Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

Two-Fer Tuesday: Westchester Town Center BID And Melrose BID Both Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

Remember Don Duckworth? Big bad BID boss of both the Melrose BID and the Westchester Town Center BID?? We haven’t heard from Mr. Duckworth here on the blog in a long old time even though he is quite an interesting character, what with his BID analyst switcheroos and his kooky Brown-Act-flouting bylaws and that whole Calabasas episode and so forth.

His absence from my literary life has not, however, been by choice.1 The fact is that circa last June the guy just decided to stop responding to my CPRA requests altogether. No records, no answers, no nothing from Don Duckworth. Hence no joyously mocking blog posts and so on. Well, friends, that’s about to change, and change big-time!

You see, my lawyer, the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, recently filed two petitions, one for each of Duckworth’s BIDs, to compel compliance with the CPRA. You can find them here on Archive.Org on pages which I will update if/when the cases generate more paper:

Melrose BID petition
Westchester Town Center BID petition

And turn the page for some excerpts from the Melrose petition! And a little more commentary!!
Continue reading Two-Fer Tuesday: Westchester Town Center BID And Melrose BID Both Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

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Little Tokyo BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With California Public Records Act — And To Put An End To Their “secrecy, obstruction, and lawlessness”

This time not by me but by the intrepid Katherine McNenny. It’s the same old story, though. As you may remember, the Little Tokyo BID was chin-deep in the anti-SRNC conspiracy coordinated by the Voodoo queen of Skid Row herself, Ms. Estela Lopez. Thus it was natural for Katherine McNenny, one of the SRNC proponents, to try to discover more about the BID’s role using the California Public Records Act.

Ellen Endo, BID president and chief apologist, wasn’t having it, though. It took her almost a year to even respond, and even then she didn’t respond appropriately.1 Even worse than not responding, at no time did she produce any records. She still hasn’t. As we’ve all come to learn, most tragically, our esteemed legislature has left citizens in this position with no recourse but to file a petition in Superior Court, and that’s just what Katherine McNenny did!

Here’s a link to the petition itself, which is well worth reading for many reasons, not least of which is its stirring defense of the very weighty public interest in seeing fair play in the SRNC election process. Selections of this latest triumph by the incomparable Abenicio Cisneros are transcribed after the break, and you might keep an eye on this page on Archive.Org for future developments. If you don’t have time for all that deep dive jive, though, just read this one stunning paragraph:

In denying access to the requested records, the BID has obscured its role in a matter of public significance. The residents of Skid Row labored and organized to create a local governing body for the purpose of better coordinating with City government to meet the needs of some of Los Angeles’ most imperiled and dispossessed residents. The formation of the SRNC was opposed by United DTLA, a secretive organization employing a prominent-and no doubt expensive-lobbyist, which apparently enjoyed funding and in-kind support by Respondent and other Business Improvement Districts. Petitioner, after obtaining glimpses of Respondent’s involvement, lawfully requested records which, if disclosed, will throw into the full light of day the nature and scope of Respondent’s efforts to defeat Skid Row residents’ hopes for a neighborhood council of their own. When faced with this exposure, Respondent refused access and opted instead for secrecy, obstruction, and lawlessness. Respondent neglected every obligation imposed by the CPRA and refused to provide even a single record, in clear violation of the law.

Continue reading Little Tokyo BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With California Public Records Act — And To Put An End To Their “secrecy, obstruction, and lawlessness”

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In 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Revised Its Standard BID Administration Contract To Remove Language About Complying With CPRA And The Brown Act — Which Is Yet Another Example Of The City Refusing To Hold BIDs Responsible For Complying With Any Laws Whatsoever — It’s Not Clear What Effect This Will Have On Anything — They Certainly Did It In Response To My Activities, Though, For What That’s Worth

Regular readers of this blog are well aware that business improvement districts in California are subject to the California Public Records Act and to the Brown Act by virtue of the Property and Business Improvement District Law at §36612, which states explicitly that BIDS … 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 with the California Public Records Act … for all records relating to activities of the district.1

Also, maybe you recall that the standard contract that BIDs sign with the City of Los Angeles contains2 a clause basically repeating this requirement. There’s a transcription of this section after the break. So in March 2016, faced with blatant disregard of the CPRA by the Downtown Center BID, I wrote to the City Clerk, Holly Wolcott, asking her to enforce the terms of the City’s contract with this obstructionist BID.

And on March 14, 2016, she wrote back to me, stating pretty clearly that she wasn’t going to make sure that BIDs complied with the Public Records Act. Again, there’s a transcription of her response after the break, but her main argument was that the City wasn’t obligated by the contract to consider whether a given BID was complying with the CPRA.

And I thought that was the end of it, but I just recently discovered that actually, it’s likely that the City took my argument much more seriously than anyone was letting on. So seriously, in fact, that in April 2016 the City Attorney completely rewrote the standard contract between BIDs and the City to eliminate all language about CPRA and the Brown Act!
Continue reading In 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Revised Its Standard BID Administration Contract To Remove Language About Complying With CPRA And The Brown Act — Which Is Yet Another Example Of The City Refusing To Hold BIDs Responsible For Complying With Any Laws Whatsoever — It’s Not Clear What Effect This Will Have On Anything — They Certainly Did It In Response To My Activities, Though, For What That’s Worth

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Larchmont Village BID Fails To Answer My CPRA Petition By Deadline — What Can It Mean?

As you may recall, I was recently forced to file a petition against the Larchmont Village BID because they just won’t respond to California Public Records Act requests at all. The pleadings are collected here on Archive.Org, although there’s presently not much there. The BID was served on April 4, and they had 30 days to respond. For reasons known only to them they actually failed to file any kind of answer whatsoever.

I guess in an ordinary suit their failure to respond would mean that I just win automatically, but it turns out that the California Code of Civil Procedure at §1088 doesn’t allow a writ of mandate to issue by default. Anyway, the BID did finally decide to discuss it, it seems, as they held a closed session last Thursday, May 24, 2018, and the petition was the only item on the agenda. More news as I have it, of course.
Continue reading Larchmont Village BID Fails To Answer My CPRA Petition By Deadline — What Can It Mean?

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Venice Beach BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act

Yeah, perhaps you recall that in February 2017 I sent a public records act request to the newborn Venice Beach BID and executive directrix Tara Devine has been conscientiously ignoring it ever since. And so I hired a lawyer. And the lawyer filed this petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. And served the petition on the BID yesterday.

Of course, this is the same course of action that the Larchmont Village BID recently thrust upon me. I wish there was some way to get these BIDdies to follow the law other than by filing petitions against them but the State Legislature, in its inscrutable wisdom, has made this the only remedy. Sad but true. Stay tuned for more information and turn the page for some excerpts from the petition.
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John Walker Of The Studio City BID Asked Rita Moreno Of The Clerk’s Office For Advice On A CPRA Request I Made And She Gave Him A Detailed, Thoughtful, Largely Correct Response Despite The Fact That Doing So Directly Contradicts Her Boss, The Mendacious Ms. Holly Wolcott, Who Has Asserted Time And Again That “the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of … BIDs”

In the great and good1 City of Los Angeles, business improvement districts are overseen by the City Clerk‘s office. They have a whole subsection of their website about BIDs; how to form one, what they are, and so on. And not only that, but as part of their oversight process, each BID signs a contract with the City Clerk’s office. These are all about the same as one another, and if you want to look at one, here’s a link to the Studio City BID’s contract.2

And, like every one of these contracts between the City and its BIDs, this one contains, in Section 16.3, the following fairly unequivocal requirement: “… Corporation and the Board of Directors are also subject to and must comply with the California Public Records Act.” Finally, buried deep down in this website, they have published a stunning little item called the Service Operations Summary, which purports to explain the City’s role in relation to its BIDs.

In particular, in Section 5, this document claims that:3 “THE [CLERK’S] OFFICE PROVIDES CONTINUOUS CONTRACT COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE. Staff monitors the use of revenue in order to ensure that assessments paid by district members are used appropriately and in accordance with contractual, budgetary, statutory and City regulations and procedures.”

Now, it’s a tragic aspect of the CPRA that the only remedy for noncompliance that the legislature has seen fit to provide is a lawsuit. However, it seems at least plausible from the foregoing that if a BID is not complying with the CPRA, it’s the duty of the office of the Clerk to ensure that they do comply with it. Acting on this theory, and hoping to avoid a bunch of damn lawsuits,4 once upon a time in 2016 I tried to get Ms. Holly Wolcott to mediate between me and uppity non-CPRA-compliant BIDs.

But she, almost certainly acting on the advice of rogue deputy city attorney Michael Joseph Dundas, denied that the City had any power whatsoever to compel BIDs to comply with the law, despite what the above-quoted Service Operations Summary claimed. Despite the fact that the City has a contract with each BID and the contract requires CPRA compliance. And she didn’t just deny it, she denied it vehemently:, stating in an email to me5 that:“…the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of the various BIDs which are entities wholly separate from the City.”

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I sent a CPRA request to the Studio City BID, asking for a bunch of stuff. When the material showed up yesterday, I found an exchange between John Walker and Rita Moreno, a City Clerk staffer in charge of many aspects of BIDs, discussing my request. Basically he was all like do we have to do it because expensive and time-consuming. And she was all like … well, turn the page to read all the emails and see exactly what she was all like, but suffice it to say she was all like DIRECTING him to do it because of the law. That is, she was doing precisely what her boss, the famous Ms. Holly Wolcott, said that the City would never do and didn’t even have the power to do.
Continue reading John Walker Of The Studio City BID Asked Rita Moreno Of The Clerk’s Office For Advice On A CPRA Request I Made And She Gave Him A Detailed, Thoughtful, Largely Correct Response Despite The Fact That Doing So Directly Contradicts Her Boss, The Mendacious Ms. Holly Wolcott, Who Has Asserted Time And Again That “the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of … BIDs”

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Larchmont Village BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

It’s been two-ish years now since I sent my first CPRA request to the kooky little South Central Hollywood gang of white supremacist law-flouting gangster thugs known to the world as the Larchmont Village Business Improvement District.

That first time they ignored me and they ignored me and they ignored me until finally I had to hire a lawyer and pry the goodies out of their creepy grasping fingers by main force. But, as we know, the thug life is a powerful draw, and gangsters get hooked on lawbreaking like a drug. Despite being given every chance by society to reform their outlaw ways, these hardcore BIDdies sadly persisted in their chosen life of crime.

As you may recall, they’ve never managed to comply with the damn Brown Act, despite occasional signals that either they were going to start complying or maybe that the City of Los Angeles was going to force them to comply. And after that one time in 2016 they’ve never managed to comply with the CPRA again. I sent them a few requests in May 2017 which they ignored and ignored and ignored.

And so, as before, I hired a lawyer. And the lawyer filed this petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. And served the petition on Tom Kneafsey earlier this week. And served a letter to Cap’n Tom along with the petition. I wish there was some way to get these BIDdies to follow the law other than by filing petitions against them but the State Legislature, in its inscrutable wisdom, has made this the only remedy. Sad but true. Stay tuned for more information and turn the page for some excerpts from the petition.
Continue reading Larchmont Village BID Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

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Suzanne Holley Of The Downtown Center BID Redacted All The Email Addresses Of Her Frickin’ Board Of Directors Before She Coughed Up Emails In Response To My CPRA Request ‐ Not Only Is This Completely Unjustified Under The Law, But I Have The Damn Email Addresses Anyway And I’m Publishing Them Here In Case You Want Them Too!

Of course you will recall that recently I published a huge dump of records from Carol Schatzenstein’s monster, known in the vernacular as the Downtown Center BID. The bulk of these came to me as MSG files, which is by far one of the three most useful formats in which to receive emails.1 Those emails are available here on Archive.Org. On the other hand, Ms. Suzanne Holley, who is Chief Operating Officer of the BID,2 for reasons known only to her and her lawyer, felt the need to heavily redact some of the emails, and these she provided to me as PDFs with the usual black bars through the putatively sensitive information.

Now, superficially this is all in accordance with the requirements of the California Public Records Act. The law defines certain categories of information that are exempt from disclosure, but also, at §6253(a), requires redaction rather than withholding the entire document when possible: Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.

Now take a look at this little puppy, which down in the chain contains an email from Board member Cari Wolk to the rest of her unindicted co-conspirators announcing that she’s gonna be attending the upcoming conspiracy meeting. The content is not nearly so interesting as the redactions, which include all the email addresses of all the board members. Turn the page for a picture of the redacted portion as well as the usual sarcastic commentary and as an extra-special bonus, all the redacted email addresses which, as common sense would tell anyone who thought about it for a second,3 are not actually exempt after all.
Continue reading Suzanne Holley Of The Downtown Center BID Redacted All The Email Addresses Of Her Frickin’ Board Of Directors Before She Coughed Up Emails In Response To My CPRA Request ‐ Not Only Is This Completely Unjustified Under The Law, But I Have The Damn Email Addresses Anyway And I’m Publishing Them Here In Case You Want Them Too!

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State Senator Bob Wieckowski Introduces SB-1244, Which Would Undo The Easily Abused California Supreme Court Decision In Ardon v. City of Los Angeles Holding That Inadvertent Disclosures Of Exempt Records By A Public Agency Did Not Waive The Exemption

As you may be aware, the California Public Records Act requires the release of all requested public records unless some specified exemption to disclosure applies.1 However, it turns out that, according to §6254.5, if an agency releases exempt material to anyone they’ve automatically waived their right to withhold it from anyone else:

Notwithstanding any other law, if a state or local agency discloses a public record that is otherwise exempt from this chapter, to a member of the public, this disclosure shall constitute a waiver of the exemptions specified in Section 6254 or 6254.7, or other similar provisions of law.

But what happens if an agency releases the material by accident and then other people want it? In 2016 the California Supreme Court decided the issue in Ardon v. City of Los Angeles, holding that inadvertent disclosure didn’t waive exemptions. At that time, the court recognized the potential for abuse2 and warned:

Our holding that the inadvertent release of exempt documents does not waive the exemption under the Public Records Act must not be construed as an invitation for agencies to recast, at their option, any past disclosures as inadvertent so that a privilege can be reasserted subsequently. This holding applies to truly inadvertent disclosures and must not be abused to permit the type of selective disclosure section 6254.5 prohibits. The agency’s own characterization of its intent is not dispositive, just as it is not dispositive under the law of privilege.

Continue reading State Senator Bob Wieckowski Introduces SB-1244, Which Would Undo The Easily Abused California Supreme Court Decision In Ardon v. City of Los Angeles Holding That Inadvertent Disclosures Of Exempt Records By A Public Agency Did Not Waive The Exemption

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