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:
Henning’s proposal to the BID — This is actually incorporated into the contract by reference. It’s important because it contains a detailed description of the services to be performed and the timeline for performance.
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.
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:
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.
ADOPT the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year, pursuant to the State Law.
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.
Tonight I had the pleasure of receiving from self-proclaimed active member of the revitalized Hollywood community1 Jeffrey Charles Briggs almost 200 emails between the East Hollywood Business Improvement District and various far-too-friendly folks at the City of Los Angeles. For now these are available here on Archive.Org. They’re PDFs, but they’re that super-PDF-format that one can make with genuine Adobe software that embeds attachments right in there with clickable links.2 I have only been able to give these a cursory look-over, but I can already see a few crucial items. I’ll be writing on these matters as soon as I possibly can, but if you want a preview of one of them take a look at this juicy little number.
The TL;DR is that I believe that in the course of her consultancy with the Venice Beach BID, Tara Devine qualified as a lobbyist within the meaning of the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, was therefore required to register with the Ethics Commission, and failed to do so, putting her in violation of the law. If you know what all those terms mean, you may want to go straight to the complaint (Warning: 23MB PDF). For a detailed explanation of the background, though, read on!
The key is found in Section 48.07, which states that “An individual who qualifies as a lobbyist shall register with the City Ethics Commission within 10 days after the end of the calendar month in which the individual qualifies as a lobbyist.” After all, anyone can search the Ethics Commission’s database and see that Tara Devine has never registered as a lobbyist. So the question is whether Tara Devine is “An individual who qualifies as a lobbyist.” This turns out to be a fairly complicated thing to determine.
The first place to start when interpreting any law is with the definitions. In the case of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (henceforth “MLO”) they are found at LAMC §48.02. In particular, we will find that the word “lobbyist”:
means 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.
And in order to see whether this applies to Tara Devine, we need to understand the following terms:
I have several questions regarding the BID. The information you provided, coupled with the information/misinformation flying around raises a couple of issues that need clearing up.
I’m interested in Mike’s opinion, as well as your own, on any or all of these.
Less than 40 minutes later, David Graham-Caso forwarded the email1 to Debbie Dyner Harris along with a terse note that said:
Can you please send this to the BID consultant to get her help with the answers?
And a mere 13 minutes after that, Debbie Dyner Harris forwarded the email2 to Tara Devine, stating:
Hi Tara. Can you please respond to her? Thanks
The L.A. City Ethics Commission website is a marvelous repository of fascinating minutiae. It more than repays the kind of obsessive poring-over in which we here at MK.Org specialize. Today’s subject is the quarterly reports that every qualified candidate has to submit detailing their expenditures. You can find all of Mike Bonin’s here.1 In particular, take a look at his 3rd quarter report for 2016. On Schedule E, the list of expenditures, note that some items are labeled “Returned contributions.” No reasons are given for the returns, but at least in some cases it’s possible to track down at least some elements of the story via the Google.
One minor part of their proposal would have clarified without altering the application of these laws to business improvement districts which then, as now, are almost certainly required to register as lobbyists, even though none of them do nor have they ever. This minor clause in a major reform proposal kicked off a whirlwind of mouth-slavvery craziness on the part of the BIDs, which ended with Eric Garcetti effectively killing the CEC’s proposal in 2010 for no good reason other than that Kerry Morrison giggled at him in a committee meeting.1