Hundreds Of Emails Between Melrose BID And The City Of LA Include (1) Definitive Proof That Executive Director Don Duckworth Violated The Municipal Lobbying Ordinance In 2013 But Unfortunately The Statute Of Limitations Has Effectively Run And (2) More Brown-Act-Violating Bylaws That No One At The Clerk’s Office, For Shame, Seems To Have Even Noticed

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.
  • Melrose Business Improvement Association bylaws — The Melrose Business Improvement Association is the property owners’ association that administers the Melrose BID. These are their bylaws. I discovered recently that the freaking Larchmont Village BID had bylaws that directly contradicted the Brown Act. Now it turns out that the Melrose BID has precisely the same problem. It’s possible that Larchmont Village changed their ways, but so far, anyway, there’s no reason to suspect that Melrose has done.

OK, first of all, recall that the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, at §48.07(A), requires people to register as lobbyists if they’re paid for 30 or more hours of lobbying activity4 over three consecutive months. And finally, note that LAMC §48.09(C)(4) provides that “No civil action alleging a violation of this article shall be filed more than four years after the date the violation occurred.”

With all that in mind, we can turn to the Melrose BID Formation Project Hourly Charge Breakdown. Look at page 5 to see that Duckworth finished his work in October 2013. Adding up the hours for August, September, and October we get 29.75 hours, which is 15 minutes short of the required 30 hours. That means that, in order to make a case for unregistered lobbying against Donald Duckworth, we’d have to move back to July 2013. The hours add up easily then5 but to include July 2013 the Ethics Commission would have to be ready to file by June 30 of this year, which, if you know the glacial6 pace at which they work you’ll see that this is just not going to happen.

And next, take a look at the Melrose Business Improvement Association bylaws. There are many, many contradictions between this document and the Brown Act, with which the Melrose BID, like every other business improvement district in California, is required to comply with by the Property and Business Improvement District Law at §36612.

For instance, consider Section 5.10, to be found on page 14 of the bylaws:

SECTION 5.10 WAIVER OF NOTICE

The transactions of any meeting of the board of directors, however called and noticed or wherever held, shall be as valid as though taken at a meeting duly held after regular call and notice, if (a) a quorum is present, and (b) either before or after the meeting, each of the directors not present signs a written waiver of notice, a consent to holding the meeting or an approval of the minutes. …

This directly contradicts the noticing requirement of the Brown Act, which is found at §54954.2, which says in part:

At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting

Also, the clause in the bylaws that suggests that meetings can be held anywhere runs afoul of the meeting location restriction found in the Brown Act at §54954(b), which states in part:

Regular and special meetings of the legislative body shall be held within the boundaries of the territory over which the local agency exercises jurisdiction…

And similarly, take a look at Section 5.13 on page 15:

SECTION 5.13 ACTION WITHOUT MEETING

Any action required or permitted to be taken by the board of directors may be taken without a meeting, if all members of the board of directors, individually or collectively, consent in writing to that action. Such action by written consent shall have the same force and effect as a unanimous vote of the board of directors. …

This runs afoul of what’s arguably the single most important requirement of the Brown Act: that bodies subject to it shall not take any action whatsoever outside of a legal meeting. This is found at §54952.2(b)(1), which states in part:

A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.

This section 5.13 appears7 to be the same language verbatim as an objectionable clause in the Larchmont Village BID’s bylaws. And the City, true to form, does not seem to be willing to do anything at all about it. It’s not like they don’t know, either.

In fact, all of the material presented in this post, both the accounting of charges and hours and the bylaws themselves, was attached to this email exchange between Don Duckworth and the BID analyst who’s assigned to oversee the Melrose BID, the famous-in-certain-circles Mr. Eugene Van Cise. Eugene Van Cise is well-known not only for riding his bike around BIDs looking for litter and then emailing their staff when he finds it, but also for being Don Duckworth’s very most favoritest BID analyst in the whole City Clerk’s office.

So much so that when Don Duckworth’s other BID, the Westchester Town Center BID, ended up with the much-less-famous Rick Scott as its BID analyst, Don Duckworth wrote to chief BIDdie Miranda Paster and begged and pleaded to get Rick Scott replaced by Eugene Van Cise. I don’t yet know the outcome of that, but obviously Don Duckworth likes Eugene Van Cise bestest of all the BID analysts. And perhaps the fact that Eugene Van Cise accepted these illegal bylaws without a single complaint explains Don Duckworth’s preference.8


Image of creepy-unclesque pirate king Don Duckworth started out on his LinkedIn page, which you can probably find yourself somehow, but here is a link to the original image, and ended up splattered across our blog bearing the maker’s mark: ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.

  1. If you want to get a jump on the weirdness, search in there for “pole banner” (you have to search in the text rather than just the subject lines to get the full effect; the best way to do that, of course, is to install Mozilla Thunderbird if you don’t have it already, then install the latest version of ImportExportTools and import the actual mboxes. You won’t believe the wonderfulness of the search if you’re new to it, plus all the attachments are immediately available. I’m not kidding, the stuff these people spend months of their lives on never ceases to astound. You’ll be hearing about this pole banner jive again soon, friends!
  2. Nothing substantial; there were a bunch of different documents that were evidently scanned in piles without respecting document boundaries, so I separated them and rejoined them logically. Also, some pages were scanned sideways, so I rotated those. Here are links to the raw material so that it’s clear that I didn’t change anything other than page rotation and grouping by document: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.
  3. You can find most of the relevant articles here, and my most monumental effort on this topic here.
  4. As defined in LAMC §48.02; for an argument that BID consultancy meets this definition, read either this article or an actual complaint I filed on this issue.
  5. He was paid for more than 20 hours in July 2013 alone.
  6. But thorough; I am in no way complaining here, just stating a fact.
  7. Or appeared. They had a bylaw-altering item on some previous agenda and since then they’ve been refusing to tell me what they did at the meeting. Perhaps they’ve fixed the problem by now.
  8. It may also explain Don Duckworth’s weirdo level of comfort in his exchanges with Eugene Van Cise. The words I put into Don Duckworth’s mouth at the beginning of this post, up to and including the four letter word(s), are direct quotes from the email exchange.
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