Tag Archives: Conflict of Interest

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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How I Reported DLANC Board Member Dan Curnow To The LA County DA For Violating The Brown Act And Also Filed A Grievance Against Him For Violating DLANC Bylaws

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.

I reported a few weeks ago on how Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Board member Dan Curnow violated the Brown Act in April 2017 along with his late, unlamented colleague, moral dumpster fire, and wannabe vigilante, Jacob Douglas Van Horn. Jacob Douglas VH, of course, famously resigned from DLANC under a cloud some time ago and, by doing so, perhaps placed himself beyond the suffering of consequences for his evil ways.1 Dan Curnow, as far as anyone around here knows, though, has not (yet) resigned from DLANC and so is eligible to be complained about in every possible venue.

First of all, then, I sent this complaint about him to the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney, which is charged with enforcing Brown Act compliance in L.A. There’s not a whole lot of information in there which wasn’t in my original story, but maybe you’ll find it worth reading. The bigger news, though, is that I also filed a grievance with DLANC against Dan Curnow for violating the Brown Act. This is a new direction for me, and there’s a detailed discussion of the issues after the break.
Continue reading How I Reported DLANC Board Member Dan Curnow To The LA County DA For Violating The Brown Act And Also Filed A Grievance Against Him For Violating DLANC Bylaws

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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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In Defense Of Counting Neighborhood Councils As City Agencies In The Context Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

As you may well know, the City Ethics Commission is in the process of revising the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The CEC’s policy staff, led by heroic and long-suffering director Arman Tarzi, has compiled a fantastically useful report on the proposals, and a series of three interested persons meetings are scheduled starting tomorrow to gather even more input.

Right now it looks like at least four of five Commissioners are leaning towards giving the lobbyists whatever random nonsense they request, so your comments and input are essential to the future of the City at this point. Whether or not you can attend any of the meetings, I hope you will be able to send comments to ethics.policy@lacity.org, probably before October 17, which is when the Commission is scheduled to discuss the matter. And I’m also writing posts on particular parts of the proposal which seem important. This one, on including neighborhood councils as City agencies for lobbying disclosure purposes, is the third in the series, and the other two are:

And read on for a description of the proposal and reasons to support it!
Continue reading In Defense Of Counting Neighborhood Councils As City Agencies In The Context Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

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How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer For Knowingly And Fraudently Deceiving Mike Bonin With Regard To A Material Fact Pertinent To The Establishment Of The Star-Crossed Venice Beach BID

“I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to say, ‘It’s not my job,’” Feuer told the Times editorial board. We like that attitude. All L.A. residents should.
If you want to skip the explaining and go straight to the complaint, here it is.

Friends, take a look at the exceedingly fascinating LAMC § 48.04(B). This lovely little slab of ethicalliciousness illegalizes any occasion when a lobbyist might:

Fraudulently deceive or attempt to deceive any City official with regard to any material fact pertinent to any pending or proposed municipal legislation.

And of course, you recall what a lobbyist is, it’s a technical term in this setting.1 Lobbyists are defined in LAMC §48.02 to be:

any individual who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours in any consecutive three-month period engaged in lobbying activities which include at least one direct communication with a City official or employee, conducted either personally or through agents, for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.

Well, as you may recall, I spent the last two months assembling a highly detailed argument that Tara Devine met this definition. If that’s right, and I certainly think that it is, she’s also forbidden from fraudulently deceiving Mike Bonin, e.g., about material facts in regard to the formation of the Venice Beach BID which, as I’m sure you know, requires legislation for the BID to be brought into existence.

The argument is that she got everyone to believe that it was required under state law to include commercially zoned properties in the BID, even though not only is this not true, not only did she know it was not true, but her having convinced everyone of this led to more properties being in the BID, which increased the amount of money under the control of her clients, the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. If you’re still interested enough to follow me into the weeds, turn the page!
Continue reading How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer For Knowingly And Fraudently Deceiving Mike Bonin With Regard To A Material Fact Pertinent To The Establishment Of The Star-Crossed Venice Beach BID

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In 2015 Bonin Aide Debbie Dyner Harris Sought To Leverage “Extremely Unusual” Outsized City Assessment For Venice Beach BID Into Voting Seat On Board Of Directors But City Attorney Said No! Freaking! Way! Conflict! Of! Freaking! Interest!

Debbie Dyner Harris, uncaptioned.
I’ve written before on how the City of Los Angeles arranges for itself to be lobbied by BIDs for various reasons. Now it appears that even this usual arrangement wasn’t enough for Mike Bonin and Debbie Dyner Harris at CD11 with respect to the Venice Beach BID. In particular, during the formation process, in December 2015, Dyner Harris emailed Miranda Paster asking if she could have a voting seat on the BID Board of Directors:

Hi Miranda, how are you? I hope all is well. I am checking on something we had discussed a while ago, but I can’t find in my notes. I wanted to confirm whether or not the City, as 1/3 paying member of the BID,1 is allowed to be a voting member on the BID board.

Miranda Paster replied a few days later, stating:

We opt out of sitting on the Board because it may appear to be a conflict of interest. We can sign the petition for a BID and we cast a ballot for the Prop 218 balloting. However, we do not sit on the boards and vote.

Debbie Dyner Harris doesn’t like this at all. She evidently really wants to be on this board!2
Continue reading In 2015 Bonin Aide Debbie Dyner Harris Sought To Leverage “Extremely Unusual” Outsized City Assessment For Venice Beach BID Into Voting Seat On Board Of Directors But City Attorney Said No! Freaking! Way! Conflict! Of! Freaking! Interest!

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