Tag Archives: California Public Records Act

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

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Update On The Willingness Of The California Board For Professional Engineers To Read And Consider Complaints Against Engineers Who Prepare Reports For BID Establishment — According To Boss Honcho Ric Moore They Not Only Will Read And Consider Them But He Personally Will Review And Clarify The Findings Of His Enforcement Staff — It’s Hard To Know If This Is Excellent, But It Is Way, Way, Way Better Than Nothing!

As you may know, I’ve been working on getting the California Board for Professional Engineers, which regulates the profession of engineering in California, to accept complaints against the engineers who write reports supporting BID formation. At first the Board’s position was that the preparation of such reports didn’t even constitute the practice of engineering and therefore all such complaints should be rejected a priori. After a few months of discussion, the Board seemed more entrenched than ever in this disappointing position.

However, in the last week or so, the Board, in the person of Executive Director Ric Moore, seems to have softened its position somewhat. In this email,1 Moore has made what strike me as two significant concessions:2

◈ Ric Moore stated that all complaints to the Board are read and responses reflect the actual factual allegations in the complaint.
◈ He also said that if the person filing the complaint doesn’t believe that this happened he, Ric Moore, will clarify and address the concerns.

This certainly is welcome news, and Ric Moore’s statements have had at least two immediate consequences. First, the Venice resident who filed the original complaint against BID engineer Ed Henning took Moore up on his officer to clarify and address concerns. Second, because Moore has committed his agency to reading all complaints and responding based on the factual allegations, I have determined to submit my own complaint against Ed Henning. I hope to have this done within four weeks, possibly sooner.

And I have updated this Archive.Org page with the additional emails (dated April 16 and 17, 2018). Turn the page for links to the new emails, transcriptions of all or part of the salient ones, and possibly a little more discussion of the issues.
Continue reading Update On The Willingness Of The California Board For Professional Engineers To Read And Consider Complaints Against Engineers Who Prepare Reports For BID Establishment — According To Boss Honcho Ric Moore They Not Only Will Read And Consider Them But He Personally Will Review And Clarify The Findings Of His Enforcement Staff — It’s Hard To Know If This Is Excellent, But It Is Way, Way, Way Better Than Nothing!

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The California Board For Professional Engineers Not Only Continues To Refuse To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Involved In BID Formation Even Though They Have No Written Policy To That Effect But Now, After An Initial Show Of Considering Reasonable Counterarguments To Their Unwritten Policy, Have Been Reduced To Intransigent Stalling And Clueless Unprofessional Mockery

Before a business improvement district can be formed, the Property and Business Improvement District law at §36622(b) requires that a licensed engineer prepare a report supporting the assessment methodology. At least in Los Angeles these reports are pro forma copy/paste monstrosities that are completely unrelated to any actual facts. Now, engineering in California is regulated by the Board for Professional Engineers, and one of their duties is to investigate complaints about unprofessional conduct.

So last year, after the utterly despicably disheartening process of approving the Venice Beach BID came to its tragic end, a resident, fed up with the nonsense promulgated by civil engineer Ed Henning in his report,1 filed a complaint against him with the Board. Amazingly, his complaint was closed unread because, as he was told in a letter by Jackie Lowe, the enforcement analyst who wrote to him, the Board does not consider the preparation of engineer’s reports for business improvement districts to constitute the practice of engineering.

They claim that it’s not within their jurisdiction and, in her letter announcing the close of the investigation, Jackie Lowe told the complainant that “Historically, our Board has deemed these “tax assessment” reports not civil engineering work.” This struck me as being reflective of a Board policy, which was so unexpected that after learning of it I sent a CPRA request to the Board asking for records related to this policy decision.2 After all, if there’s a policy, it ought to be written down so that it can be analyzed and, if appropriate, disputed.

After they ignored me for a long time, their enforcement manager Tiffany Criswell answered and propounded the usual line of nonsense about why they weren’t going to fulfill my request.3 Furthermore, she informed me that there was no written policy stating that the preparation of these engineering reports didn’t constitute the practice of engineering.

Basically she claimed that the Professional Engineers Act, which is the establishing law for the Board, forbade them from investigating anything which wasn’t explicitly defined in the law as the practice of engineering. She seemed to claim that creating a policy was forbidden. That they had to work only from the language of the law.4 I argued that it was pretty clear from the language of the Act that preparing engineer’s reports for BIDs constituted the practice of engineering as described in the Act. Strangely, she seemed to actually listen to my argument. She told me that she would look into it and get back to me.

And listen, when disputing anything at all with a government agency at any level, this counts as a win. So I waited. Heard nothing. Asked what’s up. She said later. Waited. Asked what’s up. She ignored me. Waited. Asked what’s up and CC-ed her boss, the inimitable Mr. Ric Moore. He flipped out and wrote me a weirdly sarcastic email full of malcriado scare quotes and other instances of bitterly bureaucratic sarcasm.

This email convinced me that, even though every aspect of the process remains unresolved, it’s time to publicize matters. Hence this post. The discussion is unavoidably technical, which is why the details are after the break, along with links to and transcriptions of most of the emails involved. As I said in the footnotes already, though, all the emails are available here on Archive.Org.
Continue reading The California Board For Professional Engineers Not Only Continues To Refuse To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Involved In BID Formation Even Though They Have No Written Policy To That Effect But Now, After An Initial Show Of Considering Reasonable Counterarguments To Their Unwritten Policy, Have Been Reduced To Intransigent Stalling And Clueless Unprofessional Mockery

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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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More Eye-Poppingly Implausible Deliberative Process Exemption Claims By Attorney Briggs, BID-Addled Self-Proclaimed 36th Level Shaolin Black Belt CPRA-Fu Master — Not!

Recently, first on February 8, 2018 and then again on February 17, 2018, I’ve published some sets of emails for which self-proclaimed Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs had at some point in the past claimed were exempt from production via the California Public Records Act due to the half-delusional common law principle known to the zillionaire elite and their minions as the Deliberative Process Exemption.

Both of those sets of documents were collateral fallout from an almost-concluded writ petition I was forced by Briggs’s bizarro intransigence to file against his client, the Hollywood Media District. Today, though, I have yet another set, this batch from the East Hollywood BID. They are also a client of Briggs, moved not only to bizarro intransigence but to a freaking intransigential paradigm shift by Briggs’s newly emboldened stance against simple compliance with the law.1

There are two quite distinct parts to this story. First, there are the actual emails that Briggs Esq. claimed to be exempt. Along with those goes much more than a modicum of mockery. Second, there’s the story of the CPRA request itself and how Attorney Briggs cannot for the freaking life of him just tell his client to follow the damn law because it’s easier for everyone in the long run. Turn the page for an obsessively detailed discussion of the first part.2
Continue reading More Eye-Poppingly Implausible Deliberative Process Exemption Claims By Attorney Briggs, BID-Addled Self-Proclaimed 36th Level Shaolin Black Belt CPRA-Fu Master — Not!

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An Unforced Error By Self-Proclaimed Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs Provides Unique Insight Into The Thoroughly Cynical, Thoroughly Bogus Nature Of BIDs’ Use Of The Deliberative Process Exemption To The California Public Records Act — They Even Used It In One Case To Cover Up A Blatant Brown Act Violation

One of the biggest flaws in California’s Public Records Act is that the various local agencies that constitute our government are trusted to search their own records, decide without oversight what’s responsive to requests and, worst of all, decide what’s exempt from production. My general feeling about BIDs and record searches is that they purposely don’t find everything, about their exemption claims that they’re mostly lying.

Unfortunately, without a lawsuit, it’s not realistically possible to get a look at records for which they’ve claimed exemptions.1 Hence it’s not usually possible to check how closely this feeling corresponds to reality. However, due to an interesting confluence of events, I recently obtained a number of emails between various people at the Hollywood Media District BID for which their lawyer, Jeffrey Charles Briggs,2 had claimed exemptions, thus making it possible to compare his claims with the actual records. Unsurprisingly the exemption claims turned out to be 99\frac{44}{100}\% pure and unadulterated nonsense. You can find the emails and some analysis after the break, but first I’m going to ramble on a little about some tangentially related issues.

Like many policies, this default assumption of honesty on the part of local agencies no doubt works when it works, but when it comes to the BIDs of Los Angeles, who are staffed, for the most part, with the most unscrupulous bunch of pusillanimous chiselers ever to engorge their bloated reeking tummies at the public piggie trough, it doesn’t work at all.3 They lie, they confabulate, they delude themselves and others, and generally display utter and overweening contempt for the rule of law.4

And nowhere does their misbehavior reach a more fevered pitch than in the use of the so-called “deliberative process” exemption to the CPRA. In short, this is an exemption that courts have built up out of the “catch-all” exemption to CPRA, found at §6255(a), which says:
Continue reading An Unforced Error By Self-Proclaimed Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs Provides Unique Insight Into The Thoroughly Cynical, Thoroughly Bogus Nature Of BIDs’ Use Of The Deliberative Process Exemption To The California Public Records Act — They Even Used It In One Case To Cover Up A Blatant Brown Act Violation

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Venice Beach BID To Hold First Public Meeting On Friday, January 5, Inaugurating Both A Quantum Freaking Leap And A Sea Freaking Change In The Illegal Freaking Bullshitization Of Venice — Please Attend And Tell These Shameless, Already-Being-Sued, Law-Flouting Creeps What You Think Of Their Nonsense — Also, If You’re Able To Film The Meeting, Please Do So!

Perhaps you recall that the infamous Venice Beach Business Improvement District has been nonoperational for an entire year after the second-time’s-a-charm reapproval by City Council, whose blindingly arrogant indifference to both law and decency necessitated this expensive and amateurish do-over.

Well, they’re operational now, friends! Yesterday morning the VBBID CEO, AKA President-For-Life Tara Devine, transmitted in interstate commerce1 an announcement of the BID’s first-ever meeting. Here are the documents involved:

The meeting is on Friday morning at 10 a.m. If you’re able and willing to attend and film the entire meeting, which is your absolute right under the Brown Act, please do so, as various prior commitments prevent me from attending. If you’d like some tips on how to film Brown Act meetings effectively, please get in touch!

Meanwhile, turn the page for a critical analysis of selections from these woefully deficient documents as well as some special bonus info on how and why President Tara Devine and her co-conspirators are so arrogantly outlaw.
Continue reading Venice Beach BID To Hold First Public Meeting On Friday, January 5, Inaugurating Both A Quantum Freaking Leap And A Sea Freaking Change In The Illegal Freaking Bullshitization Of Venice — Please Attend And Tell These Shameless, Already-Being-Sued, Law-Flouting Creeps What You Think Of Their Nonsense — Also, If You’re Able To Film The Meeting, Please Do So!

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