Tag Archives: California Public Records Act

A Potential Solution To A Perennial Problem At The Nexus Of Los Angeles Business Improvement Districts, The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, And A Few Widely Abused Exemptions To The California Public Records Act

The life-cycle of a request for documents under the California Public Records Act goes like this: A member of the public asks to see records held by some agency. The agency has ten days1 to respond with a determination which states whether the agency has any such records and, if so, when the agency will be ready to hand them over.2 In general agencies are required to produce all requested records.

However, CPRA lists certain classes of records which are exempt from production. Some of these so-called exemptions are weirdly specific, e.g. at §6253.5 we read:

…statewide, county, city, and district initiative, referendum, and recall petitions … and all memoranda prepared by the county elections officials in the examination of the petitions indicating which registered voters have signed particular petitions shall not be deemed to be public records…

One of the two most important sections of CPRA with respect to exemptions is found at §6254, which consists of innumerable sections, each listing an exemption or a broad class of exemptions. And as completely in favor of absolute government transparency as I am, it’s clear that at least some of these are absolutely justified. For instance, §6254(r) exempts:

Records of Native American graves, cemeteries, and sacred places and records of Native American places, features, and objects … maintained by, or in the possession of, the Native American Heritage Commission, another state agency, or a local agency.

And there are sections which exempt such things as reports on vulnerabilities to terrorism, library circulation records, certain financial data that people are required by law to submit, and so on. These are mostly noncontroversial. Others, however, are much less defensible, at least as applied.
Continue reading A Potential Solution To A Perennial Problem At The Nexus Of Los Angeles Business Improvement Districts, The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, And A Few Widely Abused Exemptions To The California Public Records Act

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The LA CAN & Catholic Worker Lawsuit Has Cost The Central City East Association At Least $115,000 In Legal Fees And Costs (And How It Took Me Two Months Of Hardcore CPRAfaction To Discover This Fact)

Around these parts we refer to the California Public Records Act as CPRA, pronounced SIP-rah. The methodologies and practicalities of using CPRA are known as CPRAfaction, pronounced SIP-rah-faction.

You may recall that in March, the Central City East Association settled the momentous lawsuit brought against it by the Los Angeles Community Action Network and LA Catholic Worker.1 This was mere months after beloved Los Angeles gadfly Eric Preven and the incomparable ACLU of Southern California won a momentous decision in the California Supreme Court, which ruled essentially that once a legal case was finished the legal privilege exemption to CPRA2 no longer applied. No coincidences around here! So I fired off an email to Estela Lopez as follows:

Good afternoon, Estela, and happy Palm Sunday.

And congratulations on settling that 2014 lawsuit, namely LACW et al. v. Downtown Industrial District BID et al. (2:14-cv-07344-PSG-AJW). I would like to look at copies of all bills from all lawyers who worked for the CCEA on this case.

For the sake of efficiency, and in case you’re not already aware aware of this, here’s a link to an LA Times story on the recent Supreme Court decision declaring that once a case is resolved the bills become public records:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-court-legal-bills-20161229-story.html

As you can imagine, there was a lot of back-and-forth, with her mostly refusing to hand over the legal bills, until this afternoon, when she did hand them over. The full story of that, with bunches of emails and also a reasonable amount of CPRA nerdview, can be found after the break if you’re interested.

But here are the actual bills to CCEA from their lawyers, Hill, Farrer, & Burrill. I spent a little time adding up the totals and their total legal bills, costs and fees, seem to have come to $89,782.54 over the last three years. Add this to the $25,000 they agreed to pay the plaintiffs in the settlement agreement and their whole bill comes to $114,782.54. This is over slightly less than three years, and the BID’s annual budget is roughly $2,000,000, so it’s relatively not that much.

According to Estela Lopez in 2015 there are more than 2000 homeless human beings living in the CCEA’s territory. Thus this lawsuit cost them a little more than $57 per potential harassment victim. I’m sure this seems cheap at the price. Anyway, that’s the substantive information. Turn the page for the story of how I got my hands on it!
Continue reading The LA CAN & Catholic Worker Lawsuit Has Cost The Central City East Association At Least $115,000 In Legal Fees And Costs (And How It Took Me Two Months Of Hardcore CPRAfaction To Discover This Fact)

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The Fascinating Story Of How It Took Three Months And A Demand Letter From An Attorney To Get Rena Leddy To Disclose That The Fashion District BID Is Paying Steve Gibson Of Urban Place Consulting $215 Per Hour For BID Renewal Consulting, Which Is Less Than Larry Kosmont Gets But More Than Ed Henning

Late last year it occurred to me that BID consultants, who help BIDs with the City processes necessary to establish or renew a BID, are essentially engaging in lobbying activity as defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance at LAMC §48.02 and yet none of them1 seemed to be registered with the Ethics Commission as required by LAMC §48.07(A).

I then spent months piecing together over 100 pages of evidence to show that BID consultant Tara Devine had violated this law. Subsequently it occurred to me that the contracts that the consultants sign with BIDs would provide essential evidence that they’d been acting as lobbyists, so I determined to request these from many renewing BIDs. This led me to the discovery, thanks to the incomparable Laurie Hughes of the Gateway to LA BID, that GTLA’s BID consultant, Larry Kosmont, actually was registered as a lobbyist and had disclosed his BID consultancy as lobbying in his required reporting. The San Pedro BID is also up for renewal, and has recently released a fairly complete set of BID renewal records.

This brings us to the Fashion District. On February 21, 2017 I emailed Rena Leddy to request, among other material:

… all records associated with the renewal process, including but not limited to communications between the BID and the consultant and/or the engineer, contracts with and invoices from the consultant or the engineer, materials prepared by the consultant or the engineer for the renewal process, databases and mailing lists prepared or used by the consultant or the engineer, and also any communications between the consultant and the engineer that aren’t already responsive to the first part of this request.

The story of what happened after that stretched out over three months and generated many many megabytes of discussion. Read on for a (far too) detailed and exceedingly well-documented narrative recounting, complete with a happy, happy ending!
Continue reading The Fascinating Story Of How It Took Three Months And A Demand Letter From An Attorney To Get Rena Leddy To Disclose That The Fashion District BID Is Paying Steve Gibson Of Urban Place Consulting $215 Per Hour For BID Renewal Consulting, Which Is Less Than Larry Kosmont Gets But More Than Ed Henning

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More than 200 MB Of New Hand-Scanned Documents From Figueroa Corridor BID and North Hollywood BID, Heavily Redacted For No Discernable Reason, But Interesting Nevertheless!

For the last few months I’ve been posting a lot of records from:

But I haven’t discussed the fact that these releases weren’t complete. In each case, Aaron Aulenta of Urban Place Consulting, who seems to be in charge of both of these BIDs, claimed numerous exemptions to the Public Record Act and told me that there was a bunch of material that he was printing out and redacting by hand on the basis of these exemptions.

Well, for various reasons I wasn’t able to get over to the offices of the FCBID to look at this stuff until Tuesday. Aaron Aulenta was kind enough to let me scan it instead of paying the usual outrageous copying fees that BIDdies habitually claim to be allowed to collect, and, after some minimal processing, I’m pleased to announce that it’s now available on Archive.Org. There’s some pretty interesting stuff in there, but it turns out that in this case the most interesting stuff is what’s not in there.

That is to say, the most interesting aspect of this release is what Aaron Aulenta thought that he was justified in redacting. Perhaps you recall that the California Public Records Act only allows for material to be redacted or withheld if one or more of the explicit enumerated exemptions to be found in the statute applies. There’s one exception to this principle, to be found in the infamous §6255(a), which states:

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.

As you can imagine, BIDdies1 freaking love this last bit. It’s the most abused section of the law, with BIDdies, stoned out of their minds on white privilege and steeped in their delusional2 theory that laws are written and enforced for no better reason than to preserve and augment their power and wealth, claiming randomly that pretty much any piece of information they feel might embarrass them or their lackeys is exempt under this so-called public interest exemption.

For your future reference, there are at least two dispositive signs that this clause is being misused. First, they will refuse to state what public interest they feel is clearly being served by their withholding of the information. You’ll note that the law requires them to make this judgment on the particular facts of the case, which do not, can not, include a vague wave of the hand towards a claim of “I don’t heart that.”

Second, they will state semantically empty summary phrases which purport to refer to actual exemptions but, in fact, do not. Aaron Aulenta’s favorite of these seems to be “the benefit does not outweigh the burden.” It’s not exactly clear what the hell he’s thinking when he says this, and getting my hands on all these redacted documents has made it less rather than more clear, as you will see from the specific examples to be found after the break.
Continue reading More than 200 MB Of New Hand-Scanned Documents From Figueroa Corridor BID and North Hollywood BID, Heavily Redacted For No Discernable Reason, But Interesting Nevertheless!

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In Yet Another Example Of Disdain For The California Constitution, LAPD Internal Affairs Finds “Insufficient Evidence” To Pursue CPRA-Based Complaint Against LAPD Discovery, Leaving ACLU’s April 2017 Lawsuit As Current Best Hope For Reform

Maybe you remember that last October I complained to LAPD Internal Affairs about the fact that the LAPD Discovery Unit, which handles Public Records Act requests, was unbelievably, flamboyantly, egregiously, astonishingly remiss in their legal duty to provide requested records promptly. They routinely take more than 18 months to handle requests if they handle them at all.

The complaint was based on the theory that, since compliance with the Public Records Act is a fundamental constitutional right in California, and since Reverence for the Law is one of the LAPD’s core values, someone in the chain of command ought to be held responsible for LAPD’s flouting of this fundamental constitutional right. Well, a few weeks ago I received a determination letter from Internal Affairs on my complaint. They found sadly, that there was Insufficient Evidence to Adjudicate. So much for that theory!

Of course, the LAPD has a long and ultimately twisted relationship with both the Constitution of the United States and with the Constitution of California, from the depths of unrecorded history to 1923’s Liberty Hill Strike to the Consent Decree imposed by the Justice Department in response to innumerable instances of appalling misconduct to the long list of killings of unarmed people in the first decades of the 21st Century.
Continue reading In Yet Another Example Of Disdain For The California Constitution, LAPD Internal Affairs Finds “Insufficient Evidence” To Pursue CPRA-Based Complaint Against LAPD Discovery, Leaving ACLU’s April 2017 Lawsuit As Current Best Hope For Reform

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BIDs Benefit Immensely From Coercive Collection Of Mandatory Assessments And Complain Incessantly About Being Subject To The California Public Records Act. They Can’t Have One Without The Other, Yet Both Are Voluntary, So Why Don’t They Grow Up And Quit Whining About The Consequences Of Their Choices?

A business improvement district (BID) in Los Angeles1 is a geographical area in which the owners of commercial property are assessed an additional fee for various services that aren’t provided by the City. These fees are collected either by the City of L.A. via direct billing2 or, more usually, by the County of Los Angeles as an add-on to property tax bills.

The state law authorizing BIDs requires each BID to be administered by a property owners’ association (POA).3 In the normal course of things these organizations are conjured up by the City at the time the BID is established, although sometimes previously existing nonprofits will end up as a POA. One example of this is the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which serves as POA for the East Hollywood BID, although it predates its existence.

The law requires these POAs to be nonprofits, although it doesn’t specify what kind of nonprofit they should be. For various reasons, at least in Los Angeles, they are usually 501(c)(6) organizations. Because the City is handing over what’s essentially tax money to these POAs,4 they have a great deal of control over their activities and what they spend their money on.
Continue reading BIDs Benefit Immensely From Coercive Collection Of Mandatory Assessments And Complain Incessantly About Being Subject To The California Public Records Act. They Can’t Have One Without The Other, Yet Both Are Voluntary, So Why Don’t They Grow Up And Quit Whining About The Consequences Of Their Choices?

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November 2016 Email From Suzanne Holley To Officer Eugene Shin Confirms That The Downtown Center BID’s Security Guards Were Already Registered With The Police Commission, Proving Yet Again That Major Criminals Strictly Follow Minor Laws To Divert Attention Away From Their Serious Transgressions

Here’s a brief summary of the background: Late last year, on the basis of my complaint to the Police Commission, the City of LA resumed enforcement of LAMC 52.34 against BID security forces.1 Since then I’ve been tracking the progress of this massive project via various CPRA requests. In November 2016 the Police Commission informed all BIDs of the registration requirement. In December 2017 the Police Commission told the BIDs to quit whining and comply with the law.

Yesterday, after numerous failed attempts on her part,2 Suzanne Holley of Carol Schatzie’s baby-doll of a Downtown Center BID, sent me a bunch of emails between her staff and the LAPD. You can get all of these at Archive.Org in various useful formats.3 Amongst these was yet another copy of Eugene Shin’s email to all BIDs directing them to get their security patrols registered with the Police Commission.

But much more interesting than that was DCBID Executive Directrix Suzanne Holley’s response, sent precisely 59 minutes later, informing Eugene Shin that…well, I’ll let Suzanne Holley tell you in her own words, right after the break!
Continue reading November 2016 Email From Suzanne Holley To Officer Eugene Shin Confirms That The Downtown Center BID’s Security Guards Were Already Registered With The Police Commission, Proving Yet Again That Major Criminals Strictly Follow Minor Laws To Divert Attention Away From Their Serious Transgressions

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Saturday Morning Document Dump! Skid Row Neighborhood Council Conspiracy, Beaucoup De Bylaws, Form 990s Galore, Emails, Emails, Emails, And More, More, More! Larchmont Village, Fashion District, Figueroa Corridor, North Hollywood!

So much new material to announce!

  • Emails from Fashion District BID about Skid Row Neighborhood Council — This is clearly the most important item I have to announce today so I’m putting it first. If you’re interested at all in how the Downtown zillionaire elite crushed the SRNC formation effort you’ll want to read this stuff. There is what appears to be new evidence about the identities of the people behind the infamous United Downtown LA front group that hired Rocky Delgadillo to write a demand letter to City Council over the SRNC, although there’s still no smoking gun. I will be writing more about this material, but it may take a few days, and I wanted to get it before you as quickly as possible.
  • Figueroa Corridor BID emails — Between the BID and the City of LA, also USC, also Securitas. Various time ranges.
  • North Hollywood BID emails — City of LA and their security provider. Various date ranges.
  • Figueroa Corridor BID tax forms — From 2013 through 2015. It’s interesting to learn here that the Figueroa Corridor BID has been “IN THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING A CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY, WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY, AND DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION POLICY.” at least since 2013, with no sign of actually producing anything. Ah, sigh.
  • North Hollywood BID tax forms — From 2013 through 2015. It’s interesting to learn here that this BID and the Figueroa Corridor BID, both of which are administered by our old friends at Urban Place Consulting, turns in copypasta from the FCBID on their tax forms. Just for instance, they too have been “IN THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING A CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY, WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY, AND DOCUMENT RETENTION AND DESTRUCTION POLICY.” at least since 2013, with no sign of actually producing anything.

And turn the page for beaucoup de bylaws and some interesting preliminary material on the privatization of public space in the San Fernando Valley. Most interestingly, there is a very rare appearance of some new material from the outlaw stronghold known to the world as the Larchmont Village BID!
Continue reading Saturday Morning Document Dump! Skid Row Neighborhood Council Conspiracy, Beaucoup De Bylaws, Form 990s Galore, Emails, Emails, Emails, And More, More, More! Larchmont Village, Fashion District, Figueroa Corridor, North Hollywood!

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We Applaud Randall Tampa’s (Weirdly) Professional Reaction To Ongoing Police Commission Registration Of BID Patrol Officers — He Thinks It’s A Good Thing For All The Right Reasons! (And 500+ More Emails From The Fashion District BID Courtesy Of Also-Highly-Professional Exec Direc Rena Masten Leddy!)

Here’s a brief summary of the background: Late last year, on the basis of my complaint to the Police Commission, the City of LA resumed enforcement of LAMC 52.34 against BID security forces.1 Since then I’ve been tracking the progress of this massive project via various CPRA requests. In November 2016 the Police Commission informed all BIDs of the registration requirement. In December 2017 the Police Commission told the BIDs to quit whining and comply with the law.

Meanwhile, the latest piece of evidence in the ongoing saga of the registration of BID Patrols with the Police Commission comes from a huge release of emails by the Fashion District BID2 These span the time from July 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017 and are mostly between BID staff and the City of Los Angeles.3

There is an awful lot to write about here, but today I just want to highlight this interesting December 2016 email from FDBID operations director Randall Tampa to Eugene Shin, who’s the Police Commission investigator who’s handling the registration project. Randall Tampa sees the bigger picture here. It’s not a loss for BIDs who want to be free of any kind of oversight by the City, but a win for higher quality governance for everyone in Los Angeles:

I totally agree and support the police commission (and you) in your efforts to assure that only qualified personnel are patrolling the streets of Los Angeles.

In his email, Randall Tampa explicitly relates this opinion to his own experience as a police officer, proving yet again that people with experience in matters usually are much saner and have much more robust insights into how to regulate them. Most of the BIDs in our fair City are run by a bunch of cop-loving wannabes4 who are essentially see City governance as some kind of bizarre role-playing game, like Zillionaires versus Homeless, or whatever, rather than as an arena where wisdom and experience are far more essential than zillionaire-itude.

True, the Fashion District BID is presently having the stuffing sued out of it in federal court for its malfeasance and illegal conspiracies with the LAPD, and rightly so. They will lose this suit if there’s justice in the world, and be forced to pay endless amounts of money, but while they’re losing that suit, while they’re criminally conspiring with the cops, at least they’re putting up a professional front. At least they’re not a fricking embarrassment to themselves and others. (Turn the page for a complete transcription of Randall Tampa’s email and some musings on the nature of evil and frontery.)
Continue reading We Applaud Randall Tampa’s (Weirdly) Professional Reaction To Ongoing Police Commission Registration Of BID Patrol Officers — He Thinks It’s A Good Thing For All The Right Reasons! (And 500+ More Emails From The Fashion District BID Courtesy Of Also-Highly-Professional Exec Direc Rena Masten Leddy!)

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Don Duckworth, Executive Director Of The Westchester BID, Doesn’t Like Negative Obstacle-Creating Problem-Looking-For City Clerk BID Analyst Rick Scott One Little Bit, Asks Miranda Paster To Replace Him With Far More Congenial Bicycling BID Buddy Eugene Van Cise To Benefit Everybody’s Life (And That’s Just One Of 300+ Emails Now Available!)

Just yesterday, Mr. Don Duckworth of the Westchester Town Center BID sent me a big steaming heap of emails, comprising the BID’s correspondence with the City of Los Angeles for 2016.1 I am here to tell you, there is a ton of good stuff in there! This is very, very exciting! I will be writing about items from this release for a good while to come, and the City Ethics Commission is going to be hearing about a whole lot of it as well! But this evening, in addition to this general announcement that the material is available, I want to share a gossipy little item from January 2016, which has its locus classicus right here in this email from Don Duckworth to Miranda Paster.

It seems that WTCBID Boss Man Duckworth wasn’t too happy with BID Analyst Rick Scott, felt that he “approaches me and our work in administering the Westchester Town Center BID in a very negative manner.” In fact, sez Le Duckworth, “[i]t’s as if he’s looking for problems or obstacles to create that interfere with a constructive work flow.” Not only that, but, according to the Donald, “[h]e doesn’t approach our work with recommended solutions for mutual gain or a sense of team work.”

And what’s Don Duckworth’s recommended solution to this negativity and problem-slash-obstacle-seeking behaviour? Why, “[i]f it is possible to request a BID Analyst transfer to Eugene, I would like to do so.” Of course, “Eugene” is Eugene Van Cise, famous in these parts for having ridden his bike around the Gateway to LA BID inspecting their litter. No wonder Don Duckworth likes him better than Rick Scott who, as far as we know, does not do two-wheeled litter inspections of his BIDs. So turn the page for some speculation on why Donald Duckworth is so down on Rick Scott, for a transcription of the email if you’re PDF-aversive, and for a link to Miranda Paster’s reply!
Continue reading Don Duckworth, Executive Director Of The Westchester BID, Doesn’t Like Negative Obstacle-Creating Problem-Looking-For City Clerk BID Analyst Rick Scott One Little Bit, Asks Miranda Paster To Replace Him With Far More Congenial Bicycling BID Buddy Eugene Van Cise To Benefit Everybody’s Life (And That’s Just One Of 300+ Emails Now Available!)

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