His absence from my literary life has not, however, been by choice.1 The fact is that circa last June the guy just decided to stop responding to my CPRA requests altogether. No records, no answers, no nothing from Don Duckworth. Hence no joyously mocking blog posts and so on. Well, friends, that’s about to change, and change big-time!
You see, my lawyer, the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, recently filed two petitions, one for each of Duckworth’s BIDs, to compel compliance with the CPRA. You can find them here on Archive.Org on pages which I will update if/when the cases generate more paper:
Donald Duckworth, who runs both the Westchester Town Center BID and the Melrose BID, is slow but, it seems, pretty steady about fulfilling my incessant CPRA requests. And thus, just yesterday I received from him four jumbo-sized mbox files just chock-full of gooey email goodness! This batch comprises 2016 emails between the City of LA and the Melrose BID, and can be found in various useful formats here on Archive.Org.
I will be writing about various items in this document dump soon enough,1 but today I just want to focus on a couple of interesting items, supplied to me as attachments to some of these emails and cleaned up a little for ease of reading.2 Here’s the short version, and you can find details and the usual ranting mockery after the break:
Melrose BID Formation Project Hourly Charge Breakdown — Don Duckworth not only runs the Melrose BID, he was also the consultant who oversaw its establishment, for which he seems to have been paid $80,000 by the City. This is a detailed breakdown of his hours and charges over the course of the project formation. If you’ve been following my ongoing project, aimed at turning in BID consultants for not registering as lobbyists,3 you’ll recognize how astonishing and how important this document is. Unfortunately Don Duckworth’s work on this project wound down in the Summer of 2013, which means that the four year statute of limitations for violations of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance has essentially run out. The document will be endlessly useful, though, in estimating time spent by consultants on their other projects.
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.1 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,2 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,3wrote 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.
Just yesterday, Mr. Don Duckworth of the Westchester Town Center BID sent me a big steaming heap of emails, comprising the BID’s correspondence with the City of Los Angeles for 2016.1 I am here to tell you, there is a ton of good stuff in there! This is very, very exciting! I will be writing about items from this release for a good while to come, and the City Ethics Commission is going to be hearing about a whole lot of it as well! But this evening, in addition to this general announcement that the material is available, I want to share a gossipy little item from January 2016, which has its locus classicus right here in this email from Don Duckworth to Miranda Paster.
It seems that WTCBID Boss Man Duckworth wasn’t too happy with BID Analyst Rick Scott, felt that he “approaches me and our work in administering the Westchester Town Center BID in a very negative manner.” In fact, sez Le Duckworth, “[i]t’s as if he’s looking for problems or obstacles to create that interfere with a constructive work flow.” Not only that, but, according to the Donald, “[h]e doesn’t approach our work with recommended solutions for mutual gain or a sense of team work.”
Here’s the short version of this post: Laurie Sale of the Palisades BID has been telling me for months that she is too busy to work on my CPRA requests. Yesterday she turns out to be too busy to send copies of emails in a reasonable format. She continues to be too busy to provide an estimated date of production even though CPRA requires it. She keeps telling me she only works half-time. BIDs sign a contract with the City which requires them to maintain staffing adequate for the completion of required work in a timely manner. CPRA compliance is required work. Being too busy to do it is not doing it in a timely manner. Too busy for CPRA, BIDs?? Breach of freaking contract!!
And here is a quick recap of how we got to this place. About 80% of the staff of this website grew up in Venice, so we all got really interested in the Venice Beach BID. Unfortunately, CD11 staffie Chad Molnar took offense at the use I made of the fruits of a couple CPRA requests and stopped complying with the law altogether, forcing me to turn him in to the City Ethics Commission. That’s going to take forever to resolve, though.
And finally, yesterday, she condescended to transmit a bunch of emails to me by forwarding them, with her own typed annotations prepended. I had asked for them in native format,2 and providing them in native format is required by CPRA.3 It’s important to get emails this way because it preserves the integrity of the headers and also it ensures that attachments arrive in precisely their native formats as well.4 I habitually request emails in native formats and most BIDs have figured out how to comply with this requirement. So I told Laurie Sale that her forwarded emails weren’t acceptable and could she please figure out how to send them in the right format. I can tell from her headers that she uses Outlook, so I sent her a link to Microsoft Support which explains how to export emails to a PST file. It’s not hard.
There’s a little puzzle hidden away in the two new ones. If you can spot it, drop me a line before I write a post on it1 and win a prize! I won’t approve any comments that give it away, though. No spoilers!
Also, in the face of the incredible, probably illegal, intransigence displayed by CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin and his weirdo staff with respect to CPRA requests, I am making requests of the BIDs in CD11 for emails to/from lacity.org. Most of these are likely to be with Bonin or his staff, which will let us keep track of what’s going on in the District Office even if CD11 just actually won’t answer CPRA requests at all. It might be interesting, it might be useful, but there’s no way to know until we get the goods. The very first installment of this material comes from the Westchester Town Center BID, specifically from its Executive Director Donald Duckworth.2 Just tonight he handed over minutes and agendas from 2016, with a promise of a lot of emails to follow. For now this is only available on Archive.Org. Continue reading New Documents: Central City East Association Tax Returns 2012-2015, Westchester Town Center BID Agendas and Minutes→
Business Improvement Districts in Los Angeles — Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down!