Category Archives: Brown Act Pragmatics

Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Pacific Palisades BID For Secret Email Meeting Violation — They Do This Kind Of Thing All The Time But They’re So Incredibly Slow To Respond To CPRA Requests That I’ve Never Caught Them Within The Nine Month Enforcement Window — Until Now! — Smarmy Caruso Puppet And Self-Proclaimed Board Member Rick Lemmo Channels Donald Trump Even As He Aids And Abets Brown Act Violations — Typical! — Sad!

Yesterday morning the Pacific Palisades BID became the third lucky winner in our ongoing Brown Act enforcement project, following in the hallowed footsteps of the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID and the Studio City BID after them. I sent the BIDdies this demand letter, based as usual on the Brown Act at §54960.2, which gives civic outlaws like the Palisades BIDdies the chance to avoid getting sued back to the Stone Age by issuing an unconditional commitment never to break the same law again no more.

The Byzantinios caved and issued such a letter, and the Studio Citizens did too, at least with respect to three out of the four violations of which I accused them.1 And there’s a reasonable chance that the Palisadesean BIDdies will cave as well, in the fierce face of my ferociously convincing rhetoric. But maybe they won’t, cause BID boss Elliot Zorensky is a stone cold psychopath whose anger, it seems, has so far overmastered his prudence that he will cheerfully drown his own metaphorical babies merely in the hope of splashing some metaphorical bathwater on the metaphorical silken neckties of his quite literal enemies. Hard core, yes. Sustainable? Certainly not.

And of course, to faithful readers of this blog the fact that the Palisadeseans have violated the Brown Act won’t even seem like news. They are locally famous for scoffing in the face of the Brown Act. There was that time in January 2016 when they went and held a vote by email, and that other time in April 2016 when they went and held a vote over the telephone, and that other other time in April 2016 when Sue Pascoe of the Palisades News had the damn nerve to tell Laurie Sale that the Brown Act required them to post their damn agendas where people could see them and Laurie Sale flipped out and cried on Rick Scott’s shoulder all night long.

But the problem with all those episodes in relation to the enforcement project is that good old §54960.2 requires one to start the legal process with a demand letter sent within nine months of the violation. I made my first CPRA request of the PPBID in January 2017 but because they’re a bunch of law-flouting privilege monkeys, they didn’t hand over many if any records until July 2018,2 so that the Brown Act enforcement deadlines for all those 2016 violations were past before I even learned of them.

However, in that steaming heap of records that Elliot Zorensky handed over to me in July3 there was a crucial exchange of emails between Board members that adds up to a big fat violation of the Brown Act at §54952.2(b)(1), which says:

A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.

And not only that, but the conversation took place in May 2018, so we are well within the nine month deadline. And it’s that conversation, the details of which are interesting in themselves and are to be found after the break, that forms the basis of today’s demand letter. The BID now has thirty days to respond or else we’re going to court, and you will read all about it here if you want to!
Continue reading Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Pacific Palisades BID For Secret Email Meeting Violation — They Do This Kind Of Thing All The Time But They’re So Incredibly Slow To Respond To CPRA Requests That I’ve Never Caught Them Within The Nine Month Enforcement Window — Until Now! — Smarmy Caruso Puppet And Self-Proclaimed Board Member Rick Lemmo Channels Donald Trump Even As He Aids And Abets Brown Act Violations — Typical! — Sad!

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Studio City BID Issues Dishonest And Combative But Mostly (Although Not Entirely) Submissive Response To My Brown Act Demand Letter — BID President Tony Richman Signs His Name To A Bunch Of Ill-Tempered Truculent Lies Probably Written By Ill-Tempered Truculent BID Lawyer Carol Humiston — Does That Make Tony Richman An Ill-Tempered Truculent Liar Also? — Maybe — But Also Maybe Just A Patsy

A few weeks ago I sent the Studio City BID a Brown Act demand letter insisting that they stop breaking the law in four specific ways. According to the Brown Act at §54960.2 the BID can avoid litigation by responding to such a demand with an unconditional commitment to refrain from violating the specific statutory sections in the future. And on Monday, October 15, the SCBID Board met and decided to do just that.

And amazingly enough, the next day, this letter showed up in my inbox! So they weren’t just blowing smoke, it seems. The BID hired Bradley & Gmelich to represent them, which definitely means Carol Freaking Humiston, the world’s angriest Brown Act attorney, almost certainly wrote the letter. And it is written in her inimitable style,1 which essentially consists of variations on the following narrative in six acts:

  1. You’re wrong about what the law says.
  2. Because you’re stupid.
  3. Nothing in the law requires us to do what you demand.
  4. You thought it did because you’re wrong and stupid.
  5. So shut up.
  6. We’re complying with your demand.

The four issues I raised in the letter were first that IDs were required to attend the Board meeting, second that the Board didn’t adequately describe the subject of its closed session, third that the Board didn’t reconvene in open session after the closed session, and fourth that a majority of the Board members had at one time discussed a matter via email instead of in public.

The BID’s response letter was overflowing with a lot of sound and fury2 and belligerent bluster but essentially contained adequate unconditional commitments never ever to do three out of the four. The third item, though, on reconvening in open session, for some reason they declined to commit not to violate. With respect to that, well, I’m studying my options and stay tuned for updates.

For more details about the contents of the letter, the usual amateur analysis, and a modicum of mockery, turn the damn page!
Continue reading Studio City BID Issues Dishonest And Combative But Mostly (Although Not Entirely) Submissive Response To My Brown Act Demand Letter — BID President Tony Richman Signs His Name To A Bunch Of Ill-Tempered Truculent Lies Probably Written By Ill-Tempered Truculent BID Lawyer Carol Humiston — Does That Make Tony Richman An Ill-Tempered Truculent Liar Also? — Maybe — But Also Maybe Just A Patsy

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Studio City BID Holds Special Board Meeting — Capitulates To Demand Letter — Votes 7 to 1 To Issue Unconditional Commitment To Stop Violating The Freaking Brown Act — Hires Bradley & Freaking Gmelich At $400 Per Hour To Advise And Write Response For Them — Ben Besley Reads The Motion Like A Robot — Michael Sitkin Then Proceeds To Violate The Brown Act In A Whole New Way — Watch For New Demand Letter Coming Soonish!

Ah, the Studio City Business Improvement District! As you may recall, a few weeks ago I sent them a demand letter insisting that they stop violating the damn Brown Act by requiring ID to get into their meetings, by not describing their closed session business adequately, by failing to reconvene in open session after a closed session, and by discussing issues by email outside of an open meeting. You can read the actual letter here if you are so inclined.

This project is based on the Brown Act at §54960.2, which allows the BID to avoid litigation by issuing an unconditional commitment never again to violate the particular sections of the law in contention.1 One of the interesting aspects of this section is that it requires the BID to approve the sending of the letter in an open session of a publicly noticed meeting,2 and that’s just what the BID did yesterday! You can watch a video of the whole meeting, all eleven minutes of it, here on YouTube or if you prefer here on Archive.Org.

I don’t have an actual letter from the BID in hand yet, so I’m going to refrain from commenting on or speculating about what it’s going to contain. You can watch Ben Besley make the motion here and he goes on to describe what the letter will be about. Also watch Mike Sitkin ask for clarification and then watch as Dr. John Walker Ph.D. explains everything exactly wrong!

This bit is worth transcribing, and you can find not only that, but a bunch of other interesting stuff after the break! Not least is the episode where after the Board votes to commit to not violating the Brown Act in those specific ways in the future, they go ahead and violate it in a whole new way! Gonna send them another letter quite soon! After I have this one in the bag, that is.
Continue reading Studio City BID Holds Special Board Meeting — Capitulates To Demand Letter — Votes 7 to 1 To Issue Unconditional Commitment To Stop Violating The Freaking Brown Act — Hires Bradley & Freaking Gmelich At $400 Per Hour To Advise And Write Response For Them — Ben Besley Reads The Motion Like A Robot — Michael Sitkin Then Proceeds To Violate The Brown Act In A Whole New Way — Watch For New Demand Letter Coming Soonish!

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Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Studio City BID For Three Violations — Most Importantly They Require An ID And Permission From The BID To Attend Meetings — Also They Totally Screwed Up Closed Session Requirements — And Also They Deliberate Via Email Just Like The Byzantine BIDdies — So I Fired Off Another Demand Letter — Now We Wait Thirty Days To See If They Capitulate!

Last week I attended my first meeting of the Studio City BID‘s board of directors, and what a fiasco, friends! Aggressively clueless board member Matthew Dunn walking out because I was filming him and so on. But I put off telling you about the most interesting parts! Which is why I’ve gathered you all here this morning! You see, the BID violated the Brown Act in two very serious ways at the meeting.

First of all, the BID holds its meetings inside CBS Studio Center,1 It not only requires an ID to get in there and the registration of one’s name and an image of one’s driver’s license, but also convincing a hostile security guard who thinks BID meetings aren’t open to the public and some other problems. All together these are, of course, violations of the Brown Act at §54953.3, which states unequivocally that:

A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

We’ve seen exactly this kind of thing with BIDs around the City, who hold their meetings in so-called secure buildings, where IDs are required by the property owners rather than the BID itself. E.g. in October 2014, the very same month I founded this blog, Kerry Morrison and her Central Hollywood Coalition were guilty of this. More recently, in April I reported the South Park BID to the LA County DA for violating this exact provision. The universal excuse seems to be that it’s legal for the property owner to require ID, just not the BID.

Of course, the plain language of the statute shows that that argument is entirely fallacious. The law doesn’t say anything about who’s not allowed to require ID, so therefore no one is allowed to require ID. And because, as you know, I haven’t gotten much if any satisfaction from the LA County DA on Brown Act violations, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and use the provisions in the law which allow private citizens to enforce it.

I kicked off this project last month with a demand to the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID which was entirely successful, at least so far, in that the BID caved entirely and unconditionally agreed never ever ever to violate the law again. And the Studio City ID and name registration requirement is a perfect test case for the enforcement of §54953.3. Thus did I fire off this demand letter to BID secretary Gilbert Stayner yesterday afternoon, making Studio City the honored second participant in my private Brown Act enforcement project. They have thirty days to capitulate, and if they don’t, we’re off to Superior Court!2

And Brown Act violations are like cockroaches in the usual cliched sense, and this case is no exception to that rule. The BID also seriously messed up its closed session, which of course I added to the demand, and there was a little problem in May 2018 involving them deliberating via email, which I also added. The first of these is highly technical and the second is fairly repetitious, so I put all the details after the damn break!
Continue reading Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Studio City BID For Three Violations — Most Importantly They Require An ID And Permission From The BID To Attend Meetings — Also They Totally Screwed Up Closed Session Requirements — And Also They Deliberate Via Email Just Like The Byzantine BIDdies — So I Fired Off Another Demand Letter — Now We Wait Thirty Days To See If They Capitulate!

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Victory!! — Byzantine Latino Quarter BID Totally Caves To My Brown Act Demand Letter! — Unequivocally Abject Submission On The Part Of The BID! — BID Issues Unconditional Commitment Never Ever Ever To Violate The Brown Act By Deliberating In Secret Via Email! — If They Do I Get To File Suit Against Them Without Notice! — Yay!

Last month, faced with an unending series of violations of the Brown Act by the business improvement districts of Los Angeles and an astonishing unwillingness of the LA County DA to do anything about it, I kicked off a private enforcement project by sending a demand letter to the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID, which had been discussing BID business in secret by email in flagrant violation of §54952.2(b).1

The process I’m using relies on the Brown Act at §54960.2, which requires a government agency, such as a BID, to respond within thirty days to such a demand with an unequivocal commitment never to break the law again or else to face a petition asking a judge to declare that they did indeed break the law.

And I was indeed poised to file against the BID if they didn’t cooperate with the process, but it turns out not to be necessary! Yesterday afternoon I received this letter, signed by BID president Leonardo Magaña, caving in to every last one of my2 demands! Of course this is by far the wisest course for the BID to take.

They’re not required to admit guilt, although they were guilty beyond any level of doubt. They’re just required to promise not to break the law in the future. Why wouldn’t they promise this given that it immunizes them from a lawsuit?

The only catch for them is that if they do violate this section of the Brown Act again I can file a petition without warning them first. And don’t worry, I will do exactly that! Turn the page for a transcription of the BID’s unconditional abject capitulation!
Continue reading Victory!! — Byzantine Latino Quarter BID Totally Caves To My Brown Act Demand Letter! — Unequivocally Abject Submission On The Part Of The BID! — BID Issues Unconditional Commitment Never Ever Ever To Violate The Brown Act By Deliberating In Secret Via Email! — If They Do I Get To File Suit Against Them Without Notice! — Yay!

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Remember That Time In February When The Central City East Association Violated The Brown Act By Voting On An Item That Wasn’t On The Agenda? — Well Now Their Lawyer Lied About It To The District Attorney — And Estela Lopez Retroactively Edited The Minutes From February — Which Is The Kind Of People The City Contracts With To Run Their BIDs — And That’s Why The District Attorney Isn’t Prosecuting Them

OK, in February of this year Estela Lopez introduced a motion at the Central City East Association Board meeting that wasn’t on the agenda. This is a violation of the Brown Act at §54954.2(a)(3), which states unequivocally that: “No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda.” Naturally I turned them in to the District Attorney immediately. And you might think that because the whole mishegoss was captured on actual video the DA might actually do something about it.

But you’d be wrong. It seems that the willingness of the CCEA’s lawyer to lie to the face of a deputy DA and Estela Lopez’s willingness to alter the minutes of the meeting months after the fact is enough to escape from any consequences of this violation. This kind of outcome is precisely why I found it necessary to start my own Brown Act enforcement program.

And because I have this new capability, of private Brown Act enforcement, on August 20, 2018, having heard nothing for six months, I sent an email to Alan Yochelson, who runs the DA’s Brown Act enforcement program, asking him what was up with my complaint and telling him that I would take action myself if the DA wasn’t going to do so.

On August 21, 2018 he emailed me back and said that he hadn’t decided yet but he would let me know in seven days, on August 28. Yochelson ended up talking to CCEA’s lawyer, who I think would have been Don Steier, but I don’t know for sure. The lawyer seems to have told Yochelson that he immediately pointed out the violation to the Board and they immediately revoked their illegal action.

Estela Lopez definitely edited the February minutes on August 23, which now confirm the lawyer’s version. The trouble with the story is that, as I said, I have the whole meeting on video and nothing like this happened at that meeting. In any case, these conversations between Yochelson and CCEA ended up with the DA’s office declining to take action, as explained in this determination letter, sent out on Monday.

Of course I still have the option to take action privately, and I’m in the process of evaluating that option. The section I’d use, §54960.2 allows nine months after the violation, which is November 22, 2018, to initiate the process. Watch this space for further developments, and turn the page for a more detailed narrative along with links to and transcriptions of all the evidence.
Continue reading Remember That Time In February When The Central City East Association Violated The Brown Act By Voting On An Item That Wasn’t On The Agenda? — Well Now Their Lawyer Lied About It To The District Attorney — And Estela Lopez Retroactively Edited The Minutes From February — Which Is The Kind Of People The City Contracts With To Run Their BIDs — And That’s Why The District Attorney Isn’t Prosecuting Them

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Kicking Off Our New Brown Act Enforcement Project With A Demand Letter To The Byzantine Latino Quarter BID Insisting That Their Advisory Board Of Directors Stop Discussing Public Business In Secret Via Email — With A Writ Petition To Follow If They Won’t Unconditionally Commit To Following The Damn Law In The Future

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that one of our constant themes has been the exposure of an unrelenting series of violations of the Brown Act by the various BIDs of Los Angeles. I started the blog in October 2014 and that very month caught the Sunset Vine BID and its dear leader, Ms. Kerry Morrison, requiring IDs in order to attend meetings, which is a violation of §54953.3.

Since then it’s just been one damn thing after another, what with the South Park BIDdies refusing to share documents considered by their board at a meeting, or requiring meeting attendees to sign in, or their teleconferencing fiasco, or the Venice Beach BID’s deficient agenda descriptions, or the Central City East Association‘s discussing and voting on matters that were not agendized, or the East Hollywood BID‘s teleconferencing violations, and those aren’t even the worst of the bunch.

One of the most important prohibitions imposed by the Brown Act is found at §54952.2(b), which states that “[a] majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.”

In the past we have seen shameless, egregious violations of this section, e.g. the Pacific Palisades BID in 2016, or also by the Central City East Association as part of their relentlessly immoral, illegal campaign against the formation of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council, and by the Los Feliz Village BID, whose violation of §54952.2(b) was bad enough that it actually earned them a written rebuke from the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney.

That last outcome has been an anomaly, though. Despite my having filed multiple reports against BIDs for serious violations of the Brown Act, the District Attorney has, to date, ignored all of them but the Los Feliz one.1 But the legislature, oh wise and omniscient!, has determined that Brown Act enforcement is too important to be left only up to the whims of County District Attorneys. They’ve also allowed for private citizens to enforce the law as well!

So this time, when I discovered dispositive evidence that the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID had violated §54952.2(b) of the Brown Act on at least two occasions earlier this year by discussing BID business in private via email I decided that I would take matters into my own hands rather than relying on the County DA to handle the violation. And the violations are really extreme and also somewhat lurid. One involves BID board member and Greek Orthodox priest Father John Bakas arguing against homeless shelters on the grounds that homeless people are dangerous and incorrigible, e.g.

Of course, it took some time and effort to study the law, get professional advice, and generally prepare an infrastructure for the private prosecution of such violations. Now that it’s all set up, it’s not just good for this one violation, but will work for all future violations that come to my attention. Thus it is with a great deal of pride that I announce an ongoing project to force the BIDs of Los Angeles to stop violating the Brown Act by prosecuting them myself if necessary! Turn the page for the legal theories involved and the specific details of the BLQBID’s violations!
Continue reading Kicking Off Our New Brown Act Enforcement Project With A Demand Letter To The Byzantine Latino Quarter BID Insisting That Their Advisory Board Of Directors Stop Discussing Public Business In Secret Via Email — With A Writ Petition To Follow If They Won’t Unconditionally Commit To Following The Damn Law In The Future

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How The Central City East Association Violated The Brown Act Twice In One Meeting On Thursday Morning So I Reported Them To The Los Angeles County District Attorney


As you know, the Central City East Association held a meeting the other day.1 And a lot of interesting stuff went down. For instance, watch and listen here as Estela Lopez, the voodoo queen of Skid Row herself, explains to the Board that for some reason having to do with the much-discussed trash ordinance, they need to rewrite part of their contract with their street-cleaning contractor Chrysalis. There’s a transcription of the whole discussion after the break, but it’s easy to summarize what happens.

Estela Lopez is all like guys, we gotta redo the contract because reasons and then some random Board member is all like I have a motion because Roberts, and then Mark Shinbane, the Fabulous Freaking Fishmonger himself, is all like I second the motion and let’s vote. Unanimous? Done! The only problem? There’s not a word about it on the damn agenda. And this wasn’t the only instance of this kind of behavior at the meeting.

Just take a look here as freaking Bob Smiland, honcho supremo of Inner City Arts, quintessentially opposite-of-Silas-Lapham paint zillionaire, and unanimously acclaimed most galootish CCEA board member of all freaking time, responds to dictator-for-life Mark Shinbane’s rhetorical question about if there’s anything else before he adjourns the damn meeting by going off on a tangent so freaking tangential that his fellow totalitarian zillionaires were left in dropped-jaw silence as he rambled on about tourist brochures for Skid Row to be left in upscale hotel lobbies and god knows WTF else.2 And … you guessed it! Not a word about it on the damn agenda.

And what’s the problem with all this, you may well ask? Why can’t a few good old white supremacist buddies get together on a Thursday morning at ground zero of the homeless crisis in the United States of America and talk about any random crap that pops into their little zillionaire-addled heads? Well, as it happens, it is against the freaking law, that’s why!

Because business improvement districts have voluntarily chosen to benefit from coercively collected assessments, the State Legislature has passed Streets and Highways Code §36612, which makes all these BID boards of directors subject to the Brown Act. The good old Brown Act contains many treasures, and not least amongst these is good old §54954.2(a)(3), which states unequivocally that: “No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda.”

Mark Shinbane, of course, is famous for his criminal ways and he’s no stranger to violating the Brown Act, but this, to the best of my knowledge, is the first time he’s ever done it on camera. Turn the page for a little more evidence, transcriptions of the relevant bits, and, best of all, a copy of the report I sent to the LA County DA this morning turning these creepers in for their criminal ways.
Continue reading How The Central City East Association Violated The Brown Act Twice In One Meeting On Thursday Morning So I Reported Them To The Los Angeles County District Attorney

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