Open Letter to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission on the proposed stipulation in Case No. 2016-13, In the Matter of Marie Rumsey

Herb Wesson being way, way, way too friendly with Marie Rumsey on November 17, 2015.
Herb Wesson being way, way, way too friendly with Marie Rumsey on November 17, 2015.
I reported on Friday that the City Ethics Commission is slated to consider the case of Marie Rumsey, formerly of CD13 but now working as a lobbyist for the Central City Association, and her repeated violations of the City’s revolving door ordinance, found at LAMC 49.5.13(C)(1). As I noted then, she admitted guilt and excused herself in a particularly implausible way, according to the CEC’s report:

Rumsey received inaccurate legal advice from CCA’s former legal counsel and mistakenly believed that she could attempt to influence any City agency except Councilmember O’Farrell’s office.

Well, I’ve been thinking and thinking about it, and it occurred to me that, since Rumsey spoke before the Council a number of times, it ought to be possible to track down evidence that she had actually attempted to influence Darth Four-Eyes1 himself. So the first piece of evidence I found was this speaker card from the City Council meeting of November 17, 2015. Marie Rumsey signed up to speak on CF 14-1656-S1.2 Next, I had to track down the item on the Council video of that meeting. Well, I did track it down, and here is a link right to her comment. Not only does she address the Council in violation of the law, not only does Mitch O’Farrell end up voting yes on the matter before the Council after she asked him to in violation of the law, but Herb Wesson, who really ought to know better, welcomes her before she violates the law by saying “Ms. Ramsey, [sic] welcome home, good to see you.”

Well, that’s too much. Not only was it against the law for Marie Rumsey to be speaking in front of the Council, not only does it make a mockery of her explanation that her lawyer told her she was only forbidden from trying to influence Mitch O’Farrell’s office,3 but it shows Herb Wesson to be an even bigger idiot than previously suspected. Thus I resolved to write to the Ethics Commission urging them to reject their staff’s proposed stipulation, carry out further investigations, charge Marie Rumsey with ALL of her violations of the revolving door ordinance, and to consider whether Wesson and/or O’Farrell were in violation of LAMC 49.5.16(A)(1)(c), which prohibits aiding and abetting violations of the rest of the Government Ethics Ordinance. So I spent this evening writing this letter to the CEC and submitting it as a public comment for Tuesday’s meeting.4 You can also read it after the break if you’re on mobile or for some other reason prefer not to deal with a PDF.


Dear Ethics Commissioners,

I am writing to urge you not to accept the proposed stipulation in CEC Case Number 2016-13, In the Matter of Marie Rumsey. First, the stipulation covers Ms. Rumsey’s lobbying activities only in June and July of 2015. It is clear from the public record that she engaged in lobbying over a greater time span than that. I understand that it is desirable for many reasons to obtain a stipulation, and that in order to do so it may be necessary not to include every single one of the respondent’s violations, but some of the instances omitted here are particularly egregious. I describe one example below.

Furthermore, Ms. Rumsey’s explanation for her violations seems to be contradicted by her own actions during 2015. According to the staff report which accompanies the proposed stipulation in this case, Rumsey received inaccurate legal advice from CCA’s former legal counsel and mistakenly believed that she could attempt to influence any City agency except Councilmember O’Farrell’s office.

Now, you can see from the appended speaker card that Ms. Rumsey attended the November 17, 2015 meeting of the Los Angeles City Council intending to speak. That she did in fact speak is proven by 5 Now, if Ms. Rumsey’s excuse is to be believed, we are asked to accept as a fact that she thought she was forbidden from attempting to influence Mitch O’Farrell’s “office” while at the same time thinking that she was allowed to attempt to influence Mitch O’Farrell himself. The video suggests that Councilmember O’Farrell was not present in the chamber during Ms. Rumsey’s comment, but of course the audio of the meeting is transmitted throughout the areas that Councilmembers retreat to. And the record shows that O’Farrell voted yes on the matter under consideration. That anyone, especially someone who worked for the City of Los Angeles for fourteen years, as Ms. Rumsey did, and who therefore attended multiple Ethics training sessions, could honestly believe that there was a distinction with a difference to be found here, is implausible to say the least.

Finally, before Ms. Rumsey speaks, Council President Herb Wesson, as he calls her to the lectern, says “Ms. Ramsey, [sic] welcome home, good to see you.” Thus this incident not only shows Ms. Rumsey violating LAMC 49.5.13(C)(1), it not only suggests that Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell listened to her comment without objecting as she violates the law, but it also shows Herb Wesson not only not objecting to her violation but in some sense celebrating her presence.

One of the findings adopted in conjunction with the Government Ethics Ordinance, at LAMC 49.5.1(B)(2), states that “One of the best ways to attract talented people to public service is to assure that the government is respected for its honesty and integrity.” One of the stated purposes of the law, at (C)(7), is “To help restore public trust in governmental and electoral institutions.” Seeing the president of the City Council act so hospitably to someone who is violating a City ordinance right before his very eyes is sufficiently subversive of these goals. Allowing this violation, which directly contradicts Ms. Rumsey’s explanation for her actions, to go unmentioned in her stipulation is far more subversive of this finding and this purpose.

I urge you therefore to reject the proposed stipulation, to carry out a more extensive investigation to determine the full extent of Ms. Rumsey’s violations, and to make sure that all of these violations are taken into account when deciding on an appropriate penalty. Furthermore, I ask you to investigate whether Herb Wesson, Mitch O’Farrell, and other City officials who knew or who should have known that Ms. Rumsey repeatedly violated LAMC 49.5.13(C)(1) during 2015 are themselves guilty of aiding or abetting her violations, which is forbidden by LAMC 49.5.16(A)(1)(c).

Finally, whether or not you adopt my reasoning, whether or not you decide to accept the proposed stipulation, I would like to thank you and your investigative staff for accepting and investigating this case. Clearly reasonable people can disagree about the proper disposition of such matters. The fact, though. that your commission handles cases like this one speaks well of our City irrespective of the disposition of any individual issue.

— Mike


Image of Herb Wesson playing the fool is a public record.

  1. Mitch O’Farrell.
  2. On amendments to LAMC 56.11, on homeless property storage on public streets.
  3. As if he weren’t part of his own office.
  4. Unfortunately I have to work so I can’t attend in person.
  5. The link is to a copy of the video I put on YouTube so as to be able to link to the exact time when Ms. Rumsey begins speaking. The video is available directly from the City as well. If you’re not reading this on a computer, the YouTube URL is https://youtu.be/k5CByWdR9jI?t=6916 and the City URL is http://lacity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=129&clip_id=15299.
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