Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

David Ryu Is The Third City Councilmember Revealed To Be Using A Private Email Address To Conduct City Business — In Fact He’s Sending Emails To Mitch O’Farrell’s Private Email Account — Cause Of Course He Is

Within the last few weeks we have learned that Mitch O’Farrell conducts City business through a Gmail account and so does Gil Cedillo. Now for the first time it is revealed that David Ryu also has a secret private email account that he uses to conduct City business. The email address is david@davidryu.com. Drop him a line, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it, especially if you can Paypal him $800 for the old officeholder account.

In an interesting twist, I learned of the existence of David Ryu’s private email account because he used it to email Mitch O’Farrell in April and the email, which you can read here (and there’s a transcription after the break), was produced by CD13 in response to the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition’s CPRA request. And as for what the email is about, well, it’s hard to tell.

It’s about a $200 million building project at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital and who’s invited to the groundbreaking ceremony and did they go and pay court to Mitch O’Farrell like David Ryu told them they had to? I’m sure it all makes sense to people who know exactly whose hand is down whose pants at 200 N. Spring Street. To the rest of us, although the connotations of corruption are clear, the actual meaning is obscure.

The real value in this revelation, at least the real immediate value, is twofold. First it exposed David Ryu’s secret email address, which is of intrinsic public interest. Second, it shows that not only are our councilmembers hiding their nefarious work from us by communicating with their special friends and lobbyists via private unscrutinized channels, but they’re also doing the same thing with one another. Did you ever wonder how those extraordinary unanimous outcomes are created in Council meetings over and over and over again? I believe I’m on the verge of really understanding it, and this is an essential piece of the puzzle.

Oh, did I mention that our friends at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition have asked David Ryu’s office for the goodies? Well they have, and just as Mitch O’Farrell’s sinister gatekeeper Jeanne Min tried to claim that CD13 didn’t have to hand over anything cause it would be too darn much work, David Ryu’s sad-sack minion Andrew Suh is taking the same tack. CD4 is on NextRequest, so you have to look at a PDF of the request as it’s presently unpublished. Stay tuned for news as we get it and turn the page for a transcription of the email.
Continue reading David Ryu Is The Third City Councilmember Revealed To Be Using A Private Email Address To Conduct City Business — In Fact He’s Sending Emails To Mitch O’Farrell’s Private Email Account — Cause Of Course He Is

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First Look At Emails From Mitch O’Farrell’s Secret Gmail Account! — Fascinating Material! — For Instance Registered Lobbyist James Litz Emailed Him There In April 2018 Attempting To Influence Today’s AirBnB Vote! — While Losers Like You And Me And The Rest Of Us Had To Email Him At His Probably Unattended City Email Address — And A Bunch More Stuff Besides! — Oh, Did I Mention That O’Farrell Chief Of Staff Jeanne Min Is A Big Whiny-Baby?

OK, remember that our friends over at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition discovered recently that CD13 repster Mitch O’Freaking Farrell has a top secret Gmail account that he uses to conduct City business? And remember how they sent CD13 a CPRA request asking for all public records in this account? And remember how Mitch O’Farrell’s fairly sinister chief of staff, Jeanne Min, was all like no way, friend, go pound sand? And then the brave and untrammeled souls over at the Coalition were all like, way, friend, if sand is to be pounded, you pound it!

Well, apparently some part of that message got through to Ms. Jeanne Min, cause evidently yesterday CD13 supplied HSC with a bunch of emails! And they passed them to us!1 And in the typically passive aggressive attitude that the City of LA adopts when complying with CPRA requests the PDFs had pages randomly rotated, interspersed with random blank pages, and so on, making them fairly unreadable. But I’m a whiz with PDFs and I cleaned them all up and published them on Archive.Org right here so you can read all 101 pages of them. Here’s a link straight through to the clean PDF and the original files are also available so you can compare if you’re interested.

And there is a ton of good stuff even just in this small selection. I aim to write at least three more posts highlighting various aspects of it, and I’m sure if you read through it you’ll find gems that completely escaped my notice. The episode you’re reading now is particularly timely, given that it has to do with today’s contentious vote on AirBnB regulation. Did you have an opinion on that? Did you communicate your opinion to your Council rep? Well, you didn’t get to communicate it as well as some people did!

It seems that on April 27, 2018 James W. Litz, then working for the sinister-sounding Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors, and himself a lobbyist registered with the City Ethics Commission, sent an email to the usual list of public-facing Councilfolk email addresses ending with lacity.org telling all of them that his employer, the BHGLAAR, supported the AirBnB regulations proposed in CF 14-1635-S2 as long as they didn’t let people living in rent stabilized units rent out their homes and let building owners forbid their tenants from participating if they wanted to. This email is transcribed after the break.

And then, certainly because as you yourself have no doubt suspected, nobody actually reads a damn thing that comes in to those “councilmember.wtf@lacity.org” addresses, less than two minutes later James W. Litz turned around and forwarded the email to Mitch O’Farrell at the secret Gmail address, which is to say mitchof13@gmail.com, with a personal note:
Continue reading First Look At Emails From Mitch O’Farrell’s Secret Gmail Account! — Fascinating Material! — For Instance Registered Lobbyist James Litz Emailed Him There In April 2018 Attempting To Influence Today’s AirBnB Vote! — While Losers Like You And Me And The Rest Of Us Had To Email Him At His Probably Unattended City Email Address — And A Bunch More Stuff Besides! — Oh, Did I Mention That O’Farrell Chief Of Staff Jeanne Min Is A Big Whiny-Baby?

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This Is What Feral Bureaucracy Looks Like — My Epic Journey To The Dept Of Alcoholic Beverage Control To Inspect Records — How I Got Illegally Asked For ID — How I Got Menaced By Gun-Carrying Super Special Agent In Charge Gerry Sanchez — Who By The Way Is A Liar — How I Got Told To Show Some Respect — How ABC Tried To Extort Me Into Paying For Copies — How They Paid Secondary Special Sub-Agent In Charge Maggie Phillips $114.48 To Watch Me Photograph Four Dollars Worth Of Records With My Phone

Good day, friends, and welcome to the backstory of a post I have not written yet. You see, on Thursday1 I rode various buses and trains up to 888 S. Figueroa Street to visit the office of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for the limited purpose of inspecting some records. Here before you is the story of the inspection, and although I will certainly be writing the story told by the records themselves, today is not the day for that. You can look at them here on Archive.Org, though, and they are certainly worth your time.

It all started on October 26 when I emailed PublicRecords@abc.ca.gov with my request. On November 14, an amazingly prompt 18 days later, Stephanie Eastwood (stephanie.eastwood@abc.ca.gov), who is some kind of ABC CPRA specialist, told me that there were 152 pages of responsive records and that I had to go to an ABC office to look at them. It may be worth looking at her email, if only to note that she doesn’t sign her last name, a fact which will become interesting later in the story.

I told her that LA Metro was closest and that I would need to use my scanner. I also pointed out that they could just give me exported electronic copies for free, which is required by the CPRA.2
Then she ignored me for a couple weeks3 and, when she responded, her email contained the remarkable claim that ABC’s email system was so old that it “does not use electronic files.” She also told me that according to most high and mighty special agent in charge Gerry Sanchez, there was no “secure area” at LA Metro to use my scanner but that if I went to the Long Beach office I could scan.

However, Long Beach is too far from me, both geographically and emotionally, so I told her LA Metro was best and I would just take pix with my phone. Then she said OK, I could come in on December 4.4 I told her that I couldn’t, that I had to work, and that I would be in on December 6 at 10 a.m. and could she confirm? Note that the CPRA explicitly states that records must be available during office hours for inspection.5

After more nudging, Stephanie Eastwood finally got back to me on December 4, informing me that I couldn’t come in on December 6 because ABC-agent-to-the-stars in charge Gerry Sanchez wasn’t available and I would have to come in on December 13 instead.6 I told her7 that I had to work on the 13th. I also pointed out, again, that the law required records to be available during office hours, not at the random convenience of SSAC Gerry Sanchez, superstar.8 It only took her five hours to concede to that one,9 which is how I found myself at the ABC LA Metro office at 10 a.m. on Thursday. And here my troubles began.
Continue reading This Is What Feral Bureaucracy Looks Like — My Epic Journey To The Dept Of Alcoholic Beverage Control To Inspect Records — How I Got Illegally Asked For ID — How I Got Menaced By Gun-Carrying Super Special Agent In Charge Gerry Sanchez — Who By The Way Is A Liar — How I Got Told To Show Some Respect — How ABC Tried To Extort Me Into Paying For Copies — How They Paid Secondary Special Sub-Agent In Charge Maggie Phillips $114.48 To Watch Me Photograph Four Dollars Worth Of Records With My Phone

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Gil Cedillo has a Private Email Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And Our Friends At The Hollywood Sunshine Coalition Have Made A Request For The Emails! — Evidently CD1 Staff Believes There Is A CPRA Exemption Which Allows Them To Redact This Secret Email Address! — Pro-Tip — There Is Not

Man, it is top-secret Councilmember email address season in the City of Angels! We are in the midst of a veritable top-secret-email-address-a-palooza round here! First there were a bunch of politicians from somewhere east of San Bernardino, don’t exactly recall their names.1 And then there was Mitch O’Freaking Farrell, revealed by this very blog in a hard-hitting piece of hard-newsical investigative reportitude to be corresponding with all and sundry members of the 0.1% out of the public view using a Gmail account at mitchof13@gmail.com.2

And now, this very day, it’s my pleasure to reveal unto you that Gil Cedillo of CD1 is the second Councilmember that we know of using a secret Gmail address to conduct City business. This was discovered by accident, lurking in this email chain between famous Los Angeles artist Frank Romero, who CD1 has evidently hired to paint a mural in Highland Park, probably as an attempt to resolve their unbearable shame and guilt.3

The content of the emails is interesting. It seems that as part of the mural project Frank Romero rented a studio from Lincoln Heights supervillain Eric Ortiz, big-time Lincoln Heights storage honcho and, probably not coincidentally, vice president of the Lincoln Heights Industrial Zone BID. Then Eric Ortiz cheated Frank Romero somehow, which is only to be expected cause how does anyone think zillionaires get to be zillionaires, anyway?4 And then Frank Romero, who signs his emails “yours in the struggle,” asked Gil Cedillo to intercede.

We don’t know the end of the story, and we may never know the end of the story, but for our purposes, the real story is that Frank Romero sent his emails to Gil at gilcedillo45@gmail.com, which is the newly discovered secret email address! And then Gil Cedillo forwarded Frank Romero’s emails to his chief of staff at debby.kim@lacity.org for her to deal with, which proves that it’s City business being conducted. As you’re no doubt aware, in California it’s the content and purpose of emails that makes them public records rather than who owns the account. Thus these emails are public records.

And interestingly, Gil Cedillo’s staff redacted some instances of this newly-found secret email address but, fortunately, not all of them. This is discussed, with pictures, after the break. Also, our good friends at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition, who are pushing hard on CD13 for copies of Mitch O’Farrell’s secret emails, have made a request to CD1 for these other secret emails. There is also a transcription of that after the break.
Continue reading Gil Cedillo has a Private Email Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And Our Friends At The Hollywood Sunshine Coalition Have Made A Request For The Emails! — Evidently CD1 Staff Believes There Is A CPRA Exemption Which Allows Them To Redact This Secret Email Address! — Pro-Tip — There Is Not

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Greater Leimert Park Village BID Sued In Order To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — It’s Another One That Just Won’t Even Respond — How Freaking Hard Can It Be?

Take a look at this CPRA petition against the Greater Leimert Park Village BID. It is the latest in a fairly long series of complaints I’ve been forced to file not because the BID is illegally withholding records, not because they’re putting me off and putting me off, not because they’re implementing a lot of chuckleheaded Humistonian delay tactics, but just because they simply do not respond at all. You can read a transcription of selections from the petition after the break.

In short, though, this BID is of interest for two overarching reasons.1 First, and least, because it’s in the process of renewing, a process which is both fascinating and important. BID renewal has interesting intersections with the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance and other core political issues. Everything about it is important. By ignoring my CPRA requests the Leimert Park Village BID is obstructing our increased understanding of this essential process in the lives of our BIDs.

Second, and more importantly, as everyone knows, Leimert Park is presently undergoing lightspeed and brutal gentrification. This, in turn, is related to City Attorney Mike Feuer’s putative gang crackdown at Baldwin Village Apartments. It’s well known that the City uses these actions as a way to make neighborhoods feel safer for white residents and thereby encourages and supports gentrification.

Business improvement districts have been active agents for gentrification in Hollywood, Downtown, in Venice, and probably elsewhere. Thus the question of whether the Leimert Park Village BID is involved at all in this process is inherently interesting. Even the fact that they’re not involved, if true, would be of great public interest.

And yet, by refusing to respond at all to my queries, the BID is thwarting the public’s ability to understand these weighty matters. But of course, there’s nothing surprising here. This, it seems, is just one of the things that BIDdies in LA do. Stay tuned for further info and turn the page for transcribed selections from the petition.
Continue reading Greater Leimert Park Village BID Sued In Order To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — It’s Another One That Just Won’t Even Respond — How Freaking Hard Can It Be?

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Mitch O’Farrell Has A Private Gmail Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And His Chief Of Staff, Jeanne Min, Refuses To Release All Emails From This Account — Insists That There Is More Public Interest In Withholding Them — But No One Actually Believes That — Probably Not Even Her

In the last few years a number of public officials have been criticized extensively1 for using privately controlled email accounts to conduct public business. Hillary Clinton was famously investigated by the FBI for this. And just yesterday it was revealed that Ivanka Trump has done the same thing. Thus we were fascinated to learn recently that CD13’s own Mitch O’Farrell also uses a privately owned Gmail account, mitchof13@gmail.com, to conduct City business and, doubtless, to evade scrutiny.

This was discovered recently by our friends at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition, who passed us the material on which this post is based. And this revelation settles a big mystery. As you know, I personally have obtained many thousands of pages of emails from CD13 on any number of subjects, and there are never any at all from O’Farrell himself. Previously I had thought that either Dan Halden, who handled most of my requests, was purposely omitting emails from his boss or else that O’Farrell was communicating in ways that didn’t leave traces, like phone calls. Now it seems likely that he has been evading scrutiny by using this secret email address.

The HSC has been making public records act requests for emails from this account. There are two ways to approach this. The first, and so far the only successful, way is to find correspondents who are subject to the CPRA and ask them for emails involving O’Farrell’s secret email address. This led to request number 18-2976 on the City’s newish CPRA platform, which is called Nextrequest.2 For some reason the City has made the request page available for public view but not the records provided. They turned over 21 highly duplicative PDF pages of emails between O’Farrell and various officers and, interestingly, some members of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. You can read these 21 pages here. Apparently the HSC has other such requests pending.

But the HSC’s other strategy has turned to be much more interesting, even though it hasn’t gotten them any actual records yet. It’s based on last year’s absolutely monumental California Supreme Court opinion in City of San Jose v. Superior Court, which found that the emails and text messages of public officials are subject to the CPRA even if they are held in private accounts.

Based on this principle, on November 7 the HSC sent this CPRA request to CD13, asking for all emails held in the account from July 1, 2013 through the present.3 And yesterday, probably unsurprisingly, O’Farrell’s chief of staff, Jeanne Min, replied with the usual mush-mouthed nonsense, the TL;DR of which is “fuck you no records.” The HSC responded pretty scathingly, and then responded again for good measure. They’ve promised to keep me in the loop with respect to further developments. After the break you can find transcriptions of most of these emails along with some technical discussion of the CPRA issues implicated.

Meanwhile I’m told by those who ought to know that the HSC will not drop this request and that they are prepared to litigate if necessary. We’ll see what happens, I guess. Whatever happens, it’s clear that the public interest is very much against allowing Mitch O’Farrell to get away with maintaining this secret side channel for communicating with his favored few and with secreting emails away from public scrutiny and the City’s record retention policies.
Continue reading Mitch O’Farrell Has A Private Gmail Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And His Chief Of Staff, Jeanne Min, Refuses To Release All Emails From This Account — Insists That There Is More Public Interest In Withholding Them — But No One Actually Believes That — Probably Not Even Her

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Pyschopathic Rageball George Yu Was Nowhere To Be Seen — Neither Was Anyone Else From The Damn BID — Chinatown BID Completely Skips Yesterday’s Court Hearing — What Are They Thinking? — These Things Don’t Just Go Away On Their Own — Don’t Grownups Know That?

So you might recall that in August Katherine McNenny and I were forced by the unhinged intransigence of psychopathic rageball George Yu of the Chinatown BID to file a writ petition asking that the court compel him and his thuggish little weirdo henchies in the BID to obey the freaking law and hand over the records we asked for. And then you might recall that in September he and his damnable minions failed to even answer the petition.

Well, yesterday was the trial setting conference, way up north in the Stanley Mosk courthouse, in good old Department 86.1 And the Chinatown BID didn’t change up its strategy at all. No one showed up. Neither George Yu nor minion nor henchie nor lawyer nor counselor nor advocate nor consigliere. Just nobody. And did the judge do anything to them? Punish them in any way for their continued failure to respond? Nope. He continued the hearing until December 26. If they don’t get in trouble, how are they ever gonna learn? I guess we’ll find out.2
Continue reading Pyschopathic Rageball George Yu Was Nowhere To Be Seen — Neither Was Anyone Else From The Damn BID — Chinatown BID Completely Skips Yesterday’s Court Hearing — What Are They Thinking? — These Things Don’t Just Go Away On Their Own — Don’t Grownups Know That?

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Fashion District BID Lawsuit — Motion Filed To Compel BID To Explain Just What The Heck They Were Talking About When They Claimed All Those Exemptions — Carol Humiston Says “No Way — You Can’t Make Us Tell You” — Hearing Scheduled For November 16 At 9:30 AM

In August I had to file suit against the Fashion District BID to compel them to comply with the California Public Records Act. One of the main issues in the suit is a bunch of various really implausible exemption claims by FDBID executive director Rena Leddy. Now, it’s well understood that the burden of proving that an exemption claim allows a record to be withheld lies entirely on the withholding agency. The CPRA says explicitly at §6255(a) 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.

At the time that Leddy denied my requests I asked her to justify her decisions to withhold but she refused to do so even though the law clearly requires it.1 But it sure is hard to dispute the BID’s exemption claims if no one knows what the heck they’re basing them on and they won’t explain. My lawyer asked Carol Humiston, the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, if she’d mind listing all the withheld records and explaining why the BID withheld them.2 You can read his email here.

But Humiston, who’s not only the angriest but also pretty much tied for first place as the most obstructionist,3 wasn’t having it. Here’s what she had to say for herself in this email here:

I have considered your request for a “Vaughn Index,” which of course in
[sic] a Federal procedure, and I do not believe it is either necessary or appropriate at this time. I know of nothing that requires the BID to produce such an index. Once you have filed your brief in support of the Writ, the Court and I will have a better understanding of the issues you are raising and the appropriate course to take.

So we filed a motion asking the judge to compel the BID to produce a list of all withheld emails. This motion will be heard on November 16, 2018 at the trial setting conference at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Department 86 before the Honorable Amy Hogue. There’s a transcription of the motion after the break.
Continue reading Fashion District BID Lawsuit — Motion Filed To Compel BID To Explain Just What The Heck They Were Talking About When They Claimed All Those Exemptions — Carol Humiston Says “No Way — You Can’t Make Us Tell You” — Hearing Scheduled For November 16 At 9:30 AM

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Fashion District BID Files Timely Response To My Writ Petition — Denies Everything — World’s Angriest CPRA Lawyer Carol Humiston Handling Matters For Them — Trial Setting Conference On November 16, 2018 At 9:30 AM In Department 86 — Stanley Mosk Courthouse

So you’ll remember possibly that in August I was forced by their unhinged intransigence to file a writ petition against the Fashion Freaking District BID asking a judge to boss them about until they began to comply with their statutorily mandated duties under the California Public Records Act. Well, it seems they’re not going to go quietly into that good night, so they went out and hired themselves the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, which is to say Carol Freaking Humiston of Bradley & Freaking Gmelich, and she went and filed a timely response to my petition.

And you can read the damn thing by clicking here if you want to. But I have to say, as much as I enjoy reading legal pleadings of all varieties and subject matters, these replies leave me cold. Take a look and you’ll see. They deny everything, but they don’t even say what they’re denying. It’s all like “As to the allegations in paragraph 17, we deny the first three, state that the fourth and the ninth require no response insofar as they assert legal conclusions, and the fifth through the seventh, even if true, do not allege a violation. Insofar as we fail to deny, thus far do we admit.”
Continue reading Fashion District BID Files Timely Response To My Writ Petition — Denies Everything — World’s Angriest CPRA Lawyer Carol Humiston Handling Matters For Them — Trial Setting Conference On November 16, 2018 At 9:30 AM In Department 86 — Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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Hollywood Media District BID, The Hapless Client Of Hapless Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs, Actually Hands Over Thirty Thousand Actual Dollars To My Lawyer As They Were Ordered To Do By The Judge! — Commemorative Mug Issued For This Historic Occasion! — Get Yours Today! — Maybe This’ll Learn Some Of His Other Clients That They Oughta Just Gimme The Damn Records — Talking To You Los Feliz Village BID, East Hollywood BID, Historic Core BID, And, Believe It Or Not, The Media District BID All Over Again

Of course you remember in July 2018 when Superior Court judge Mary Strobel splained in terms that were anything at all but uncertain to Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs that his client, the freaking Hollywood Media District BID, was going to have to pay my lawyer $30,000 in fees essentially because both they and their lawyer are a bunch of loserific morons?1

Anyway, since the ruling, Jeffrey Charles Briggs and, presumably, his clients, have been stumbling about the place not paying and mumbling semicomprehensible nonsense about how they were going to appeal, about perversions of justice,2 and so on, the upshot of all of which mumbling is that, by God, they weren’t gonna pay. But a court order is a scary, scary thing. So yesterday, September 26, 2018, they paid the damn money to my lawyer, the incomparable Colleen Flynn!

And in honor of their new-found, belated and, sadly, coerced, commitment to actually following the damn law and also to making it continue to be economically feasible for lawyers to help me encourage the City of Los Angeles and its damnable business improvement districts to actually follow the laws that regulate them, I have issued this commemorative coffee mug! Get yours today! And look at all the other mugs while you’re at the store!! And stay tuned for more BID news, as always!!
Continue reading Hollywood Media District BID, The Hapless Client Of Hapless Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs, Actually Hands Over Thirty Thousand Actual Dollars To My Lawyer As They Were Ordered To Do By The Judge! — Commemorative Mug Issued For This Historic Occasion! — Get Yours Today! — Maybe This’ll Learn Some Of His Other Clients That They Oughta Just Gimme The Damn Records — Talking To You Los Feliz Village BID, East Hollywood BID, Historic Core BID, And, Believe It Or Not, The Media District BID All Over Again

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