Tag Archives: Los Angeles City Attorney

In 1995 The City Attorney And The Fair Political Practices Commission Both Agreed That BIDs Were Government Agencies And Their Board Members Were Public Officials Subject To The Brown Act And The CPRA — So When Aaron Epstein Sued The City And The Hollywood BID In 1999 Why Did The City Take Kerry Morrison’s Side Even Though They Already Knew Epstein Was Right? — Probably Yet Another Case Of Yielding To Her Every Damn Whim No Matter How Dire The Consequences — Ironically The Same Lawyer, Patricia Tubert, Argued Both Contradictory Sides Of The Dispute

I’ve written many times about the monumental case Epstein v. Hollywood Entertainment District BID and will, I have no doubt, write about it many more times to come. The issue in 1998 was that Hollywood property owner Aaron Epstein thought that he ought to be able to attend BID meetings whereas executive director Kerry Morrison, then at the very dawn of her BIDdological career but as characteristically secretive as ever, refused to let him in to watch his money being spent.

He sued in 1999, claiming that the BID1 was required to comply with the Brown Act by virtue of §54952(c)(1)(A), which makes an entity of the following type subject to its transparency requirements:

A board, commission, committee, or other multimember body that governs a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity that … [i]s created by the elected legislative body in order to exercise authority that may lawfully be delegated by the elected governing body to a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity.

The case yielded a monumental opinion from the Court of Appeal, dripping with sarcasm and barely disguised contempt for the weak arguments of the defendants. It’s worth reading in its entirety, or take a look here for selections. But for our purposes here it’s enough to know that both the BID, driven by Ms. Kerry Morrison and her absolute disgust at the possibility of public oversight of her publicly funded activities, and the City of Los Angeles in the person of then-deputy-City-Attorney Patricia Tubert, argued vehemently that the BID was not in any way subject to the Brown Act.

So what a surprise it was, the other day, to obtain a copy of this 1995 report from the Los Angeles City Attorney, authored by none other than Patricia Tubert, which explicitly stated that in the opinion of the City Attorney BIDs were in fact subject to the Brown Act, exactly as the Court of Appeal ruled in 2001 over the City’s objections. And attached to this report was a 1994 opinion issued by the Fair Political Practices Commission in response to an explicit request from none other than the Los Angeles City Attorney which reached precisely the same conclusion.

And not only that but both agencies agreed that BID board members are in fact public officials with respect to these laws and also subject to state prohibitions on conflicts of interest.2 So it’s really a mystery now why in 1998 when Aaron Epstein wanted to attend BID meetings the City of Los Angeles didn’t just tell Kerry Morrison and her infernal board of directors that they had to let him in. Why they spent three long and undoubtedly expensive years defending a position that they already knew to be wrong.

At this late date and because the attorney client privilege between the City and the City Attorney is doubtlessly implicated, we are probably never going to know for sure why they made the obviously wrong decision to defend an indefensible position. But if they were thinking about Kerry Morrison and her weirdo schemes back then like they are now, and why wouldn’t they have been, they wouldn’t have needed any more of a reason beyond Kerry Morrison’s request. Shameful. And harmful. But not a surprise. Turn the page for selected transcriptions.
Continue reading In 1995 The City Attorney And The Fair Political Practices Commission Both Agreed That BIDs Were Government Agencies And Their Board Members Were Public Officials Subject To The Brown Act And The CPRA — So When Aaron Epstein Sued The City And The Hollywood BID In 1999 Why Did The City Take Kerry Morrison’s Side Even Though They Already Knew Epstein Was Right? — Probably Yet Another Case Of Yielding To Her Every Damn Whim No Matter How Dire The Consequences — Ironically The Same Lawyer, Patricia Tubert, Argued Both Contradictory Sides Of The Dispute

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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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First Known Instance Of Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Involvement In BID Formation Revealed By Emails Between Rampart Neighborhood Prosecutor Andrew Said And Wilshire Center Director Mike Russell About How To Get A BID In Westlake

It’s well known in the anti-BID community that the City of Los Angeles is fully committed to the completely false story that a BIDs is formed by a spontaneous upswelling of property owners, uninfluenced by the City and completely outside of the City’s power to direct. Of course, as I said, this is a lie, and there’s plenty of evidence that it is a lie. State law not only gives the City the absolute right to determine everything BIDs do with their money but the City is not shy about exercising this right when necessary.

And there are plenty of concrete proofs that it’s actually the City of Los Angeles that creates BIDs. From then-CD13-rep Jackie Goldberg’s tireless efforts to form a BID in Hollywood in the mid 1990s to Eric Garcetti’s and Mitch O’Farrell’s almost decade-long quest to put together a BID in Echo Park to CD9 repster Curren Price’s strongarmed extortion of a South LA car dealership to get seed money for a BID along MLK Blvd. to CD11 rep Mike Bonin’s mendacious little flunky Debbie Dyner Harris’s multi-year involvement with the Venice Beach BID formation effort, the City is the motivating force, I’d venture, for every damn BID we have now and are gonna have in the future.

But every case I know of has involved the local Council District. This isn’t just my imagination, either. It’s reflected in these BID formation guidelines, published by the Los Angeles City Clerk‘s BID office, which state unequivocally that the BID formation process begins when: An individual, or a group of individuals (“proponent group”), or a Councilmember, desires to investigate the possibility of establishing a BID in a given area.

Consequently, what a surprise it was to find a set of emails between Andrew Said, who is neighborhood prosecutor for the Rampart Division, and Mike Russell, director of the Wilshire Center BID, which feature Andrew Said asking for Mr. Mike’s advice on how to start a BID in Westlake. The emails, which are part of a larger set I received yesterday,1 are available here on Archive.Org. Turn the page for transcriptions and some more discussion of what this might mean.
Continue reading First Known Instance Of Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office Involvement In BID Formation Revealed By Emails Between Rampart Neighborhood Prosecutor Andrew Said And Wilshire Center Director Mike Russell About How To Get A BID In Westlake

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Wesson, Cedillo, and Martinez Introduce Motion Instructing City Attorney To Write A Civil Rights Law Prohibiting Various Kinds Of Discrimination And Establishing A Commission To Enforce It — Demonstrating Yet Again How Our City Council Members Are Liars Even When Every Word Out Of Their Mendacious Mouths Is True

This is just a quick note to call attention to this motion, introduced in Council this morning by Herb Wesson, Gil Cedillo, and Nury Martinez (there’s a transcription of the PDF after the break). The motion, which has been assigned CF 18-0086, instructs the City Attorney with assistance from some other offices to draft a new civil rights law. The proposed law has two main parts.

First, it would prohibit “discrimination, prejudice, intolerance and bigotry that results in denial of equal treatment of any individual” and would do this by banning discrimination based on:

  • race
  • color
  • ethnicity
  • creed
  • age
  • national origin
  • citizenship status or perceived status
  • gender
  • gender identity or expression
  • sexual orientation or perceived orientation
  • disability
  • marital status
  • partnership status
  • employment status
  • source of income

in the areas of

  • employment
  • housing
  • medical services
  • businesses
  • other establishments1

Second, it would establish a new commission, to be called the Civil and Human Rights Commission, which would enforce the law. Now, I am completely opposed to all these kinds of discrimination, and, as you might have guessed, I’m completely in favor of establishing any kind of new venue for me to complain about BIDs to.2 However, as is so often the case with our City Council, things are probably not exactly what they seem to be on the surface.
Continue reading Wesson, Cedillo, and Martinez Introduce Motion Instructing City Attorney To Write A Civil Rights Law Prohibiting Various Kinds Of Discrimination And Establishing A Commission To Enforce It — Demonstrating Yet Again How Our City Council Members Are Liars Even When Every Word Out Of Their Mendacious Mouths Is True

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How I Reported Fashion District BID Executive Director Rena Leddy To The Ethics Commission For (a) Failing To Register As A Lobbyist And (b) Failing To Recuse From A DLANC Vote For Conflict Of Interest

As you may already know quite well, in the City of Los Angeles, people are required by the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance to register with the Ethics Commission if they’re compensated for 30 hours of lobbying activity over three consecutive months.1 This year I’ve been working on reporting BID consultants to the Ethics Commission for failure to comply. So far I’ve filed two complaints, both against Tara Devine, one for her work on the Venice Beach BID and another for her work on the South Park BID.

But consultants aren’t the only BID people who spend their time trying to influence municipal legislation.2 BID staff actually spend a huge amount of time on this as well, and they never ever register as lobbyists. Also, they have never, in the entire history of Los Angeles, ever been called to account for failing to register. In fact, they’ve fought vigorously against the very idea that their work is even subject to the MLO.3

Consequently I’ve been working on expanding my unregistered lobbyist reporting project to BID staff as well. I kicked off the modern era of this project4 today by filing a complaint against Rena Leddy, executive directrix of the Fashion District BID, for failing to register and also for violating conflict of interest laws. You can read the whole complaint if you wish, and there’s a detailed discussion after the break.5
Continue reading How I Reported Fashion District BID Executive Director Rena Leddy To The Ethics Commission For (a) Failing To Register As A Lobbyist And (b) Failing To Recuse From A DLANC Vote For Conflict Of Interest

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City of Los Angeles Files Unconvincing Response To Carol Sobel’s Opposition To City’s Motion For Clarification Of Judge Otero’s Preliminary Injunction Against Confiscation Of Homeless People’s Property In Skid Row, Basically Ask Court To Allow Them To Confiscate Incident To Arrest Even If There’s A Third Party To Take Property Cause Cops Don’t Have Time To Do The Right Thing

See Gale Holland’s excellent story in the Times on Mitchell v. LA as well as our other stories on the subject for the background to this post. See here to download most of the papers filed in the case.

Last week it came out that ongoing settlement talks in Mitchell v. City of Los Angeles had broken down, leading to the plaintiffs filing an opposition to the City’s motion for clarification of Judge Otero’s April 2016 preliminary injunction against the City. Yesterday the City filed a reply to Sobel’s opposition (PDF, transcription after the break).

The City’s argument is based on the highly dubious assertion that “Throughout all of its efforts, the City strives to balance the need of all of the City’s residents to have clean, sanitary, and accessible public areas, including sidewalks, with the needs of “the City’s large and vulnerable homeless population” and they just need clarification “…to ensure that its employees who are responsible for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of every person living or working in the Skid Row area clearly understand, and are in a position to successfully implement, the terms of the Court’s Order.”

Of course, it’s much, much more likely that the City’s goal is to harass homeless people so mercilessly that they all leave, freeing up the valuable real estate of Skid Row for the Downtown developers who hungering so fiercely for it. And I apologize that I can’t go into more detail, but, as I said, there’s a transcription after the break.
Continue reading City of Los Angeles Files Unconvincing Response To Carol Sobel’s Opposition To City’s Motion For Clarification Of Judge Otero’s Preliminary Injunction Against Confiscation Of Homeless People’s Property In Skid Row, Basically Ask Court To Allow Them To Confiscate Incident To Arrest Even If There’s A Third Party To Take Property Cause Cops Don’t Have Time To Do The Right Thing

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Apparently The City Attorney Of Los Angeles Has Opined That Business Improvement Districts Can’t Spend Money On Things That Aren’t In Their Management District Plans Unless The Plans Are Amended — At Least That’s What Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Said In 2012 And Why Would She Lie About That?

When business improvement districts in California are created, it’s required by the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994 at §36622 to file a so-called management district plan (MDP) with the City. This is meant to describe exactly what the BID is going to spend its money on, and it’s incorporated into the City’s Ordinance of Establishment, by which means the BID is created. It must be approved by the City Council, and the City has the power to revise it at will. The law makes it pretty clear that BIDs are actually forbidden from spending money on activities that aren’t in the MDP, although this facet of the law is generally ignored by the City.

And I’m presently working on a project that requires a close reading of invoices submitted by Tara Devine1 to the South Park BID over the years, which I obtained last month as the fruit of a CPRA request.2 Although 2012 is outside the timeline I’m working on, I was fascinated to note that Tara Devine seems to have been engaged by the South Park BID to actually write that year’s annual planning report3 for them. One of the things that she billed for in the course of performing her contract to do so Tara Devine billed for was a conversation with accounting firm RBZ, since merged with Armanino, and the subject of that conversation was wholly new to me:
Continue reading Apparently The City Attorney Of Los Angeles Has Opined That Business Improvement Districts Can’t Spend Money On Things That Aren’t In Their Management District Plans Unless The Plans Are Amended — At Least That’s What Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Said In 2012 And Why Would She Lie About That?

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United Downtown LA Paid Liner LLP More Than $45,000 To Lobby Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council In Q2 2017. Payments From First Quarter Are Still Undisclosed

Background: You can read my previous stories on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and also see Jason McGahan’s article in the Weekly and Gale Holland’s article in the Times for more mainstream perspectives.

You may recall that shady downtown municipal lobbying firm Liner LLP was hired by the even shadier anonymous Delaware incorporated United Downtown LA to lobby against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and that I turned them in to the City Ethics Commission for failing to amend their disclosure forms to disclose United Downtown as a client as required by LAMC §48.07.

Well, yesterday was the filing deadline for Second Quarter disclosures, and Liner filed theirs on time. It’s required by law for lobbying firms like Liner to disclose their clients and also how much money they got paid by each client. This time they actually did list United DTLA1 and it turns out that they were paid a stunning total of $45,010.40 to lobby against the SRNC. And this is just for Q2.2 It’s likely, or at least possible, that when the Ethics Commission gets around to investigating my complaint they’ll find that Liner was paid even more in Q1.

Oh, and check out the address that they put on the form for United Downtown. That’s Liner’s address. Full-service anonymization going on. That this much money was spent to stop a neighborhood council suggests that the NC system is really badly broken somehow.
Continue reading United Downtown LA Paid Liner LLP More Than $45,000 To Lobby Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council In Q2 2017. Payments From First Quarter Are Still Undisclosed

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LAPD Critic Patti Beers Filed A Federal Suit Against City Of LA In November 2016 Also Arising Out Of LAPD Misconduct During 2014 Michael Brown Protests

You may recall that all-round heroine Jasmyne Cannick filed suit in federal court last December alleging that the LAPD and the City of LA had selectively prosecuted her for charges arising from 2014 protests about the Michael Brown situation in revenge for her outspoken criticism of the department. Well, it just recently came to my attention that Patti Beers, another well-known critic of the LAPD, who was also arrested and prosecuted1 under the same general circumstances, filed a suit against the City and various LAPD officials, at roughly the same time, in November 2016.

The suit alleges, among other things, that the LAPD has a policy of targeting critics and using selective arrests to punish them for their political activity. Even more interestingly, I think, is the allegation that the City Attorney, who is responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors committed in the City of LA, unduly defers to the LAPD’s wishes when deciding who to prosecute and when to exercise prosecutorial discretion in pursuing charges. These matters are interesting enough that I’m going to collect the paperwork in this case and occasionally report on developments. Here is the second amended complaint. You can also get to the documents via static storage, which you can also get to kind of from the menu structure. Read on for some excerpts if you don’t like PDFs.
Continue reading LAPD Critic Patti Beers Filed A Federal Suit Against City Of LA In November 2016 Also Arising Out Of LAPD Misconduct During 2014 Michael Brown Protests

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Is There Such A Thing As An Honest Lobbyist? Probably Not, But Nevertheless, Larry Kosmont Handled The Gateway To LA BID’s Recent Renewal And Registered With The Ethics Commission To Do So, Casting Further Doubt On Any Theory That Implies That Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Was Not Also Required To Register

We’ve been discussing BID consultants a lot recently because of shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine and the fact that it looks so much like BID consultancy satisfies the LAMC’s definition of lobbying that it’s very likely that she broke the laws requiring registration, causing me, in the throes of a well-developed sense of civic duty, to report her transgressions to the Ethics Commission and then again to report some associated transgressions to Mike Feuer. What will come of these matters no one can now know, of course, but one aspect that troubled me slightly is the apparent novelty of the charges. That is, all the BID consultants I knew of at the time weren’t registered. This doesn’t mean they don’t have to register. After all, consider what happened with BID security and the Police Commission as a result of our reporting. But nevertheless, one never wants to be the first to make an argument if it’s possible to avoid it.

So imagine my pleasure in discovering that, first, the famous Gateway to LA BID, one of Mike Bonin’s babies out there by the Airport in CD11, renewed for 10 years in 2015, and they used a BID consultant named Larry Kosmont to handle the process for them. And second, that Larry Kosmont was not only registered as a lobbyist during this process, but that he specifically, explicitly, disclosed his work for the Gateway BID to the City and specifically, explicitly listed the City Clerk as one of the City offices he’d lobbied in furtherance of the renewal project. This is going to make it a lot harder for Tara Devine and her defenders, if any she has by now, to argue that it never occurred to anyone that BID consultants were lobbyists and therefore subject to registration. Turn the page for links to all relevant documents!
Continue reading Is There Such A Thing As An Honest Lobbyist? Probably Not, But Nevertheless, Larry Kosmont Handled The Gateway To LA BID’s Recent Renewal And Registered With The Ethics Commission To Do So, Casting Further Doubt On Any Theory That Implies That Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Was Not Also Required To Register

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