Tag Archives: Los Angeles Ethics Commission

The San Pedro BID Is Paying BID Consultant Edward Henning Only $20,000 To Handle Their Impending Renewal. This Is 64% Less Than The Fashion District Will Pay Urban Place Consulting And 75% Less Than The South Park BID Will Pay Tara Devine. Why The Huge Variation In Compensation For A Job Whose Elements Are Delineated By The City?

You may recall that Edward Henning is an engineer who works with a number of BID consultants on BID establishment and renewal, writing the engineer’s reports required by Streets and Highways Code §36622(n). I’ve previously reported, e.g., that he seems to get paid about $9,000 for writing these things.1 Well, TIL that Ed Henning is also a BID consultant his own self!

The story begins with Lorena Parker, executive director of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID, sending me the contract that Ed Henning and her BID signed for consulting services, along with some ancillary information:

These materials are also available on the Archive, which is useful because of OCR and so forth. And that’s today’s goodies. Turn the page for discussion!
Continue reading The San Pedro BID Is Paying BID Consultant Edward Henning Only $20,000 To Handle Their Impending Renewal. This Is 64% Less Than The Fashion District Will Pay Urban Place Consulting And 75% Less Than The South Park BID Will Pay Tara Devine. Why The Huge Variation In Compensation For A Job Whose Elements Are Delineated By The City?

Kosmont Invoices For Gateway To LA BID Reveal How Much Time It Takes To Get A BID Renewed, And It Doesn’t Look Good For BID Consultants, Like Tara Devine, Like Urban Place Consulting, That Are Not Registered As Lobbyists With The City

Larry Kosmont handled the Gateway to LA BID’s 2014-5 renewal and was, very properly, registered as a lobbyist while doing so.
You may recall that the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance requires qualified lobbyists to register with the City Ethics Commission and also disclose a bunch of interesting information about their clients and their income. Also, the process of establishing or renewing a BID is fairly complex, and most property owners’ associations1 hire a consultant to guide them through the process. These consultants are regulated and recommended by the City Clerk’s office.

The process of getting a BID established or renewed, it turns out, looks an awful lot like the definition of lobbying activity to be found at LAMC §48.02, which is essentially preparing information and discussing it with City officials as part of influencing the passage of municipal legislation. The law requires anyone who’s paid for thirty or more hours of this over three consecutive months to register as a lobbyist, and it’s generally extremely hard to prove that someone’s met this criterion. You may, e.g., recall that earlier this year, in order to make a reasonably convincing case that Venice Beach BID consultant Tara Devine had passed this threshold, I spent months piecing together more than a hundred pages of evidence regarding her BID consultancy work.

But recently it’s occurred to me that these consultants have contracts with the BIDs they service, and that at least in the case of BID renewals, the contracts will be accessible via the Public Records Act.2 The contracts will contain some information about how much time the consultants spend on the project, and thus should be useful as evidence in reporting consultants to the Ethics Commission for lobbying without a license.

The project started to produce results at the end of February, when the incomparable Laurie Hughes of the Gateway to LA BID supplied me with her BID’s contracts with Larry Kosmont, who was handling the renewal process.3 Well, late last week, Laurie Hughes gave me an absolutely essential set of documents, consisting of detailed monthly invoices from Kosmont to the BID during the 15+ month renewal process. These are fascinating,4 containing as they do detailed inventories of every individual task involved in the renewal process broken down into fifteen minute billing increments. Turn the page for more descriptions, discussion, and speculations.
Continue reading Kosmont Invoices For Gateway To LA BID Reveal How Much Time It Takes To Get A BID Renewed, And It Doesn’t Look Good For BID Consultants, Like Tara Devine, Like Urban Place Consulting, That Are Not Registered As Lobbyists With The City

News Flash: General Jeff And Katherine McNenny Blow The Lid Off Of DLANC’s Shameful Covert Campaign Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council!

Recall that just last week the proposed Skid Row Neighborhood Council was narrowly defeated in a hotly contested, deeply controversial election. I reported at the time that CCEA voodoo queen Estela Lopez seemed to be deeply involved in some as-yet-unclear way in the anti-SRNC campaign. This is bad and creepy, but probably not illegal, as lobbying the City seems to be in the job description of business improvement districts.

Well, just tonight it’s come to my attention that General Jeff and Katherine McNenny have discovered that Patti Berman, chief boss-lady of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, or anyway someone with access to DLANC computer accounts, evidently used City resources to campaign against the SRNC. You can watch them here explaining the proof. It boils down to the fact that DLANC used their Mailchimp account to send out email blasts, which incorporated the City logo, urging people to vote against SRNC. This is bad and creepy and probably illegal. General Jeff promises in the video to use it to challenge the outcome of the election.

Not only that, but an anonymous group calling itself “United Downtown LA” hired former City attorney Rocky Delgadillo to write to the City Council urging them to adopt online voting for the SRNC election even though it has not been used in most other NC certification elections. Online voting, of course, is what did in the SRNC, as the paper ballots were overwhelmingly in favor of formation. You can read the whole Council file here and Delgadillo’s letter in particular here. Well, you can also see in the video that General Jeff and Katherine McNenny have made that DLANC was using the name “Unite DTLA” to carry on their covert campaign. Whether these are the same shadowy anonymous entity remains to be seen, of course.
Continue reading News Flash: General Jeff And Katherine McNenny Blow The Lid Off Of DLANC’s Shameful Covert Campaign Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council!

New Documents: Lisa Trifiletti and Omar Pulido Emails, Wilshire Center BID And East Hollywood BID Emails To/From City Of LA From February 2017

This is just a short note to announce three new sets of documents for your entertainment, your edification, and, if you’re interested, a little puzzle for you to solve.

First we have a couple of monthly sets of emails between BIDs and the City of Los Angeles. This turns out to be a useful request for keeping finger on pulse, often leading to unexpected discoveries, so I make it every month of all my favorite BIDs.1 Perhaps there are some lurking here:

And turn the page for the most interesting item of all for today!
Continue reading New Documents: Lisa Trifiletti and Omar Pulido Emails, Wilshire Center BID And East Hollywood BID Emails To/From City Of LA From February 2017

Urban Place Consulting Set To Earn $55,712.20 For Dealing With The 2017/2018 Fashion District BID Renewal Process According To Contract, Which May Also Shed Light On The Intersection Between BID Consultancy And L.A.’s Muncipal Lobbying Ordinance

The Fashion District BID in Downtown Los Angeles is set to expire at the end of 2018. This means that they’ll be collecting petitions roughly in the first quarter of 2018 and going to City Council approximately in the Summer of 2018. The process is complicated for property-based BIDs and usually requires a consultant, and the consultant has to start early. The Fashion District is using Urban Place Consulting.1 Work began on the process in January 2017.

Thanks to the competence, kindness, and evident commitment to transparency of the Fashion District BID’s executive director, Rena Masten Leddy,2 we have copies of (at least most of) the FDBID’s contract with UPC3 as well as the first three months worth of invoices. You can get these:

Crucially, the contract reveals that the Fashion District will pay UPC more than $55,000 over the course of the two year process. The contract is supposed to include a schedule of hourly rates and the invoices are supposed to include an hourly breakdown, but, at least so far, they do not.

Apart from the general interest created by the essential role that BID renewal plays in the life cycle of BIDs, this kind of data is also crucial to my ongoing study of the intersection between the BID renewal process in Los Angeles and the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Turn the page for a brief discussion of those issues as well as a brief outline of the renewal process itself.
Continue reading Urban Place Consulting Set To Earn $55,712.20 For Dealing With The 2017/2018 Fashion District BID Renewal Process According To Contract, Which May Also Shed Light On The Intersection Between BID Consultancy And L.A.’s Muncipal Lobbying Ordinance

The Actual Mechanism By Which Suzanne Holley And The Central City Association Strangled The Incipient Street Vending Ordinance In Its Cradle By Sneaking In Unilateral Councilmember Opt-Out On Behalf Of BIDs, The Role In This Debacle Played By Criminal Conspirators Jessica Borek and Matt Rodriguez, And How The Council Messaged It To BIDs

The Wicked Witch of the Southeast corner of Wilshire and Hope giving instructions to her flying monkeys.
Recall that I’ve been tracking the hysterical, irrational opposition of LA’s business improvement districts to the ongoing process of legalizing (some aspects of) street vending in the City since the Spring of 2015. A truly astonishing level of bitching and moaning in 2015 stalled out the whole process for most of 2016 because, I believe, everyone was too freaking sick of the whining and the carefully orchestrated lying on any number of occasions and the City just needed a rest.
A man arrested, transported, and handcuffed to a bench by the Andrews International BID Patrol in Hollywood for selling umbrellas on the street. At least it appears that this horror show is over, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even more loopholes and it’s not over at all.
Until the November election of Donald Trump and his subsequent threats to deport essentially anyone, U.S. citizen or not, who’d ever smiled while thinking of eating a taco spurred the Council into action on at least the small part (small but in no way insignificant) of the plan to decriminalize illegal street vending so that, no matter how much trouble the zillionaires might cause the heladeros, at least they wouldn’t be subject to arrest and subsequent deportation. That bit seemed urgent enough to pass Council outright, and even the anti-vending forces of the zillionaire elite seemed to realize that they were just going to be exposed as the nasty little mean creeps that they are if they fought back on this particular issue. However, the Council put off acting on an actual legalization framework until later.

But recall, as I reported in January, the instructions for the report-back were altered from the original, and quite sensible,1 request for

A process to create special vending districts to be initiated by Council, the Board of Public Works, or petition (with signatures from 20 percent of property owners or businesses in the proposed district), based on legitimate public health, safety and welfare concerns that are unique to specific neighborhoods with special circumstances.

to a request for language

Providing the City Council the ability to opt out of certain streets by Council action.

At that time I didn’t understand yet how this had all taken place, but now I’ve accumulated enough documentary evidence that it’s possible to sketch out a picture. The short version is that in December 2016, Suzanne Holley, at that time acting Executive Director2 of the Schatzian horror show known as the Central City Association of Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the City Council telling them to make the change. This was distributed to the BIDs via the BID Consortium. They all told their pet Councilmembers to change it. It got changed, and all the BIDs rejoiced, some of them quite publicly. The consequences of this are going to be horrific, and whatever street vending framework gets put in place will be DOA. Details and evidence after the break.
Continue reading The Actual Mechanism By Which Suzanne Holley And The Central City Association Strangled The Incipient Street Vending Ordinance In Its Cradle By Sneaking In Unilateral Councilmember Opt-Out On Behalf Of BIDs, The Role In This Debacle Played By Criminal Conspirators Jessica Borek and Matt Rodriguez, And How The Council Messaged It To BIDs

Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Regarding Nicole Shahenian’s Violation Of LAMC 48.04(B) In 2014

Here’s a letter I sent this morning to Holly Wolcott and Miranda Paster about the fact that East Hollywood BID Director Nicole Shahenian appears to have violated LAMC 48.04(B) by stating that the EHBID’s 2015 Annual Planning Report had been prepared at a Board meeting on December 29, 2014, when in reality no such meeting took place. Also maybe look at the actual complaint I filed with the Ethics Commission.

The main points are that the Clerk ought to institute some kind of oversight to make sure that this nonsense stops happening. The Ethics Commission will rule on Nicole Shahenian’s violation of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, but that only applies because she was coincidentally registered as a lobbyist in 2014. Most BID directors are not registered lobbyists,1 but many of them apparently lie about the APR approval process. This could potentially create dire consequences due to the fact that, e.g., BIDs can actually be disestablished for such transgressions, whether or not the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance is involved. Anyway, as I said, here is the letter as a PDF, and turn the page for a transcription.
Continue reading Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Regarding Nicole Shahenian’s Violation Of LAMC 48.04(B) In 2014

It Appears That East Hollywood BID Director Nicole Shahenian Lied To Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott About The Circumstances Of The Preparation Of The EHBID’s 2015 Annual Planning Report And, As Shahenian Was A Registered Lobbyist At The Time, Thereby Violated LAMC 48.04(B)

Nicole Shahenian, you got some splainin’ to do!
The background to this post is unavoidably technical and lengthy. If you’re already familiar with the Annual Planning Report process for BIDs as mandated by Streets and Highways Code §36650, you may want to skip directly to the report I submitted to the City Ethics Commission this morning.

One requirement that the Property and Business Improvement District Law places on BIDs, found at §36650, is the submission of annual planning reports (“APRs”) to the City Council:

The owners’ association shall cause to be prepared a report for each fiscal year, except the first year, for which assessments are to be levied and collected to pay the costs of the improvements, maintenance, and activities described in the report. … The report shall be filed with the clerk … The city council may approve the report as filed by the owners’ association or may modify any particular contained in the report and approve it as modified.

And it seems that the BID isn’t allowed to spend money on stuff that’s not discussed in the APR, so it’s not a trivial matter.

The way this piece of code plays out in Los Angeles is that, first, a BID director submits the APR to the Clerk along with a formulaic cover letter. For instance, here is the one submitted by Nicole Shahenian on December 30, 2014 to accompany the East Hollywood BID’s APR for 2015. This is essentially the same letter submitted by all BIDs:

Dear Ms. Wolcott:
As required by the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, California Streets and Highways Code Section 36650, the Board of Directors of the East Hollywood Business Improvement District has caused this East Hollywood Business Improvement District Annual Planning Report to be prepared at its meeting of December 29, 2014.

And don’t forget that state law requires the City Council to adopt the report either with or without modifications. In Los Angeles this part of the process is initiated by the Clerk sending another form letter to City Council, recommending that they adopt the BID’s APR. It’s my impression that the Clerk doesn’t recommend modifications to the report at this stage. These seem to be handled by Miranda Paster before the APR is submitted to Council, as in this example involving the Media District BID. Anyway, take a look at Holly Wolcott’s January 14, 2015 recommendation to City Council with respect to the East Hollywood BID’s APR. Like every such document, this states:

The attached Annual Planning Report, which was approved by the District’s Board at their meeting on December 29, 2014, complies with the requirements of the State Law and reports that programs will continue, as outlined in the Management District Plan adopted by the District property owners.

And it goes on from there to recommend:

That the City Council:

  1. FIND that the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year complies with the requirements of the State Law.
  2. ADOPT the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year, pursuant to the State Law.


But there are a number of problems with this story. First, it appears that the East Hollywood BID Board of Directors did not actually meet on December 29, 2014. In fact, it appears that they did not meet at all in December 2014. Of course, it’s notoriously difficult to prove a negative, but I’m going to give it a go.
Continue reading It Appears That East Hollywood BID Director Nicole Shahenian Lied To Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott About The Circumstances Of The Preparation Of The EHBID’s 2015 Annual Planning Report And, As Shahenian Was A Registered Lobbyist At The Time, Thereby Violated LAMC 48.04(B)

The Story Of How The Central City East Association Evidently Violated City Ethics Laws Restricting Campaign Contributions, Gave Illegally To Mitch O’Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson In 2015, Lied About It On Their Tax Form, And I Turned Them In To The IRS And The Ethics Commission

CCEA: The truth may be out there but it’s not out there on our tax forms.
This story begins with the fact that the Central City East Association, which runs the infamous Downtown Industrial District BID, contributed $700 each to two City Council candidate campaigns in 2015. The money was given to Mitch O’Farrell of CD13 and Marqueece Harris-Dawson of CD8. You can see the record at the City Ethics Commission and also if it’s more convenient, here is a PDF of the same information.

This turns out to be a huge problem for a number of unrelated reasons. First and most simply, the CCEA is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization. Unlike the more famous 501(c)(3) organizations, 501(c)(6) groups are allowed to engage in lobbying, but it’s unclear whether they’re allowed to support candidates for office.1 However, irrespective of any restrictions on donations, there are very clear reporting requirements.

Take a look at the CCEA’s 2015 tax form. In particular, take a look at question 3 of part IV, found on page 3 of the form. It asks unambiguously:

Did the organization engage in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office?

And, as you can see in the image that appears somewhere near this paragraph, the CCEA unambiguously stated that they did not. It’s hard to imagine a less ambiguous form of direct political campaign activities than giving actual money, amirite? Hence I turned them in to the IRS and also to the Franchise Tax Board for this lacuna. Stay tuned in case anything happens!

And it turns out that there are some more subtle, but potentially equally serious, problems with these two donations involving various municipal laws. Turn the page for the highly sordid but highly technical details!2
Continue reading The Story Of How The Central City East Association Evidently Violated City Ethics Laws Restricting Campaign Contributions, Gave Illegally To Mitch O’Farrell and Marqueece Harris-Dawson In 2015, Lied About It On Their Tax Form, And I Turned Them In To The IRS And The Ethics Commission

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