Mitch O’Farrell, the crying-little-babiest Councilmember in the whole City of Los Angeles, was soundly rebuked in his whiny ways by the California Court of Appeals, which last week issued an opinion reversing Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Allen White‘s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association against the City.
The dispute was over a planning meeting sponsored by CD13 in 2014, from which Hollywood activists George Abrahams and Doug Haines of the Association were physically barred by then-CD13 director of planning (and self-confessed criminal) Marie Rumsey. As the ruling summarized the story:
Petitioners alleged that on June 26, 2014, [a Hollywood Design Review Committee] meeting was held at the office of Lehrer Architects “to discuss various projects proposed for Hollywood.” Abrahams and other members of the public went to the meeting location, but “were denied entry to the building.” Haines was also denied access, but he entered the room anyway. When Haines picked up a copy of the meeting agenda from a table, Marie Rumsey, planning deputy for CD13, “pulled the agenda from his hand and physically shoved him toward the exit.” Meanwhile, “Abrahams observed groups of lobbyists entering the building at will.”
So the Association argued that the meeting was subject to the Brown Act and that their exclusion violated that law. Furthermore, they argued that O’Farrell had exluded them based on the fact that they disagreed with his positions on various issues, which violated the First Amendment:
Petitioners also alleged that on January 15, 2015, O’Farrell said that people who tried to “crash” HDRC meetings in the past would not be allowed to attend future meetings. Petitioners alleged that O’Farrell was “singling them out because of positions they have previously taken on matters of public concern, and because they have previously been involved in litigation against the City of Los Angeles.”
O’Farrell’s position was that the meeting was private, was not subject to the Brown Act, and that therefore he could exclude anyone he wanted to. The case went through a number of highly technical twists and directions, very few of which I understand well enough even to summarize, and finally, in December 2017, Judge White declared a nonsuit, which I guess is essentially a dismissal of some kind, and it’s that declaration that was appealed here and reversed by the Appellate court.
Continue reading Whiny Baby Mitch O’Farrell Barred Activists Doug Haines And George Abrahams From One Of His Damn Planning Meetings In 2014 – In Fact His Then Planning Deputy – Self-Confessed Criminal Marie Rumsey – Physically Pushed Them Out Of The Room – All Because They Were Litigious And Had Criticized O’Farrell – They Sued And After A Circuitous Process Their Suit Was Dismissed – They Appealed And Last Week The Appellate Court Reversed The Dismissal – Which Among Other Things Seems To Mean That If All The Facts The Plaintiffs Allege Are True Then They Would Win – And This Might Mean Maybe Mitch At Some Point Could Have To Open The Damn Meetings? – Anyway Get A Copy Of The Ruling Here And See If You Can Figure It Out!
Background: You can read my previous stories on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and also see Jason McGahan’s article in the Weekly and Gale Holland’s article in the Times for more mainstream perspectives.
Recall that in 2017 the City of Los Angeles and a bunch of Satan worshipping business improvement districts conspired in various ways to subvert the rule of law and steal the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Subdivision election away from the rightful winners. The SRNC-FC filed an appeal and a hearing was held before a board of citizens. The SRNC-FC won this but the result was then ignored by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.
So in 2018 the SRNC-FC filed suit in Superior Court. And just a few days ago they filed their trial brief with the court in advance of a scheduled hearing on February 5, 2020 at 9:30 AM in Department 86 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse before Judge Mitchell Beckloff. this is a compelling piece of work, and there’s a transcription below. The City’s reply is due in early January and then SRNC-FC will have a chance to reply to that before the hearing. See you there, perhaps!
Continue reading Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee Files Trial Brief With The Court — In Advance Of Hearing Scheduled For February 5, 2020 At 9:30 AM — Get Your Copy Here!
You will no doubt recall that in June of this year the creepy little South Central Hollywood white supremacist criminal conspirators over at the Larchmont Village BID crashed, burned, and utterly lost the public records lawsuit I was forced by their unhinged intransigence to file against them back in early 2018.
And the chariot of justice is creeps slowly along its path as if pulled by snails, friends, but it eventually gets where it’s going. Thus did it happen that yesterday, November 21, I found myself once again at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, right there in Department 82, represented by the incomparable Abenicio Cisneros, arguing for the fees which he so righteously earned in this righteous cause!
Continue reading Larchmont Village BID Ordered To Pay $42K In Attorney Fees In My Public Records Suit Against Them! — Their Weirdo Lawyer Tom Cairns Savagely Rebuked By Judge For His Dishonest Nonsense! — I Hope Other BIDs Will Learn Their Damn Lesson From This Stunning Victory And Stop Obstructing Access To Public Records!
I just learned of an interesting public records suit filed in September 2019 by Venskus & Associates for the La Brea Willoughby Coalition against the City of Los Angeles. They’re fighting upzoning around the Purple Line extension, which I don’t understand enough to comment on. But irrespective of the merits of their cause the City of Los Angeles has repeatedly violated their right to due process in appeals and pretty much, as the City will do, every possible other arena.
And that extends to some requests for records that the Coalition made of the City for materials having to do with the Purple Line Transit Neighborhood Plan. And the City eventually produced more than 2000 pages of the wrong stuff, which is a favorite tactic of theirs. They also didn’t claim any exemptions. After almost a year of debate, during which the City finally did claim that some of the material sought was exempt, the Coalition brought this suit. You can read the petition and the City’s ridiculously inapropos reply on Archive.Org.
According to the petition the City wouldn’t produce some of the requested material because it contained drafts of the City’s upzoning policies. The City claimed, according to the petition, that:
[t]hese drafts represent preliminary ideas and thoughts related to the policy initiative and do not reflect that [sic] final policy direction provided by City management or the City’s decision makers. Producing such documents would create the real risk of the public being misinformed as to the components of the policy initiative. Through the release of various documents and through numerous public workshops, the public has been provided with staff’s initial recommendations related to this policy initiative and an opportunity to provide input on them. This process will continue until such time that staff finalizes its recommendations to the City’s decision makers.
Which is all fine and dandy, even if true, but these kinds of qualitative theories of why an agency might prefer not to release records are not enough under the CPRA to justify not releasing them. The law is very clear that an “agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter”.
There’s also a so-called “catch all” exemption, found in the same sentence, that allows agencies to withhold records if “on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.” Finally, there is an exemption, found at §6254(a), which allows agencies to withhold draft material with the same kind of public interest weighing test required by §6255(a),
Continue reading Interesting Public Records Suit Filed Against The City Of Los Angeles — By La Brea Willoughby Coalition — Concerning The Much Abused Exemption For Draft Materials — Which Really Needs To Be Cancelled — And The City Of LA’s Absolutely Phoned-In Boilerplate Reply — Ridiculous!
Here’s a summary of where we are in our public records suit against the Chinatown Business Improvement District. We filed it in August 2018 because the BID ignored our requests for records. The BID never participated at all and in July 2019 we prevailed over them and Judge Mitchell Beckloff subsequently ordered the BID to produce the records.
They continued to ignore the whole situation so last week our attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to hold them in contempt of court for refusing to comply with his order. They didn’t show up for the hearing on that either, which was on Friday morning, so the judge ordered them to show up on December 27, 2019 at 9:30 AM and explain themselves. The charge is contempt of court, which is defined in the California Code of Civil Procedure at §1209 to include “Disobedience of any lawful judgment, order, or process of the court.”
And the same Code, now at §1218, allows the judge to punish the contempt with fines of up to $1,000 and up to five days of jail time. Also the judge is allowed by §1212 to have people arrested and brought before the court to answer for contempt charges. So if the BID doesn’t show up for this proceeding things might get really, really interesting! Read on for a transcription of the judge’s order.
Continue reading Judge Mitchell Beckloff Orders George Yu And The Other Directors Of The Chinatown BID To Appear Before Him And Explain Why They Should Not Be Held In Contempt Of Court For Continuing To Ignore His Order To Hand Over The Damn Public Records — They’ve Ignored Every Part Of This Lawsuit So Far — But If They Ignore This Part They May Be Forced To Pay Even More Money — And Be Arrested — And Go To Jail For Up To Five Days — The Hearing Is Set For December 27 At 9:30 AM
As you may know, email retention policies among public agencies in California are a mess, with agencies claiming, however implausibly, that they automatically delete emails very rapidly, sometimes even immediately on receipt. This would seem to run afoul of the law at Government Code §34090, which states pretty clearly that cities are not to delete public records less than two years old. And the California Public Records Act at §6252(g) explicitly defines the phrase “public records” to include emails.
But cities and other local agencies such as business improvement districts along with their legal minions have cooked up amongst themselves a theory that emails aren’t covered by §34090 unless they make some kind of specific effort to retain them, like for instance printing them out and putting them in a drawer. This is the kind of theory, very popular among CPRA-subject agencies, that no one actually believes is valid. It’s only meant to hold up in court long enough for the agency to avoid sanctions for flouting the law.
And this year Assemblymember Todd Gloria tried to strangle this nonsense in its metaphorical crib with his AB-1184, which would have clarified that agencies are required to retain emails for two years just like every other kind of record. But agencies lobbied hard against this bill, pushing the narrative that retaining emails for two years would cost too much money. The bill passed the legislature anyway, but our feckless governor vetoed it and essentially let the agencies write his idiotic veto message.
That such a law is essential is not only obvious in theory, but the incredibly dishonest behavior of various local agencies shows how important it is in our very specific practical context. So for instance, here behold the entire Board of Directors of the entire Fashion District BID swearing under oath no less that they delete all BID-related emails on receipt and that’s why they don’t ever produce them in response to CPRA requests. And the judge believed them, although he admitted that the whole story was implausible. But no evidence controverted it.
Continue reading Even Though Gavin Newsom — At The Behest Of A Bunch Of Bad BIDdies With Dark And Bloody Secrets To Keep — Vetoed Todd Gloria’s Essential Email Retention Bill — The Question Of Whether Existing Law Already Requires Local Agencies To Retain Emails For Two Years Is Potentially Up Before The California Supreme Court — The Electronic Frontier Foundation And A Host Of Other Government Transparency Advocates Urge The Court To Accept The Case And Find That The Law Does In Fact Prohibit These Book Burners From Destroying Public Records — Here’s A Copy Of The Amicus Letter — And A Little Assorted Ranting Of My Own On This Essential Topic
Yesterday the Aids Healthcare Foundation held a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for its alleged and exceedingly plausible arbitrary and capricious denial of an AHF homeless housing project. This is an important lawsuit with a a powerful and convincing petition in support of AHF’s laudable efforts to house the unhoused in Los Angeles. It’s been well-covered in the press.
Not quite as well-covered is the fact that in September 2019, as part of the lead-up to that lawsuit, AHF sent a request to HCIDLA for public records related to the bidding process in which their project was rejected. HCIDLA rejected it with a message stating that the Mayor’s Office had the records and that AHF should send it there. They did so, and a few days later Garcetti’s office sent them a denial stating “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”
Now, the CPRA is very clear on the fundamental fact that unless there is an explicit reason given in the law for withholding a record, that record must be released to anyone who asks for it. This is found at §6255(a), which says that “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”
Continue reading On September 20, 2019 The Aids Healthcare Foundation Filed A California Public Records Act Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles — Just Four Days After Receiving A Characteristically Inadequate Denial From The Office Of The Mayor — This Is A Necessary — And Laudable — And Entirely Appropriate Action — I Can Only Think Of Two Strategies For Encouraging The City To Consistently Comply With The CPRA — One Is For Us To Pass A Local Sunshine Ordinance — And Until That Happens We Have To Sue The Freaking Crap Out Of The City Immediately Every Time They Illegally Withhold Records — Like Freud Said — If They Don’t Pay They Won’t Get Better — So Yay AHF!
Quick summary! In August 2018 I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of Blair Besten, half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core BID, to file a petition seeking to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act. So the usual on-and-freaking-on process of CPRA litigation happened and after a few archetypally zany moments, like La Besten denying under oath that those things her BID sends out via MailChimp are, you know, emails, everybody filed their briefs in July and then today, Tuesday, November 5, we finally had the damn trial.
And the judge, James Chalfant, did as judges will do, and issued a tentative ruling the day before, and you can read it right here. And then this afternoon at the trial, after some characteristically futile yammering by counsel for respondent, the notoriously feckless Jeffrey Charles Briggs, the judge adopted his tentative ruling, handing us, that is me and my lawyer, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, a major victory. In particular, said the judge, those things that MailChimp sends are indeed emails and the BID is ordered to search for them and hand them over.
Continue reading My Public Records Act Case Against The Historic Core BID Went To Trial Today — And The BIDdies Lost Big-Time! — Judge Orders Them To Do A New Search! — And Basically Scoffs At Their Argument That MailChimp Doesn’t Send Emails! — BID Lawyer Jeff Briggs Actually Argued In Open Court That They Shouldn’t Have To Hand Over Records Because Of The Upcoming Fee Motion! — Total Loser Move! — If They Were Mops The Floor Would Be Cleanest!
In August 2018 Katherine McNenny, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Anna von Herrmann, filed a lawsuit against the Chinatown Business Improvement District because they had ignored our various requests for public records concerning such clearly weighty matters as their involvement in the appalling zillionaire conspiracy against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. They continued to ignore the requests, and in fact they ignored the lawsuit altogether.
And in July 2019 we prevailed over them and the judge, Mitchell Beckloff, subsequently issued an order requiring that they produce the damn records, which they have also ignored. It is well known that the California Public Records Act requires government agencies to pay legal fees to prevailing requesters, which requires a motion to be filed with the court asking to be paid.
Our attorneys filed just such a motion last week, asking for more than $51,000 from George Yu’s BID. I don’t know if the BID is going to ignore this or not, but I can’t imagine we’re not going to get it or something close to it. The hearing is scheduled for February 5, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. in Beckloff’s courtroom, Department 86 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Get a copy of the motion here and stay tuned for details!
Continue reading Fee Motion Filed In Public Records Act Suit Against The Chinatown Business Improvement District — Asks For More Than $51K In Costs And Fees — George Yu And The Rest Of The BIDdies Have Hitherto Failed To Participate At All — And Now It Is Time For Them To Pay For Their Crimes
Maybe you remember that in June of this year I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of various CD11 staffers with respect to compliance with the public records act, with the able assistance of the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, to file suit against the City of Los Angeles. The issue was over emails mostly involving planters illegally placed on the public sidewalks of Venice by the usual Klown Kar Krew of psychopathic housedwellers, aided and abetted in their absolute flouting of the law by various CD11 staff members.
And unlike e.g. the Venice Beach BID, at least the City of Los Angeles knows when they’re beat and they started handing over records immediately. And although I still have some issues with the City’s compliance, especially over the formats in which they choose to produce emails, this wasn’t the time to fight those battles, and they do at least know when they’re beat.
A lot of the material they produced in response to this suit was quite important. Not least e.g. was this story about how former and not-really-well-missed Bonin staffie Taylor Bazley not only abetted angry housedwellers in another crazed anti-homeless hostile landscaping project but even discouraged them from planting trees because, spake Bazley, homeless people like shade.
And just recently the settlement agreement was finalized, and you can get your copy here. As is the way with such material it’s really not that interesting. But there is one really interesting bit and that is that the City of Los Angeles agreed to pay von Herrmann $12,665 for her labors.
Continue reading My Public Records Act Lawsuit Against The City Of Los Angeles — CD11 In Particular — Is Settled — The City Handed Over The Records And Will Pay My Attorney $12K For Her Trouble — Gotta Wonder Why They Think This Is Better Than Just Complying With The Law