Tag Archives: CPRA 6255

City Of Los Angeles Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — In Particular CD11 Has Ignored My Requests For Months On End — Has Blown Through Their Self-Imposed Deadlines — And Are Likely Doing So To Hide Their Complicity In Planter-Placing In Venice — I Am Seeking Emails Between CD11 Staff And Angry Housedwellers — Twitter Blocks And Mutes — And Constituent Communications Done Via The “Romulus” Platform — Read The Masterful Petition Here! — And Confusion To Our Enemies!

Everybody knows about those damn planters in Venice, but we’re just beginning to learn the depth of the City’s complicity with the angry housedwelling planter-placers. And fairly recently I obtained some emails that proved that Mike Bonin’s staff, if not Bonin himself, have been very complicit indeed, which led me to file a complaint with the City Ethics Commission against one of them, Taylor Bazley.1

I obtained those emails by accident, in response to a request to the LAPD that I made for a fairly different reason, but I have actually been trying to get planter-related stuff from CD11 at least since December 2018 and have been completely, utterly, thoroughly, and even literally ignored by Mike Bonin’s staff since then. They have not produced a single record in response to my requests.

And, as you surely know by now, the legislature has left the people of California only one remedy to enforce their rights under this law, and that is to file a petition asking a judge to order the neglectful ones to get it together and comply. So that, this very day, is what I did with our friends at CD11. You can get a copy here, powerfully written by the incomparable Anna von Herrman, and there’s a transcription below.

Basically there are three classes of requests. First I asked for emails between CD11 staff and various suspects in the planter-placing and other anti-homeless psychopathy with some names culled from especially angry NextDoor comments. These included both Mark Ryavec and George Francisco.

Next, as part of a series I was working on at the time, I asked for a list of all official CD11 Twitter accounts and also lists of users blocked or muted by those accounts. And finally, I asked for data from CD11’s use of the so-called Romulus Constituent Services software, which someone had told me Bonin used to talk to people outside of more predictable channels like email.

This last request Krista Kline, Mike Bonin’s deputy chief of staff in charge of something shady, refused to fulfill, claiming that it was “overly voluminous,” and the others she initially promised to produce records in response to but then did not.2 All of this material is of great, practically incalculable, public interest with respect to not only the planters but also for understanding how the City decides which encampments to sweep, and many other things besides. So stay tuned for updates on events, and read some lengthy selections from the petition below.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — In Particular CD11 Has Ignored My Requests For Months On End — Has Blown Through Their Self-Imposed Deadlines — And Are Likely Doing So To Hide Their Complicity In Planter-Placing In Venice — I Am Seeking Emails Between CD11 Staff And Angry Housedwellers — Twitter Blocks And Mutes — And Constituent Communications Done Via The “Romulus” Platform — Read The Masterful Petition Here! — And Confusion To Our Enemies!

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Exceedingly Strong Trial Brief Filed In My CPRA Suit Against The Fashion District BID — The BID’s Reply Is Due In 30 Days — Trial Set For June 26, 2019 At 9:30 AM — Department 86 — Stanley Mosk Courthouse

It’s been a while since I wrote about the lawsuit that I was forced to file in August 2018 by the unhinged intransigence of the Fashion District BID, pursued by them in line with the unhinged intransigence of their soon-to-be-disbarred attorney, the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, Ms. Carol Ann Humiston, in order to enforce my rights to read their damn emails. But time rolls on and the trial, scheduled for June 26, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in Department 86 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, is rapidly approaching.

Thus did my attorneys, Abenicio Cisneros and Karl Olson, file the trial brief with the court on Friday. The arguments are overwhelmingly powerful, and you can read substantial excerpts after the break. If I were the Fashion District after reading this I’d be ready to settle up and settle up quick. But they’re clearly on some kind of a mission with an axe to grind and a point to prove and I certainly don’t expect them to start acting sensible at this point. After all, it’s not their own money they’re squandering on Ms. Humiston’s exorbitant fees.1

As I said, you can read the specifics in the excerpts below, but there are two main general issues at stake. First is the fact that the BID relies heavily on the so-called catch-all exemption to the CPRA, found at section 6255(a), which allows agencies to withhold records when they can show “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.” The key thing here is that they have to make a showing of public interest in withholding the record.

This is hard enough to do in general, and the BID hasn’t even made an attempt, but our argument is that in the City of Los Angeles such a showing is even more difficult to pull off because (a) the BID is deeply involved in attempts to influence municipal legislation and (b) the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance at LAMC §48.01 establishes an extraordinarily high public interest in disclosure of information about attempts to influence:

The citizens of the City of Los Angeles have a right to know the identity of interests which attempt to influence decisions of City government, as well as the means employed by those interests.

Complete public disclosure of the full range of activities by and financing of lobbyists and those who employ their services is essential to the maintenance of citizen confidence in the integrity of local government.

The argument is essentially that the BID can’t even show that there’s any significant public interest in withholding the records they withheld, but given that the subject of these records concerns the means they employ to attempt to influence municipal decisions, they really especially can’t meet this extra-high local bar.

The other main argument is against some nonsense that the BID just made up in their reply to my petition. Many of the emails they refused to turn over are in the possession of their board members Linda Becker and Mark Chatoff. They wouldn’t even search for these because it’s Carol Humiston’s opinion that board members aren’t subject to the CPRA.

You can read the technical details below, but basically our argument is that the law that makes BIDs subject to the CPRA, which is Streets and Highways Code §36612, explicitly makes the owners’ associations subject. It makes no sense as a matter of law and as of a matter of common sense that a corporation could be subject to the CPRA while its board members were not subject. A corporation only does anything through the actions of the people who run it. And that’s the quick and dirty summary. As I keep saying, read on for the excerpts!
Continue reading Exceedingly Strong Trial Brief Filed In My CPRA Suit Against The Fashion District BID — The BID’s Reply Is Due In 30 Days — Trial Set For June 26, 2019 At 9:30 AM — Department 86 — Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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Ever Wonder If You Are Blocked By Your Councilmember On The Twitter?! — We Have The Answer! — Also City Attorney! — Also The Mayor! — But Nury Martinez — And Herb Wesson — And Mike Bonin — And Mitch O’Farrell — They Won’t Even Answer The Damn Requests — Oh, Almost Forgot To Say! — Deputy City Attorney And Insufferable Rich Boy Strefan Fauble Wants To Be Sure You Know — Mike Feuer Isn’t Muting Any Twitter Users But If He Were — The List Would Be Exempt From Release Under The CPRA! — Yeah Right, Strefan Fauble! — Stick To Art Collecting And Leave The CPRA Lawyering To Others!

For about two months now I’ve been looking into the practice of Twitter users being blocked or muted by official City of Los Angeles accounts. I’m still gathering evidence, but yesterday it came out that Police Commission president Steve Soboroff blocks a bunch of users who’ve never even interacted with him, so I thought it’d be timely to write up the information I have so far. This issue is of special interest in these latter days given that in 2018 a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for Donald Trump to block users on Twitter.

What I can offer you today, friends, is Twitter block/mute information for eleven of the fifteen council districts, the City Attorney, the Mayor, and a small selection of official LAPD accounts.1 There’s also an interesting line of hypothetical bullshit from deputy city attorney Strefan Fauble2 about some pretty technical claims about CPRA exemptionism,3 but that, being übernerdlich, is way at the end of the post.

Most of the accounts blocked are porn or spam, but Jose Huizar and David Ryu are notable exceptions. Both reps block accounts that are obviously controlled by actual individual people. Huizar’s list is by far the most extensive, and includes wildly inappropriate blocks like @oscartaracena and @BHJesse.

My research on this question is ongoing, mostly hindered by the City of LA’s familiar foot-dragging CPRA methodology. Turn the page for a tabular summary of the results I have so far along with a brief discussion of how Strefan Fauble is still on his CPRA bullshit.
Continue reading Ever Wonder If You Are Blocked By Your Councilmember On The Twitter?! — We Have The Answer! — Also City Attorney! — Also The Mayor! — But Nury Martinez — And Herb Wesson — And Mike Bonin — And Mitch O’Farrell — They Won’t Even Answer The Damn Requests — Oh, Almost Forgot To Say! — Deputy City Attorney And Insufferable Rich Boy Strefan Fauble Wants To Be Sure You Know — Mike Feuer Isn’t Muting Any Twitter Users But If He Were — The List Would Be Exempt From Release Under The CPRA! — Yeah Right, Strefan Fauble! — Stick To Art Collecting And Leave The CPRA Lawyering To Others!

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Mitch O’Farrell Has A Private Gmail Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And His Chief Of Staff, Jeanne Min, Refuses To Release All Emails From This Account — Insists That There Is More Public Interest In Withholding Them — But No One Actually Believes That — Probably Not Even Her

In the last few years a number of public officials have been criticized extensively1 for using privately controlled email accounts to conduct public business. Hillary Clinton was famously investigated by the FBI for this. And just yesterday it was revealed that Ivanka Trump has done the same thing. Thus we were fascinated to learn recently that CD13’s own Mitch O’Farrell also uses a privately owned Gmail account, mitchof13@gmail.com, to conduct City business and, doubtless, to evade scrutiny.

This was discovered recently by our friends at the Hollywood Sunshine Coalition, who passed us the material on which this post is based. And this revelation settles a big mystery. As you know, I personally have obtained many thousands of pages of emails from CD13 on any number of subjects, and there are never any at all from O’Farrell himself. Previously I had thought that either Dan Halden, who handled most of my requests, was purposely omitting emails from his boss or else that O’Farrell was communicating in ways that didn’t leave traces, like phone calls. Now it seems likely that he has been evading scrutiny by using this secret email address.

The HSC has been making public records act requests for emails from this account. There are two ways to approach this. The first, and so far the only successful, way is to find correspondents who are subject to the CPRA and ask them for emails involving O’Farrell’s secret email address. This led to request number 18-2976 on the City’s newish CPRA platform, which is called Nextrequest.2 For some reason the City has made the request page available for public view but not the records provided. They turned over 21 highly duplicative PDF pages of emails between O’Farrell and various officers and, interestingly, some members of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. You can read these 21 pages here. Apparently the HSC has other such requests pending.

But the HSC’s other strategy has turned to be much more interesting, even though it hasn’t gotten them any actual records yet. It’s based on last year’s absolutely monumental California Supreme Court opinion in City of San Jose v. Superior Court, which found that the emails and text messages of public officials are subject to the CPRA even if they are held in private accounts.

Based on this principle, on November 7 the HSC sent this CPRA request to CD13, asking for all emails held in the account from July 1, 2013 through the present.3 And yesterday, probably unsurprisingly, O’Farrell’s chief of staff, Jeanne Min, replied with the usual mush-mouthed nonsense, the TL;DR of which is “fuck you no records.” The HSC responded pretty scathingly, and then responded again for good measure. They’ve promised to keep me in the loop with respect to further developments. After the break you can find transcriptions of most of these emails along with some technical discussion of the CPRA issues implicated.

Meanwhile I’m told by those who ought to know that the HSC will not drop this request and that they are prepared to litigate if necessary. We’ll see what happens, I guess. Whatever happens, it’s clear that the public interest is very much against allowing Mitch O’Farrell to get away with maintaining this secret side channel for communicating with his favored few and with secreting emails away from public scrutiny and the City’s record retention policies.
Continue reading Mitch O’Farrell Has A Private Gmail Account Through Which He Conducts City Business — And His Chief Of Staff, Jeanne Min, Refuses To Release All Emails From This Account — Insists That There Is More Public Interest In Withholding Them — But No One Actually Believes That — Probably Not Even Her

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Fashion District BID Lawsuit — Motion Filed To Compel BID To Explain Just What The Heck They Were Talking About When They Claimed All Those Exemptions — Carol Humiston Says “No Way — You Can’t Make Us Tell You” — Hearing Scheduled For November 16 At 9:30 AM

In August I had to file suit against the Fashion District BID to compel them to comply with the California Public Records Act. One of the main issues in the suit is a bunch of various really implausible exemption claims by FDBID executive director Rena Leddy. Now, it’s well understood that the burden of proving that an exemption claim allows a record to be withheld lies entirely on the withholding agency. The CPRA says explicitly at §6255(a) that:

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.

At the time that Leddy denied my requests I asked her to justify her decisions to withhold but she refused to do so even though the law clearly requires it.1 But it sure is hard to dispute the BID’s exemption claims if no one knows what the heck they’re basing them on and they won’t explain. My lawyer asked Carol Humiston, the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, if she’d mind listing all the withheld records and explaining why the BID withheld them.2 You can read his email here.

But Humiston, who’s not only the angriest but also pretty much tied for first place as the most obstructionist,3 wasn’t having it. Here’s what she had to say for herself in this email here:

I have considered your request for a “Vaughn Index,” which of course in
[sic] a Federal procedure, and I do not believe it is either necessary or appropriate at this time. I know of nothing that requires the BID to produce such an index. Once you have filed your brief in support of the Writ, the Court and I will have a better understanding of the issues you are raising and the appropriate course to take.

So we filed a motion asking the judge to compel the BID to produce a list of all withheld emails. This motion will be heard on November 16, 2018 at the trial setting conference at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Department 86 before the Honorable Amy Hogue. There’s a transcription of the motion after the break.
Continue reading Fashion District BID Lawsuit — Motion Filed To Compel BID To Explain Just What The Heck They Were Talking About When They Claimed All Those Exemptions — Carol Humiston Says “No Way — You Can’t Make Us Tell You” — Hearing Scheduled For November 16 At 9:30 AM

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Fashion District BID Sued In Order To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — Noted CPRA Attorney Karl Olsen Co-Counsels With Abenicio Cisneros To See That Justice Is Done In This Egregious Attempt To Withhold Information About, Among Other Crucial Matters, The BID’s Role In Torpedoing The Skid Row Neighborhood Council — Novel Legal Issues Raised Regarding The Effect Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance On CPRA Exemptions In Los Angeles

On August 15, 2018, faced with Rena Leddy’s unhinged intransigence and chronic disregard of the law, I was forced to file a petition asking a judge to require the Fashion District BID to comply with the California Public Records Act. Most of the petitions I’ve filed recently have had only to do with BIDs ignoring my requests altogether1 but this one raises interesting and possibly novel issues of how exemptions to the CPRA are to be interpreted in general and in Los Angeles in particular. I’m represented by Abenicio Cisneros and Karl Olson.2

There are four classes of records at issue in this petition. Those are:3

  • Emails between the FDBID and either the South Park BID or DLANC
  • Emails in the possession of BID Board president Mark Chatoff
  • Emails between the BID and Urban Place Consulting
  • Emails in the possession of BID renewal committee chair Linda Becker

Rena Leddy claimed either that such records didn’t exist or that, if they did, the BID could withhold them on the basis of the so-called deliberative process exemption.4 In each of the four cases either there’s independent evidence that responsive records exist or else it defies belief that no records exist. For instance it is not plausible at all that Linda Becker, chair of the BID’s renewal committee, does not possess a single email relevant to the conduct of the BID’s business.5

Thus the petition focuses on debunking the exemption claims as it’s going to be hard for the BID to argue that no records exist. Turn the page for some details and some transcribed excerpts!
Continue reading Fashion District BID Sued In Order To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — Noted CPRA Attorney Karl Olsen Co-Counsels With Abenicio Cisneros To See That Justice Is Done In This Egregious Attempt To Withhold Information About, Among Other Crucial Matters, The BID’s Role In Torpedoing The Skid Row Neighborhood Council — Novel Legal Issues Raised Regarding The Effect Of The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance On CPRA Exemptions In Los Angeles

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The Education Of Ms. Ellen Salome Riotto, Episode 837 — Another Brown Act Violation At South Park — Not To Mention A Copy Of A Presentation By Sonder™ — The World’s Creepiest Hotel Company — Well Beloved, Of Course, Of South Park, The World’s Fourth Creepiest BID

It’s beginning to feel like all I do around here is educate the freaking South Park BIDdies about their legal obligations under the Brown Act. These are people who are so lawyered up in their daily lives that they don’t even tell their kids they love them except on advice of counsel but for whatever reason they cannot or will not get reliable guidance on how to follow a single one of California’s government transparency laws.1

There was this episode in February, this episode in April, this other episode in April, and now here we are in July with yet another hilarious tale of egregious flouting of statutory obligations on the part of the South Parkers.2 You may well recall that the South Parkies had a board meeting last Thursday, June 28, and that I attended and recorded it. And Ms. Joella Hopkins was a highlight, but not the only highlight.

There were also two presentations, one from AEG and another from yet another creepy-as-fuck hotel industry disrupter, known as Sonder, whose main advantage over Motel 6 seems to be that they have listening devices in their hotel rooms so that if guests play music too loud the company can turn it down remotely. What could possibly go wrong with that? You can watch Sonder’s spiel starting here, and AEG’s starting here.

Both of these presentations had associated slide shows, which the presenters seemed to think were somehow confidential. Sonder’s had some statement on it about how it was tip-top-secret, and the AEG presenters actually asked if there were any media representatives in the room. Watch and listen here as the AEG lady asks directly albeit fairly incoherently: “Can I just ask for process oriented are there any media in the room today?”

But as far as I’m concerned, and the law tends to agree with me, once people show a slideshow in a meeting covered by the Brown Act, that slideshow is public property. So naturally I sent Ellen S. an email asking for copies of the goods, and turn the page for transcriptions, commentary, and to learn what ensued!
Continue reading The Education Of Ms. Ellen Salome Riotto, Episode 837 — Another Brown Act Violation At South Park — Not To Mention A Copy Of A Presentation By Sonder™ — The World’s Creepiest Hotel Company — Well Beloved, Of Course, Of South Park, The World’s Fourth Creepiest BID

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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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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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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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