Newly Obtained Documents Reveal That The Hollywood Media District BID Is Paying Urban Place Consulting $1,550.35 More Than The Fashion District BID Is Paying For Renewal Services Because UPC Is Billing Assistants At 20% More! Jeff Briggs Supplies Unredacted UPC Labor Matrix Without Requiring A Freaking Demand Letter! Aaron Aulenta Isn’t As Much Of A “Tech Dinosaur” As Previously Claimed!

You may recall that as part of my long term project to turn as many BID consultants as possible in to the City Ethics Commission for unregistered lobbying, I’ve been trying to track down consulting contracts and other such evidence. I obtained a lot of excellent information from the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID and, after a prolonged struggle, chronicled in excessive detail here, I obtained an unredacted copy of Urban Place Consulting’s contract with the Fashion District BID.

In the course of that whole mishegoss I had to overcome FDBID executive directrix Rena Leddy’s ultimately untenable position that the so-called “labor matrix,” a chart which detailed how much time UPC meant to spend on each aspect of the BID renewal process and how much they were to be paid for it,1 was a trade secret. Among the many cogent arguments we used2 was the evident fact that labor costs couldn’t possibly be trade secrets because UPC would of necessity have to share them with prospective clients before a contract was signed. This was a purely logical argument, but now, thanks to a huge trove of records shared with me this evening by the Media District BID and relating to their renewal process, also being handled by UPC, I have definitive proof.

One of these interesting items was this proposal from UPC for consulting services. This is in no way a contract. In fact, it closes with the following paragraph:

The proposed budget is further detailed in the attached labor matrix. The budget is also based on six steering committee meetings.

If this meets with your approval we will forward a contract that reflects this proposal and defines the relationship between Urban Place Consulting Group and the Hollywood Media District BID. We look forward to working with you in the BID renewal process.

Note also that there’s no requirement in the proposal that the labor matrix be kept secret, which makes Rena Leddy’s contention that this information constitutes a trade secret seem even more ludicrous. Here they are broadcasting it to the Media District BID without so much as a request not to share it. What kind of secret is that? And a tip of the hat to Media District attorney Jeffrey Charles Briggs who, in the law-abiding manner for which he is known both far and wide, just handed the damn record over to me upon request as the law requires, with nary a bitch nor a moan about exemptions. Thanks, Jeff!

And it turns out to be super interesting to compare this labor matrix with the Fashion District’s one. The first big difference is that, while Steve Gibson himself gets $215 per hour in both, his project assistants get paid $125 per hour by the Fashion District and $150 per hour by the Media District. The hours are also subtly different, and the end result of these changes is that the Media District’s renewal is going to end up costing them $57,262.55 whereas the Fashion District, a bigger and more complex BID I believe, is only paying $55,712.20.

At first I thought, because Rena Leddy used to work for UPC, that they were paying UPC much more than market rate, especially because UPC only charged the Pacific Palisades BID $21K.3 This new data suggests, however, that the Fashion District is actually getting a discount and the Media District, who aren’t buddy-buddies with Steve Gibson, are paying more than they should.

In any case, no matter who’s paying more than they should and who’s paying less, the real value of these labor matrices is going to be to prove that Steve Gibson and probably Aaron Aulenta as well are functioning as lobbyists under the definition in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance and UPC is functioning as a lobbying firm. The registration requirement is triggered by being paid for 30 hours of lobbying activities over three consecutive months. This is ordinarily exceedingly difficult to prove, but with the labor matrices, UPC’s invoices to the BIDs will suffice to prove the charge.

And finally, hidden away in the trove of records there was a minor but nevertheless amusing little story about UPC henchman Aaron Aulenta and the use of cloud transfer services. As you may remember from this ultra-ridiculous episode involving Devin Strecker, Kerry Freaking Morrison, Lisa Schechter, and the use and abuse of Dropbox, many BIDs refuse to transfer files to me via Dropbox or some other cloud service. They all have essentially the same stupid story about why they won’t do it, so the policy is obviously the result of collusion just as the purpose is obviously obstruction. When I first started asking Aaron Aulenta for records he stuck to the party line about Dropbox, but check out this email. I asked him to use Dropbox and he said:

On the dropbox transfer links, I’m a bit of dinosaur on tech stuff and uncomfortable using it. I feel like it would take a fair amount of my time to learn it and transferring data via flash drive would not.

Reasonable, I suppose, especially because he subsequently offered to send me records as attachments to emails, which isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly second best to Dropbox. In any case, imagine my surprise on reading this little gem of a conversation between Aaron Aulenta and Lisa Schechter. She says:

Aaron, I believe you stated you were going to set up a “drop box” of some sort so that I can start uploading documents that are relative to our BID.

Screenshot from showing that this software functions in part as a cloud file transfer service. Click to enlarge.
And he replied:

I just sent you an invitation to use a project management site call Basecamp. You should be able to upload any files we need to this site, just use the ‘file’ tab.

I’m not familiar with this software, so I looked at their website and, much to my surprise, found that it is advertised in part as a REPLACEMENT FOR FREAKING DROPBOX! (See screenshot that appears somewhere near this sentence). So yeah, maybe Aaron Aulenta is too much of a tech dinosaur to figure out how to use Dropbox, which is famously difficult to use in comparison to USB drives,4 but he knows how to use Basecamp, which in part functions the same way. Not only does he know how to use it, this email shows he knows how to administer it. Thus spake Lisa Schechter:

Dear Aaron:

Can you please add the following to BaseCamp:

Laurie Goldman email: (She is our Board President)
David Bass email: (He is our Board Vice President)

Thank you

And thus respake Aaron Aulenta:

Will do.

Sheesh, amirite? More news later!

Image of Steve Gibson ended up on this blog with a ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org slapped on it and started out here in a much less interesting form.

  1. See the last page of the unredacted copy of Urban Place Consulting’s contract.
  2. Not the royal we. In this case, “we” means me and my lawyer, because that’s how stubborn Rena Leddy was.
  3. I don’t yet have detailed information about the Palisades BID’s establishment process, but I’m working on it. It’s going to be a while, though, for various reasons, including the fact that PPBID ED Laurie Sale is completely off her rocker.
  4. This is sarcasm, friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *