Tag Archives: Carl Lambert

Venice Beach BID Still Not Operational Despite The Fact That Their Contract Was Attested More Than Two Months Ago — Mark Sokol Sent Out A Letter, Likely Ghosted By Tara Devine, Two Weeks Ago Begging For Patience And Donations And Offering A Freaking Unmonitored Email Account For Consolation!

It’s been a long, long year for the Venice Beach BID, friends. Last August they had their first hearing but due to generalized arrogance they messed up the process and so the City Attorney called a do-over, which happened last November. For undisclosed reasons it took until June of this year for their administration contract to get signed and as of today they still have not commenced operations.

And evidently the property owners are getting restless out there on the very West side, because on July 31, Mr. Venice Beach himself, Mark Sokol, sent out a letter to the property owners (transcription after the break) begging their forbearance, asking them if they had any office space to donate, and telling them they weren’t going to get any money back even if the BID didn’t start working until freaking December cause that’s the way they roll.

And if you have questions you’re welcome, according to this letter, to send them to admin@venicebeachbid.com even though, and I am not making this up, no one checks that account. Just as an aside, not in the letter, but you may have more luck with tara@venicebeachbid.com or marksokol@hotmail.com or mark@mphotel.com or carl@lambertinc.com or sheumann@sidewalkent.com. Property owners were also offered a chance to sign up for a mailing list, although signups seem to be closed now. Anyway, there’s a transcription after the break, and I’m not sure what it all means, but it seemed important to publish it.
Continue reading Venice Beach BID Still Not Operational Despite The Fact That Their Contract Was Attested More Than Two Months Ago — Mark Sokol Sent Out A Letter, Likely Ghosted By Tara Devine, Two Weeks Ago Begging For Patience And Donations And Offering A Freaking Unmonitored Email Account For Consolation!

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More Than Two Months After Its Business Improvement District Came Into Being, The Venice Beach Property Owners’ Association Has Not Yet Signed An Administration Contract With The City Of Los Angeles, But A Comparison With Other Recent BID Establishments Suggests That This May Not Mean Much

Carl Lambert, officer of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association, as he might have appeared on the cover of the late lamented Berkeley Barb which, given the parallel tragedies which have befallen both Berkeley and Venice, is kind of appropriate in a way sorta kinda..
Well, since the first of the year, I have been obsessively checking the contract search tab of the City Clerk’s Council File Management System for any sign of an agreement between the City and the Venice Beach Property Owners Association, as that criminal conspiracy between Carl Lambert and his unindicted co-conspirators Mark Sokol and Steve Heumann is known to the world, for the administration of the Venice Beach BID. The CFMS1 is an essential tool, but its built-in search engine is freaking horrible, and it seems even horribler2 when searching contracts. So the fact that no contract popped up day after day after day didn’t exactly fill me with confidence in the theory that no such contract existed.

But today, after two freaking months with no sign of it, I finally emailed the ever-helpful3 Shannon Hoppes to ask if there was a contract or not. She answered quickly and told me that there was not yet any such thing. Well, hope springs and so on. Into my head sprang joyous visions of Carl Lambert and his infernal BID-buddies Mark Sokol and Steve Heumann being so overwhelmed with the furor and pushback called into being by their infernal BID that they took their BID-ball and went home. They are being sued, their shadowy BID consultant, the Divine Ms. Tara Devine, has as shaky a grasp on the law and also on the truth and also on basic human decency as her freaking clients, and maybe the pressure was all just too much for them, mused I.

But it also occurred to me that maybe it didn’t mean anything, and it was just runna-the-mill incompetence and sloth. So I decided to check out other recent BID establishments and compare. What I found proves that, while there has been a longer than average delay between the establishment of the VBBID and the signing of the contract, it’s not an outlier, nor is it the longest such lag time among property-based BIDs established in the last few years. Thus while this at-least-two-month delay between the BID establishment may yet turn out to be a sign of good things to come with respect to this BID, for now it’s not possible to draw any conclusions at all about it. Turn the page for the technical details.
Continue reading More Than Two Months After Its Business Improvement District Came Into Being, The Venice Beach Property Owners’ Association Has Not Yet Signed An Administration Contract With The City Of Los Angeles, But A Comparison With Other Recent BID Establishments Suggests That This May Not Mean Much

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Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Seems To Get Paid About $80,000 For Establishing A BID, Which I Managed To Discover Despite The Fact That She’s So Darned Secretive

Shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine looks fate’s oncoming train straight in the eye.
There’s an unresolved problem in the application of the California Public Records Act to business improvement districts. The thing is that the Property Owners’ Associations which administer the BIDs are, in part, subject to CPRA because §36612 of the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 makes them so, stating that:

“Owners’ association” means a private nonprofit entity that is under contract with a city to administer or implement improvements, maintenance, and activities specified in the management district plan. … an owners’ association shall comply with the California Public Records Act … for all records relating to activities of the district.

The problem is that the Owners’ Association doesn’t seem to be required to comply with CPRA until it actually is under contract with the City. This, if accurate, means that the activities of the POA before the BID is approved are largely opaque to scrutiny. And this has been a severe problem in the case of the Venice Beach BID, where a number of people, not just me, have had the experience of CD11 staff,1 City Clerk staff, and even freaking Holly Wolcott herself, falsely denying that the City is involved in the BID formation process at all and telling members of the public that they should therefore seek information from shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine. Tara Devine, of course, ignores all requests for information from anyone who seems to be even a little skeptical about the benefits of BIDs.

None of this is the final word on the matter. The only reason that the legislature even made BIDs subject to CPRA is that Aaron Epstein, a brave and determined property owner, sued the living shit out of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance2 in the 1990s and the Courts determined, in a stunningly righteous decision, that BIDs were subject to both CPRA and the Brown Act. It’s quite possible, perhaps even probable, that if the courts were asked whether or not POAs were subject to CPRA before the contract was signed, they would find that they were. However, that’s not a struggle in which I presently have the resources to engage, so alternative methods of information collection are required.

Fortunately,3 Tara Devine is not a one-BID woman. See, in 2015 the South Park BID was up for renewal.4 The process of BID renewal is essentially the same as the process for BID establishment, with the huge difference that it’s carried out by a POA that’s already under contract with the City, and is thus subject to CPRA. And thus was it possible to gather surprisingly much information about how Tara Devine conducts her dangerous business!5
Continue reading Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Seems To Get Paid About $80,000 For Establishing A BID, Which I Managed To Discover Despite The Fact That She’s So Darned Secretive

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City Ethics Commission Declines to File Civil Action Against Sokol and Lambert For Campaign Contributions

Sokol, Lambert, Bonin, others.
Sokol, Lambert, Bonin, others.
Perhaps you recall that Venice Beach BID proponents Carl Lambert and Mark Sokol famously made a lot of campaign contributions to various City politicians, many of whom were responsible for voting on the BID. It’s plausible that this violates LA City ethics laws, and my colleages and I filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission on the matter. The law gives the commission 40 days to decide if they will proceed. Yesterday, 38 days after the complaint was filed, the Ethics Commission announced that it did not intend to pursue a civil action. So that happened. You can read their email after the break, but it doesn’t, and this seems proper, say much.
Continue reading City Ethics Commission Declines to File Civil Action Against Sokol and Lambert For Campaign Contributions

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Complaint Against Mark Sokol And Carl Lambert For Illegal Campaign Contributions Filed With Los Angeles City Ethics Commission; Get Your Copy Here

Heather Holt, long-suffering executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Heather Holt, long-suffering executive director of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
A couple weeks ago I published an open letter to various City politicians asking them to return shady contributions to their campaigns by shady Venice Beach Business Improvement District proponents Carl Lambert and Mark Sokol. There’s been no discernable response so far, but it’s important to remember that at least as far as I can tell the politicians didn’t actually break the law by accepting the contributions. In fact it was Sokol and Lambert who broke it by making the contributions.

The relevant laws are Section 470(c)(12)(A)(i) of the City Charter,1 which says:

The following persons shall not make a campaign contribution to any elected City official, candidate for elected City office, or City committee controlled by an elected City official or candidate: A person who bids on or submits a proposal or other response to a contract solicitation that has an anticipated value of at least $100,000 and requires approval by the City Council.

Continue reading Complaint Against Mark Sokol And Carl Lambert For Illegal Campaign Contributions Filed With Los Angeles City Ethics Commission; Get Your Copy Here

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Open Letters to Nine Los Angeles City Council Members, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Controller Ron Galperin Asking Them To Recuse From The Venice Beach BID Formation Process And To Return Tainted Donations

There aren't nearly enough pictures of Ron Galperin on this blog.
There aren’t nearly enough pictures of Ron Galperin on this blog.
You may recall that I’ve been writing about potentially illegal campaign contributions made by Venice Beach BID propenents Mark Sokol and Carl Lambert. That’s the supply side. Tonight I’m hitting up the demand side. Here are PDFs of three letters I sent this evening (all cc-ed to Mike Feuer just in case), and you can read the one to the nine sitting members of the City Council who accepted donations from Sokol and Lambert below. I hope to have a complaint in to the City Ethics Commission by the end of the week.

September 17, 2016

Honorable Los Angeles City Councilmembers Krekorian, Bonin, Harris-Dawson, Huizar, Martinez, Ryu, Price, Cedillo, and Koretz:

I am writing to urge you to recuse yourself from the upcoming vote on the Venice Beach BID ordinance of intention and from all future matters concerning Council File 16-0749.
Continue reading Open Letters to Nine Los Angeles City Council Members, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Controller Ron Galperin Asking Them To Recuse From The Venice Beach BID Formation Process And To Return Tainted Donations

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Steve Heumann, Carl Lambert, and Mark Sokol Finally Revealed By Debbie Dyner Harris to Constitute Venice Beach Property Owners Association Board Of Directors; Sokol’s Five Figure Campaign Contributions To Nine Of Fourteen Sitting Council Members Raise Ethical, Criminal Issues

Mike Bonin 2013 Campaign ad showing candidate with high-roller campaign contributors Mark Sokol and Carl Lambert.
Mike Bonin 2013 Campaign ad showing candidate with high-roller campaign contributors Mark Sokol and Carl Lambert.
I reported a couple of weeks ago that as late as two months ago, Mike Bonin aide Debbie Dyner Harris had refused to tell Becky Dennison of Venice Community Housing the names of the three members of the Board of Directors of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. Dyner Harris even sent an email to shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine asking for permission to share the names, which Devine evidently didn’t give, because Dyner Harris didn’t give up the names. Well, I’ve been asking CD11 for the names as well, and after a long three weeks, for whatever reason, Debbie Dyner Harris emailed me this morning and told me that the Board of Directors presently consists of Steve Heumann, Carl Lambert, and Mark Sokol.

Steve Heumann was not a surprise, as his name appears as agent for service of process on the POA’s registration with the State.1 But the other two are of great interest indeed. I recently wrote about how Carl Lambert’s campaign contributions to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti probably violated City campaign finance laws, but that argument wouldn’t fly if he weren’t on the Board. Since he is, I’ll be reporting him to the City Ethics Commission in the next few days.

But Mark Sokol’s case is even more fascinating. Recall that the POA has been meeting with the City about the BID at least since September 2014. Well, take a look at all of Sokol’s contributions since then. They add up to $10,750. The output of the City’s database lists each contribution separately, but here are the totals:
Continue reading Steve Heumann, Carl Lambert, and Mark Sokol Finally Revealed By Debbie Dyner Harris to Constitute Venice Beach Property Owners Association Board Of Directors; Sokol’s Five Figure Campaign Contributions To Nine Of Fourteen Sitting Council Members Raise Ethical, Criminal Issues

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Why Carl Lambert’s Contributions To The Re-Election Campaigns Of Mike Bonin And Eric Garcetti Were Probably Illegal and Should Be Refunded Immediately

Mike Bonin on August 23, 2016, earning his salary, which should be sufficient.
Mike Bonin on August 23, 2016, earning his salary, which should be sufficient.
As I reported the other day, Venice Beach BID proponent and shady illegal hotelier Carl Lambert donated $1400 to Eric Garcetti and $700 to Mike Bonin in 2015. Here is an argument that they ought to give that money back to Lambert immediately.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do. We’re all grownups here, and that’s not so much why things get done. But because it’s probably illegal for them to have accepted the money, or at least for Lambert to have contributed it. To explain why this is the case I have to talk about the campaign finance laws of the City of Los Angeles, which can make anybody’s poor head spin. So forgive me, but perhaps you’ll find it worth the trouble. The whole law is at LAMC Article 9.7, but it’s not necessary to read the whole thing.1 The section we are interested in today is LAMC 49.7.35, which covers Bidder Contribution and Fundraising Restrictions. This muni code section2 implements Section 470 of the City Charter, which covers Limitations on Campaign Contributions in City Elections.3 At Charter Section 470(a) we find this noble statement of the purpose of the whole thing:

The purpose of this section is to encourage a broader participation in the political process and to avoid corruption or the appearance of corruption in city decision making, and protect the integrity of the City’s procurement and contract processes by placing limits on the amount any person may contribute or otherwise cause to be available to candidates for election to the offices of Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and City Council and promote accountability to the public by requiring disclosure of campaign activities and imposing other campaign restrictions.

Now, it is a fundamental principle in the American legal system that actions can only be illegal if there is an explicit statutory statement that they are illegal. Otherwise they’re legal. So while this statement of purpose has some force, mostly as a guide to interpreting the salient laws, it doesn’t in itself make anything illegal. Obviously Carl Lambert’s contributions to Garcetti and Bonin create the appearance of corruption in city decision making, but if that were sufficient to trigger a criminal prosecution then pretty much every donor to every incumbent candidate would have to be locked up.4 Thus we have to look to the parts of the law that implement this statement of purpose.

The Charter Section that we are interested in here is 470(c)(12)(B), which states in pertinent part5 that:

The following persons shall not make a campaign contribution to the Mayor, the City Attorney, the Controller, a City Council member, a candidate for any of those elected City offices, or a City committee controlled by a person who holds or seeks any of those elected City offices … A person who bids on or submits a proposal or other response to a contract solicitation that has an anticipated value of at least $100,000 and requires approval by the elected City office that is held or sought by the person to whom the contribution would be given…

Let’s run through the elements of the law here to see why it’s highly plausible that it forbids Carl Lambert from making contributions to either Eric Garcetti or Mike Bonin:
Continue reading Why Carl Lambert’s Contributions To The Re-Election Campaigns Of Mike Bonin And Eric Garcetti Were Probably Illegal and Should Be Refunded Immediately

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Carl Lambert Donated The Legal Maximum of $1400 To Eric Garcetti Just One Week After Feuer Filed Complaint Against Him For Running An Illegal Hotel and Legal Max of $700 to Mike Bonin in the Midst of a Flurry of Pro-BID Activity By City Staff

At all times relevant hereto, Lambert was acting as the agent, assignee, partner, joint venturer, alter ego, representative, co-schemer, co-conspirator...and in committing the wrongful acts and omissions allege, was acting within the course and scope of that agency, assignment, partnership, joint venture, alter ego relationship, representation, scheme, conspiracy, or employment.
At all times relevant hereto, Lambert was acting as the agent, assignee, partner, joint venturer, alter ego, representative, co-schemer, co-conspirator…and in committing the wrongful acts and omissions allege, was acting within the course and scope of that agency, assignment, partnership, joint venture, alter ego relationship, representation, scheme, conspiracy, or employment.

CORRECTION: Carl Lambert’s donation to Garcetti was in June 2015 whereas the lawsuit was filed in June 2016. I’ve struck through any claims that relied on my inadvertent misreading of the relevant document and added a few words, which are underlined. We stand by our claims about the timing of Lambert’s donations to Bonin. Thanks to Gonzo Rock for pointing this out.

Carl Lambert is presently famous for two main reasons. First that Mike Feuer is suing the shit out of him because he’s a sneaky lying illegal hotel proprietor and second that he’s a vocal proponent of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District, which was approved in Council last week during a chaotic and emotional process, itself of dubious legality. Newly discovered evidence1 shows that Lambert has tried to ease his strait and narrow path through some of these thorny matters by…wait for it…giving money to politicians.

First of all, see the City Ethics Commission’s donation records for Lambert. Note that on June 24, 2015 he donated $1,400 to Eric Garcetti’s reelection campaign, which is the maximum donation allowed. Does the date sound familiar? It ought to. It was exactly one week before, on June 17, 2015, that Mike Feuer filed a complaint against Lambert for running an illegal hotel. It goes to show that good old F. Scott was on to something when he wrote about zillionaires that “They are different from you and me.” I don’t think that most non-zillionaires, on finding out that the City Attorney has just filed a damning complaint against them, would turn around and give $1,400 to the Mayor.

And it’s not just like Lambert did this all the time and the timing was coincidental. First of all, he also gave Garcetti money in 2013, when he was actually running, but he only gave him $200. Secondly, Lambert has only ever given $3,500 total to Los Angeles politicians in his life.2 This one-time, week-after-the-complaint-got-filed donation of $1,400 represents 40% of Lambert’s life-time donation total. Also note that Garcetti isn’t running for election again until 2017, so it’s not like he was actively fundraising in June of 2015.

And as if that wasn’t enough, on December 8, 2015, he turned around and gave $700 to Mike Bonin, also the legal maximum. That’s 20% of Lambert’s lifetime total right there, and Bonin also isn’t running until 2017. And as I’ve demonstrated recently, this was right in the midst of a flurry of VBBID activity, when having inspired $700 worth of warm fuzzies in Bonin’s heart couldn’t have hurt anything:
Continue reading Carl Lambert Donated The Legal Maximum of $1400 To Eric Garcetti Just One Week After Feuer Filed Complaint Against Him For Running An Illegal Hotel and Legal Max of $700 to Mike Bonin in the Midst of a Flurry of Pro-BID Activity By City Staff

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Venice Beach BID Proponents Carl Lambert and Andy Layman Are Being Sued by City of LA For AirBnB Shenanigans, We Have Copies of The Complaints!

WWJMD?
WWJMD?
It’s well-known that two of the major proponents behind the nascent Venice Beach BID, Carl Lambert and Andy Layman, are being sued by the City of Los Angeles for illegal AirBnB activities. You can see the pro-BID petitions submitted by these two dimwits here: Lambert 1Lambert 2Layman 1. By the way, if you haven’t seen them yet, the full set of pro-BID petitions is also available.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to find copies of the complaints online, and the Superior Court charges one dollar per page for PDFs, which is not within our budgetary constraints. But fortunately, the ever-helpful Mike Dundas came charging over the metaphorical hill like the metaphorical cavalry this morning and sent me copies, which I’m now making available to you:

Note that Feuer’s office filed two other complaints against illegal AirBnBers, but as they’re not BID-related, I’m not discussing them here. However, I did publish all of them on the Archive. These make interesting reading, chock-full of accusatory goodness, and are worth your time. You can read them yourself, and there are some excerpts after the break.
Continue reading Venice Beach BID Proponents Carl Lambert and Andy Layman Are Being Sued by City of LA For AirBnB Shenanigans, We Have Copies of The Complaints!

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