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.2 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,3 had claimed exemptions, thus making it possible to compare his claims with the actual records. Unsurprisingly the exemption claims turned out to be 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.4 They lie, they confabulate, they delude themselves and others, and generally display utter and overweening contempt for the rule of law.5
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission is charged not only with enforcing ethics laws and regulations but also with reviewing and revising them periodically. Because the City Council is subject to these laws it wouldn’t make much sense for them to be able to alter them at will. The temptation to exempt themselves and their creepy zillionaire buddies would ultimately be too much for their corrupt vestigial little senses of morality to bear and we’d end up without any ethics laws at all.
Thus the process, as described in the City Charter at §703(a), requires the Ethics Commission to propose the changes and gives the City Council the authority only to disapprove but not to modify them.6 This strikes me as a quite clever way to balance the competing interests involved:
The commission may adopt, amend and rescind rules and regulations, subject to Council approval without modification, to carry out the purposes and provisions of the Charter and ordinances of the City relating to campaign finance, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics and to govern procedures of the commission.7
So at its meeting in February, the Ethics Commission approved a bunch of revised enforcement regulations. You can read the original proposal. This was duly sent up to the City Council, where it was placed in Council File 14-0049-S1. Well, on Thursday, after the Mayor’s concurrence was received, the Council finalized the matter and the new regulations are approved and will take effect on August 14.8
East Hollywood BID quarterly reports 2012-2016 — BIDs are required by their contracts with the City to submit quarterly reports with updates on how they’ve been spending their money.9 These are useful to have on hand for reference. There’s nothing in these that stands out right now, but I haven’t read them carefully yet nor even looked at all of them.
Media District emails with the City of LA — And also a few from the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance folks, although nothing substantial. Again, it’s essential to have this material on hand for reference. There doesn’t seem to be much of special interest here, although there’s a lot more evidence of Rita Moreno’s uncharacteristically activist style as a BID analyst with the Clerk’s office, which is abstractly a good thing, although certainly she’s not going to be an activist if it upsets the BIDs too much.
Media District emails about Andrews International Security contract — The Media District BID is in the process of hiring infamous private security monolith Andrews International as its security provider, to begin July 1. These are some emails about the process. The most interesting things here are the attachments, which include A/I’s standard contract as well as proposed pricing matrices and so on. Andrews International famously runs the infernal Hollywood BID Patrol for the even-more-infernal Hollwood Property Owners Alliance just North of the Media District, so everything about them is interesting. There is much more material to come regarding this matter, and I will write about it in detail as it comes in, but it’s essential enough that I thought I’d better publish what I had immediately.
Yesterday evening, BID-lawyer-to-the-stars Jeffrey Charles Briggs passed along almost 200 emails between Media District BID executive director Lisa Schechter and various people at the City of Los Angeles. These are available en masse at Archive.Org. As always, there’s a lot of chaff in there and a few super-interesting things.12 Perhaps today’s story is an example of the latter.
It began on February 28, when Rita Moreno, newly of the Neighborhood and Business Improvement Division of the City Clerk’s office, the unit that’s meant to oversee the operations of BIDs and make sure that they follow the law and stuff, emailed a bunch of BIDdies to introduce herself and note that only a few of them had their meeting times posted on their websites. Of course, the Brown Act explicitly requires BIDs to notice their meetings on their websites,13 but that’s actually not why Rita was on about this. She was just trying to find out when they met so that she could attend. In fact, it’s not even clear that Rita Moreno knew about the Brown Act requirement.
However, the very next day, our old friend Lisa Schechter of the Hollywood Media District BID, who is not generally known for her law-abiding behavior but who has by now been educated by years of our intense scrutiny to the point where, I hope, she’s beginning to realize that it’s just easier to follow the law,14wrote back to Rita Moreno, fishing for praise from this unlikely authority figure:
Just to reiterate, all of our meetings are posted in accordance with the Brown Act (Committee as well as Board) – Further you have been placed on our automatic distribution list which triggers and [sic] email directly to you for all of our meetings. If you should require any further information please do not hesitate to contact myself or our operations manager, Jim Omahen.
There are two main reasons why I am not a professional journalist. The first is that on career day at Venice High way back in the 1970s, those of us who ventured east to the venerated southwest corner of First and Spring found, well…never mind what we found,15 discretion prevents me from discussing it, but it sure didn’t make me want to join the ranks despite the fact that the paper was more than a decade into its renaissance under the sainted guidance of Otis Chandler himself. And the second reason is that I have never, ever, in my entire life been able to understand the inverted pyramid — or maybe I understand it and I just have no freaking idea what’s most newsworthy in any given story. This interpretation is borne out by the fact that I’m starting this evening’s tale off with a bunch of half-invented, half-remembered, half-plagiarized, nonsense about my high school career day.16
For instance, does the inverted pyramid suggest that we next analyze the founding principles of BIDs? I have no idea. But the locus classicus of BIDs, their founding text, which is to say the California Streets and Highways Code at §36601(e), tells us that amongst the benefits provided by BIDs are crime reduction, business attraction, business retention, economic growth, and new investments. Note the conspicuous absence from this list of parking ticket fixing for zillionaire BID stakeholders. However, despite the fact that parking violation fines are a major social justice issue in Los Angeles and yet another example of covert regressive taxation, apparently a major use that zillionaires, that is to say those for whom the fine attached to a parking violation is not a significant fraction of their annual income, have found for their BIDs is to serve as a vehicle for interfering on their behalf with the normal statutory operation of the City’s parking enforcement apparatus.
We saw this, e.g., last year when Ms. Kerry Morrison, outraged17 by the fact that her good friend and stakeholder, zillionaire white real estate capitalist running dog lackey Evan Kaizer, was ticketed on Hollywood Boulevard for meter-feeding, fired off an email to LADOT honcho-ette Seleta Reynolds, putatively asking for an explanation but really, as everyone could see, providing an opening for the whole thing to go away. It doesn’t seem to have happened that the ticket got fixed, but that particular toys-from-pram episode ended up interbreeding with a sort of free-floating generalized zillionaire rage over vibrant urban spaces,18 eventually begetting a conceptual exploration, fueled by outraged privilege, of the possibility of using this state-law-mandated meter-feeding prohibition to attack the very existence of food trucks.
How much does a private nonprofit organization have to pay an LAPD officer in exchange for him running off some homeless people who are having a barbecue on the sidewalk and scaring the neighborhood zillionaires? Newly received evidence suggests that the going rate is $200 per running-off incident.
It has been more than two months since the last entry in our ongoing LAMC 49.5.5(A) project, in which we report various City employees to the Ethics Commission in an attempt to discover exactly what the most fascinating ordinance ever,1LAMC 49.5.5(A), actually prohibits. It’s high time for another report, and this is it. First, recall what the law actually says:
City officials, agency employees, appointees awaiting confirmation by the City Council, and candidates for elected City office shall not misuse or attempt to misuse their positions or prospective positions to create or attempt to create a private advantage or disadvantage, financial or otherwise, for any person.
Oh dear friends, what a long story I have to tell you this afternoon! And I hope it will repay (or more than) your attention.2 It’s all about how Kerry Morrison is willing to make her job and the jobs of her minions progressively more impossible for absolutely no better reason than to thwart my research. I’ve written about various stages in this process before, and here’s a brief timeline:
March 2016 — Kerry Morrison amends HPOA document retention policy to require destruction of emails after 90 days unless intentionally kept, unilaterally, retroactively, and illegally redefines emails as not subject to CPRA.
June 2016 — Kerry Morrison rewrites contract with Andrews International so that A/I work product is no longer the property of the HPOA and therefore, she wrongly thinks, is no longer subject to CPRA.