. In fact, it signs contracts with them and gives them a lot of money. But this might make people who do follow the law feel like they’re not getting the attention they deserve. They get gold stars. Problem solved!
So next time you stop at a stop sign, or mow your lawn, or get a license for your dog, or wait till 6 p.m. to put your trash can out to the curb, don’t just sit around being satisfied at your good citizenship, but write to Rita Moreno and ask her for your gold star! And in case it takes her too long, and because I know that the readers of this blog are the best citizens in the City, here are a few to tide you over: ★★★★★★★★★★★
And here are direct links to all the emails involved in this story:
- Feb. 28, 2017 Rita Moreno to BIDs — introducing herself and noting that only a few of them publish their meeting times on their websites.
- Feb. 28, 2017 Rafik Ghazarian to Rita Moreno — the president of the Los Feliz Village BID at his sycophantic best.
- Mar. 1, 2017 Lisa Schechter to Rita Moreno — Our hero Lisa Schechter notes that her BID actually follows the law.
- Mar. 1, 2017 Rita Moreno to Lisa Schechter — Awarding a freaking gold star for minimal compliance with legal duties.
Image of Holly Wolcott was originally from her LinkedIn profile, but after I messed with it enough I have essentially zero compunction about proclaiming that it is now ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.
- Unfortunately, the more things like this incident that one uncovers in email dumps and subsequently writes about publicly, the more content-free the email dumps tend to become. It’s a problem with no easy solution.
- At §54954.2(a).
- Nah, probably not. Once a piratical outlaw, always a piratical outlaw, amirite?
- BIDs are government agencies, even though both they and the government denies that they are. Fortunately the California judiciary isn’t fooled by their lies.
- That’s the one that they paid attention to finally.
- Since not only do they not notice their meetings, they don’t actually seem to really have meetings. In fact, they seem to just imagine that they had meetings and then write fake minutes for them later. This is not a unique phenomenon amongst BIDs, and it’s another genre of law-flouting that the Clerk’s office regularly ignores.