Latest Entry in LAMC 49.5.5(A) Project: Hollywood Media District BID Seems To Have Paid LAPD Hollywood Division SLO Eddie Guerra $400 In Exchange For Homeless Encampment Cleanups (Ostensibly As A Charitable Donation), But Why Was The Check Made Out To Him Personally?

Eddie Guerra, kicking ass and taking checks from the Media District BID, $400 at a time.
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,1 LAMC 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.

Our story begins with a six-month long email chain between Hollywood Division Senior Lead Officer Eddie Guerra and a number of people associated with the Media District BID about scary sidewalk-barbecuing homeless people:

On May 26, 2016, Media District Security boss Cesar Acevedo emailed Eddie Guerra under the subject line “Subjects at Willoughby and Cole” with the following report:

I would like to request for your assistance in regards these subjects at Willoughby and Cole. We’re getting complaints from neighbors (Willie from 855 Cahuenga milk studios) in regards some of his clients getting harassed when walking by and the use of alcohol and controlled substances. HMDB.I.D officers make contact with them to relocate them. They leave and come back within a few hours, they also get verbally aggressive and make it difficult when relocating them. Yesterday we responded to a service call in regards same subjects for disturbing the businesses (approximately 4-6 subjects) LAPD also responded. They were having a Barbeque on the sidewalk. Today we had another complaint for the same reason. I appreciate your help in regards this matter.

And the very next day Eddie Guerra emailed back, stating that all was right with the world yet again:

Acevedo,

I dealt with Willougby [sic] and Cole today. Keep me posted if they return. On Tuesday I’ll go there with the station’s truck and pick up whatever trash is left behind. A strategy that seems to work for me is a drive several times a week with the truck and I help them downsize and throw away items they deem as trash. It helps them be able to stay mobile and moving versus setting up camp.

Thank you for the pictures.

It’s clear that Eddie Guerra is conscious of the City’s ongoing problems with enforcing LAMC 56.11, which bans the storage of personal property on sidewalks. The City has been sued every which way over this, and in response they have rewritten the law and instituted a bunch of really strict procedures for enforcement that, in the opinion of the City Attorney, will keep them from being sued successfully any more.2 You can see a copy of the policies and a bunch of other interesting and related material here on Archive.Org.

In any case, it’s a pretty sure thing that when Eddie Guerra talks about “items they deem as trash” he is counting on the theory that if the homeless people actually say something is trash then probably he won’t get in trouble for throwing it away. I’m not a lawyer, of course, but it does occur to me that the fact that he’s wearing a gun when he asks them might cast a little doubt on the idea that they’re free to tell him that their stuff isn’t trash. It’s certainly more problematic that he’s planning to go by and throw away whatever’s left after they decamped. In any case, we hear no more about this3 until September 27, 2016, when Cesar Acevedo emails Eddie Guerra again:

Hello Guerra,

We are having issues at Cole and Willoughby again. I would like to request for your assistance. We have different subjects at this location that are giving us a lot of problems (Theft, Usage of controlled substances, blocking the sidewalk, illegal encampment, assault, drinking in public, disturbing the peace, disturbing businesses, setting up fires at location, verbal disputes with HMDB.I.D officers or clients from businesses around …..)

Businesses are complaining or having problems with the subjects at this location such as (Pavilion, CVS, Milk studios, Hollywood Center studios, 726 Cole, Boys and girls club, Cole be liquor…. ) Thank you so much for your assistance, please notify me when we can work together to solve these issues we’re having in the District.

Thank you in advance Guerra.

Eddie Guerra writes back the very next day,4 now adding, it seems, Media District Executive Director Lisa Schechter, Board Member Ron Groeper, and Operations Director Jim Omahen to the recipient list,5 and stating:

All,

I am enforcing in this area and also have a request out to sanitation to help with the encampments. I will also be there this Thursday morning6 with our stations pick-up truck asking the homeless to give me what they have as trash. I can’t just throw away items only because I deem them as thrash [sic]. The city is currently being sued and in addition I’m being investigated for disposing someones [sic] property when it was full of feces. This will be an ongoing project for us all. Please continue to keep me posted with pictures and also, lets [sic] reach out to the local businesses impacted with the encampments to help by cleaning the sidewalks daily. I noticed working together we accomplish more.

Senior Lead Officer Eddie Guerra
Los Angeles Police Department
Hollywood Division
1358 Wilcox Ave,
Los Angeles Ca. 90028
Office: (213) 871-4068
Cell: 213-793-0706

It’s interesting to see explicit confirmation here that Eddie Guerra is aware of Mitchell et al. v. City of Los Angeles, which is the most recent lawsuit against the City over LAMC 56.11. It’s very, very interesting to see that he is ” being investigated for disposing someones property when it was full of feces.” This fact suggests that either he’s wrong about the theory that his only disposing of stuff that homeless people say is trash insulates him from breaking the law or else that he doesn’t always stick too closely to asking the homeless people what they think is trash.7 In any case, he’s promising to get the situation taken care of the very next day.

Jim Omahen thanks him the next morning, and later that day,8 Eddie Guerra writes back:

Jim,

It’s my pleasure! I went out this morning and picked up the bulky items, chairs, couches and items the homeless deemed as thrash [sic]. Mitch O’Farrels [sic] clean team was also there to help me. I do however, ask that you continue to help me by requesting bulky items be picked up either by using the MYLA311 application or calling it in to 311. The same number or application can be used to request sanitation for large encampments. It helps me by having documentation and using the city resources. I consider myself to be the last form of defense in regards to picking up the trash. When I’m out there picking up trash it takes me away from patrolling and enforcing the neighborhoods. Let’s continue to work together to keep the area clean and free of crime.

I don’t yet know if this cleanup, which involved Mitch O’Farrell’s people, was done in compliance with City policies for enforcing LAMC 56.11. It’s conceivable that it was done, and I have CPRA requests out to find out. It’s already well established that O’Farrell’s staff are not above breaking this law every which way if it will benefit their clients constituents. See e.g. here and also here. In any case, that question is really overshadowed by what comes next. Under the same subject line, just seven short days later, as a reply to the whole email chain, thus explicitly linking what comes next with the two homeless situations that Eddie Guerra dealt with at the request of the BID and was thanked profusely for by the BID, he writes to Jim thusly:

Jim,

How are you my friend?

I have a question for you….

I need to raise $400 dollars for the MS Society. I’ll be riding my bicycle from Orange County to San Diego this October 2016. I was wondering if the Media District was interested in sponsoring me or donating towards the cause?

You can help me reach that goal by making a donation, it only takes a second and your gift has the power to help create a world free of MS.

If you have questions let me know….

Click here to donate now: https://secure.nationalmssociety.org/site/Donation2?df_id=57382&PROXY_ID=15391032&PROXY_TYPE=20&FR_ID=27876&s_subsrc=bfIphEmPfMsg&s_src=boundlessfundraising

It’s worth taking a look at that donation link (it was live at this writing. Here is a PDF of it in case it goes away). Note the donation amounts, amongst which $400 does not appear. Also note that the page says that the donations are tax-deductible, which implies that they are going straight to the MS Society. Then, on November 21, Jim Omahen emails back:

Thanks Eddie and the Media District has agreed to giving you $400! Please let me know how / or who to pay. You go!!!

Which evokes a prompt reply from Eddie Guerra which, among other things, contains the following bit:

The first $1850 is paid to the Police Unity Tour. This money includes a $1000 donation to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and $850 to cover support services, ground transportation, overnight lodging, and food while we ride. Donations to the Police Unity Tour are tax deductible (Tax ID# 22-3530541). If you are not concerned about the tax deduction, you may write a check directly to me, which will be applied to the cost of airfare and other expenses that I am responsible for.

There is also a link to Eddie Guerra’s donation page (again, here is a PDF in case the link gets dead) for the Police Unity Tour which, as far as I can see, has nothing to do with the MS thing that he originally solicited money for, which seems like a bait-and-switch. In any case, a huge difference is that this time Eddie Guerra has offered them the option to give the money to him personally rather than to the registered charity. The MS donation page did not offer that option.

It looks like the email this bit comes from is produced officially by the Police Unity Tour. If that’s the case, it’s fairly disconcerting that they are giving police officers in general a way to solicit what appear to be charitable donations but are actually checks made out to them personally. Oh, yes. Like this check to Eddie Guerra from the Media District BID for $400. They actually did do it. They actually paid an LAPD officer $400 as what really truly appears to be a thank-you gift for him doing his freaking job.9 Shameful.

And not just shameful. Quite possibly illegal. Recall what LAMC 49.5.5(A) 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.

Surely using one’s City job and City email to solicit people to give one $400 in a check made out to one personally in the guise of making a donation to some cause with no guarantee that the money goes to them in what to all appearances is a quid-pro-quo for favors done in the course of one’s job duties is creating a private advantage. Well, it’s hard to say what the City Ethics Commission will do in any given case, but I filed this complaint with them about this situation, so I suppose we will find out, won’t we?


Image of Eddie Guerra is taken from his official Twitter feed, which I am guessing makes it a public record.

  1. For today, anyway.
  2. This is almost certainly wrong, but the reasons are too far afield from the subject of this post.
  3. At least from Lisa Schechter’s emails, which is where this came from.
  4. Which is Wednesday, September 28.
  5. It’s possible that these people were previously included. It’s not possible to tell definitively from the emails as I have them in hand. It seems unlikely, though, because Eddie Guerra’s previous emails were addressed directly to Cesar Acevedo, but this one is addressed to “All.”
  6. That is the very next day after this email was sent: Thursday, September 29, 2016.
  7. If I get any more information on this matter I will of course publish it, but I’m not counting on it, as one of the very clear exemptions to CPRA excludes investigative materials from release.
  8. We are up to Thursday, September 29, 2016 by now.
  9. Or,it may be, for not doing his job if the encampment cleanups turn out to have been illegal. We shall see, but for our immediate purposes it’s not important.
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