Tag Archives: Heather Holt

Open Letter To The Los Angeles Ethics Commission Asking Them To Consider Adopting A Policy On Disclosure Of Ex Parte Communications

I reported last week that Serena Oberstein, Vice President of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, had engaged in undisclosed ex parte communications with a couple of (unregistered) lobbyists regarding a proposal to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Of course, at present, there’s no requirement for any City commissioners, except Harbor Commissioners, to disclose such communication.

However, the example of the Board of Harbor Commissioners shows that it is possible for City commissions to adopt more stringent requirements than the rest of City government is subject to. Given the role of the Ethics Commission in defending the public interest in transparency and disclosure, it seems like a natural candidate for such a policy.

Hence, as promised, I’ve written a letter to the Commission asking them to put an item on the agenda for December 19 asking the staff to draft a policy proposal for such a requirement. Here’s a copy of the letter, and you can read a transcription after the break. If you’re moved to write about this yourself, you can, as far as I know, send communications to the Commission at ethics.commission@lacity.org.
Continue reading Open Letter To The Los Angeles Ethics Commission Asking Them To Consider Adopting A Policy On Disclosure Of Ex Parte Communications

Share

More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

Oh dear, CPRA material from various BIDs, fascinating stuff, is pouring in as usual and just piling up on my metaphorical desk while I write post after post after post about the Ethics Commission‘s ongoing effort to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Well, it can’t be helped, because the MLO is essential.1 Part of the process is holding a bunch of meetings to seek input, the first of which took place last Thursday.2 I’ve also posted my take on the various proposals. I’ll get to the BID stuff as soon as possible, friends, but meanwhile, here’s yet another MLO post.3

If you’ve been following the conversation you’ll know that the lobbyists opposing the proposed revisions have argued consistently that the City doesn’t need more regulations imposed on lobbyists who, according to them anyway, desperately want to follow the law but instead needs to register the herds of unregistered and unregulated lobbyists swarming around City Hall.4

They’re not wrong that there are far, far too many unregistered lobbyists. Turning these people in to the Ethics Commission is one of the main purposes of this blog and I have, uncharacteristically, to agree with the registered lobbyists that there are an awful lot of unregistered lobbyists haunting 200 N. Spring Street and that the ease with which they can be detected is astonishing.5

Where they are wrong is in their claim that there’s some kind of dichotomy between registering the unregistered and revising the laws. Mostly the people pushing this idea, that somehow revising the law and registering the unregistered are mutually exclusive, seem to be doing it only to distract everyone’s attention from how badly the present law needs revision and, possibly, how badly their subterranean activities might be exposed were the law to be revised.

At least that’s how it sounded in last week’s meeting when John Howland, late of the CCALA but more recently employed by Arnie Berghoff and Associates, broke out with the same old routine, of which I’ll spare you a transcription, because it’s essentially content-free. However, at that same meeting supervillainesque land use attorney Bill Delvac also had quite a lot to say, most of which, in contrast to the self-serving contributions of his fellow flacks in the so-called regulated community, was quite interesting.

On the subject of unregistered lobbyists, for instance, Bill Delvac asserted that not only were there bunches of them, but that many of the lawyers who professionally oppose development projects are engaged in lobbying, and that essentially none of them are registered. He also, surprisingly to me, revealed that many of his clients had reported such lawyers to the Ethics Commission but that no action had been taken. Heather Holt, executive director of the Commission, corrected him, saying “perhaps no public action.”

And turn the page for some comments on the more technical parts of what Bill Delvac had to say, including the only colorable argument I’ve ever heard against a compensation-based definition as the main criterion for registration as a lobbyist.6 There is also, as usual, a transcription of all relevant remarks.
Continue reading More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

Share

Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

Yesterday afternoon the Ethics Commission held the first in a series of three meetings to gather even more input from interested parties concerning proposed revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. I recorded the whole thing for posterity and you can watch it here:

I’ll be commenting on this and the next meeting1 from time to time, and today I just want to point out an interesting response from seasoned Los Angeles lobbyists John Howland and Bill Delvac2 to an interesting question from Ethics Commission ED Heather Holt. One of the proposals on the table is a requirement that lobbyists report attempts to influence neighborhood councils in addition to the other City agencies they’re already required to disclose information about. In the context of this discussion, Holt asked the lobbyists:

Just out of curiosity, for development projects, is there a general sense that you need a neighborhood council buy-in for it to go anywhere?

In response to this, über-düber lobbyist John Howland smirked and emitted an inarticulate snort, seemingly in disbelief that the boss of the Ethics Commission could ask such a silly question, before saying “yes.” This response was echoed by Bill Delvac, with Howland interjecting the occasional assent:

BD: We’re happy when we get to neutral.
JH: Yeah. Well, yeah.
BD:
[Unintelligible] … the Charter and the Code, they’re really not binding. But it matters more to some Councilmen [sic] than it does to others and often [unintelligible] you wanna get their support. I wouldn’t have written the Charter that way, but …

This interchange certainly supports the Ethics Commission’s proposal to subject lobbying directed at neighborhood councils to disclosure, and, interestingly, there didn’t seem to be any actual opposition to this proposal from the lobbyists. So maybe, no matter what gets compromised out of the rest of the proposals, this one will make it through the gauntlet, which is a good thing.3

And turn the page for a discussion of some potential implications, possibly as-yet unconsidered, of this proposal having to do with the fact that, probably uniquely among NCs, the DLANC has a ton of BID staffers on its board of directors.
Continue reading Video Of First Interested Persons Meeting Now Available — See John Howland And Bill Delvac Discuss Whether Neighborhood Council Assent Is Necessary For Development Projects (TL,DR: Yes). This Revelation Makes BID Control Of DLANC Seem Even More Unsavory Than It Already Did

Share

In A Disgraceful Display Of Regulatory Capture, Ethics Commissioners (Except For Andrea Ordin) Drink Lobbyist Kool-Aid With Respect To Lobbying Ordinance Revision, Direct Staff To Acknowledge Even More Bullshit Pissing And Moaning From Lobbyists, And Gleefully Betray Their Duties To The People Of Los Angeles

A couple weeks ago I wrote about proposed changes to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, which were on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Ethics Commission. The proposed revisions would essentially require more detailed, much quicker disclosure of lobbyists’ projects and clarify precisely who is required to register. Well, the meeting happened. First there was a ton of public comment from lobbyists, all of it the familiar bitching and moaning that the power elite of Los Angeles will typically spew forth when they feel that their power is threatened in any way.

Next there was a series of embarrassing PDAs between Commissioners and lobbyists about how wrong it is to burden the “regulated community”1 with any oversight at all and how, despite all evidence to the contrary, lobbyists actually want to follow the laws. The Commissioners, that is, apart from Andrea Ordin who, alone among her colleagues, seems to remember why we have a lobbying ordinance in this City, basically took the position that if the lobbyists in attendance were upset by the proposed revisions then there was something wrong with the proposals.

Subsequently, the Commissioners asked Director of Policy Arman Tarzi a series of questions displaying their embarrassing ignorance of how lobbying actually works in this City, and finally Commission President Jessica Levinson directed the staff to solicit even more input from lobbyists on how they want to be regulated. This despite the fact that the revision process has already been going on for a year and a freaking half already. Anyway, I taped the whole 90 minutes of discussion, and you can watch it here:

  • Part one — About an hour’s worth of mostly mendacious public comment from lobbyists followed by the beginning of the interrogation of the long-suffering, saintly, heroic Arman Tarzi by Commissioners who, mostly, don’t even seem to have read the material they’re deliberating on, or not to have comprehended it if they did read it.
  • Part two — Ethics Commissioners falling over themselves to state how great lobbyists are and quizzing the staff about matters that, as commissioners, they ought already to understand.

If you’re wondering how important this issue is, just think back to the recent episode of the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort. There we saw massive illegal lobbying efforts directed at successfully employed to convince Jose Huizar to subvert the subdivision election on behalf of anonymous clients who paid more than $45,000 for this service and whose identities, despite the requirements of the MLO, are still unknown to the public. It’s quite plausible that a more timely disclosure of this information would have changed the outcome of the election.

And turn the page for a detailed discussion of the some problems with the proposed revisions that the Commissioners purported to find. As you consider the Commissioners’ cataclysmic failure to regulate lobbying in Los Angeles, keep in mind that it’s people like the residents of Skid Row that they’re failing to protect.
Continue reading In A Disgraceful Display Of Regulatory Capture, Ethics Commissioners (Except For Andrea Ordin) Drink Lobbyist Kool-Aid With Respect To Lobbying Ordinance Revision, Direct Staff To Acknowledge Even More Bullshit Pissing And Moaning From Lobbyists, And Gleefully Betray Their Duties To The People Of Los Angeles

Share

How Ethics Commission President Jessica Levinson Postponed Discussion Of Revisions To Enforcement Regulations Until April 2017 Mostly At The Behest Of Lobbying Firms And Why She Was Absolutely Right To Do So

Ethics Commission President Jessica Levinson, with whose actions we do not always agree but with whose reasoning we always do, which matters a great deal more.
One of the essential items on the agenda of last Tuesday’s meeting of the City Ethics Commission was a wide-ranging set of proposals from Enforcement staff for revisions to the CEC’s enforcement regulations. These are the laws and policies which guide the enforcement process. The proposals were emailed to interested parties only a few days in advance of the meeting, evidently leaving everyone feeling kind of blindsided,1 especially because they appeared with a recommendation from staff that they be adopted right then.

So at the actual meeting, when the item came up for discussion, Commission President Jessica Levinson made fairly convincing noises to the effect that the matter should be postponed until April. More interestingly, though, she mentioned almost in passing that she’d received a number of written public comments asking the Commission to table the matter. Well, one of my favorite bits of the Brown Act, §54957.5(a), states unequivocally that:2

any … writings, when distributed to all, or a majority of all, of the members of a legislative body of a local agency by any person in connection with a matter subject to discussion or consideration at an open meeting of the body, are disclosable public records under the California Public Records Act … and shall be made available upon request without delay.

As one might expect, the Ethics Commission is absolutely the best of all City agencies at following this law. They keep a big plastic box at the back of the room during meetings which contains every possible piece of paper necessary for compliance. So as soon as President Levinson3 mentioned that there were written comments, and as soon as it became clear that all the Commissioners had copies, I zipped back to look in the box. How disappointing to find nothing of the sort in there! But the story has a happy ending, never fear, and turn the page to learn the details.
Continue reading How Ethics Commission President Jessica Levinson Postponed Discussion Of Revisions To Enforcement Regulations Until April 2017 Mostly At The Behest Of Lobbying Firms And Why She Was Absolutely Right To Do So

Share

Lobbyist-Loving Ethics Commissioner Ana Dahan Is Out! Also Tons, Scads, Oodles, And Beaucoup De Fashion District BID Emails!

Lobbyist-Loving Erstwhile Los Angeles City Ethics Commissioner Ana Dahan on August 9, 2016.
Lobbyist-Loving Erstwhile Los Angeles City Ethics Commissioner Ana Dahan on August 9, 2016.
Here are a couple unrelated announcements with which to begin another fine, windy weekend.

First, recall that lobbyist-loving ethics commissioner Ana T. Dahan was appointed to the Commission by Eric Garcetti in November 2014 to finish the remainder of a term, and then permanently a year later. Well, according to a report scheduled to be presented by Ethics Commission executive director Heather Holt at Tuesday’s Commission meeting, Ana Dahan has resigned:

We said farewell to Commissioner Dahan this month. She was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014, and we deeply appreciate the time she devoted to the Ethics Commission and her contributions to our enforcement and policy work. We wish her well as she embarks on a new career.

No word yet on her new career, although perhaps it is something to do with lobbying?

Finally, a ton of email from the Fashion District BID, thoughtfully and comprehensively provided to MK.Org by the ever-helpful Rena Masten Leddy. Turn the page for links and some description.
Continue reading Lobbyist-Loving Ethics Commissioner Ana Dahan Is Out! Also Tons, Scads, Oodles, And Beaucoup De Fashion District BID Emails!

Share

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

Share

City Ethics Commission Prepares to Revamp Lobbying Laws; Proposal Builds, Improves on Version Torpedoed in 2010 by Unholy Threesome Consisting of Kerry Morrison, Carol Schatz, and Eric Garcetti

Jessica Levinson, president of the City Ethics Commission, star Lawprof at Loyola, and righteous local media darling.
Jessica Levinson, president of the City Ethics Commission, star Lawprof at Loyola, and righteous local media darling.
If you’ve read the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance of the City of Los Angeles, you will have noted that it’s a bitch to enforce. It defines a lobbyist to be someone who is compensated to influence City action on behalf of a third party for 30 or more hours in any consecutive three months, and then requires lobbyists so-defined to register with the City. Imagine trying to use CPRA and other methods available to the public to pin that beef on some BID employee… I can tell you it’s not an easy task.

You may recall that between 2008 and 2010 the CEC tried to get this unwieldy definition changed to one whose details I won’t go into here, but which would have been far easier to enforce. For whatever reason, Carol Schatz, Kerry Morrison, and a few less luminous lights of the BID world including the perennially mockable Downtown Russell Brown decided for reasons known only to them and their therapists that this was going to destroy the very foundations of Los Angeles. As is their wont, they proceeded to get really fussy and scratch at their own faces till mom made them put their mittens on soon Eric Garcetti, at that time chair of the Rules and Elections Committee, smothered the whole baby in its bed for no discernible reason other than to please his darling BID-babes Kerry and Carol.

Eric Garcetti to Kerry Morrison in 2010: "You don't want to have to register as a lobbyist?  Whatever baby wants, baby gets."  Except, of course, baby still has to register, it's just next to impossible to prove it.
Eric Garcetti to Kerry Morrison in 2010: “You don’t want to have to register as a lobbyist? Whatever baby wants, baby gets.” Except, of course, baby still has to register, it’s just next to impossible to prove it.

So now the staff of the CEC, whose Executive Director is the same Heather Holt who got tarred, feathered, and mocked by Garcetti over this very same issue in 2010, has prepared a new proposed revision of the definition of lobbyist. The Commissioners will be discussing it at their upcoming meeting on August 9, 2016. The new proposal owes some debts to the last proposal, but its central point is quite different. It’s a change to a compensation-based rather than a time-based definition, which is fairly standard around the rest of the country:

We recommend returning to a compensation-based definition and that “lobbyist” be defined as an individual who is entitled to receive $2,000 or more in a calendar year for attempting to influence a City matter on behalf of another person. The attempt to influence would include a direct communication with a City official or employee, and compensation could be either monetary or non-monetary.

Continue reading City Ethics Commission Prepares to Revamp Lobbying Laws; Proposal Builds, Improves on Version Torpedoed in 2010 by Unholy Threesome Consisting of Kerry Morrison, Carol Schatz, and Eric Garcetti

Share