Yesterday I took a little trip South on Flower Street to the dark horse Death Star of downtown, the South Park BID, to look over some public records that they’ve been holding out on since January 2017 and only coughed up because my lawyer can beat up their lawyer.1 I found a hot mess of, among many, many problems, bizarrely damaged emails printed to PDF in random order with unintelligible OCR, missing attachments, purposely scrambled pages, and misnamed and poorly divided files. It’s going to take quite a while to put this nonsense into any kind of useful state,2 but I know a lot of my readers are wondering what’s up with shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine,3 so I thought I’d get the information concerning her up as fast as possible, even though it’s not yet in an ideal format.
- The documents on Archive.Org — This is four gigantic PDF spools of emails and (hallelujah!) a bunch of invoices. They’re almost unusable, but single word search at least works. Phrase search not so much. The invoices are the really essential item, though, and are linked-to directly and described in the next line.
- All invoices from Devine Strategies to SPBID since 2012 — This is damning with respect to constructing further reports to the Ethics Commission on Tara Devine’s unregistered lobbying. You may recall that my first attempt at this required an inordinate amount of painstaking analysis to prove a violation of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. With these invoices in hand the next few cases won’t be nearly as difficult to make.
That’s the big news, and you can turn the page if you’re in the mood for more detail and discussion. Note, though, that I’ll be posting about this material again once I get it revised into a more useful form.
Anyway, you may recall that, earlier this year, in an attempt to discover how much the shadowy one might be getting paid for her dark and bloody work on the Venice Beach BID, I started hitting up the South Parkies for Devine materials. I found out that she seems to get paid about $80,000 per BID4 and that she doesn’t seem able to keep her mouth shut even when being recorded about how the BID is pulling the wool over the eyes of its own property owners, which is hardly surprising given the amount of wool-pulling she’s shown herself to be capable of.
However, the real grail was her invoices to the South Park BID for her renewal work. They fought hard not to give them up, at one point even claiming that my request for all invoices from Devine Strategies was too vague for them to understand. But give them up they ultimately did and here they are again (be careful as it’s a massive PDF). Recall that a lobbyist is defined in LAMC §48.02 as:
any individual who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours in any consecutive three-month period engaged in lobbying activities which include at least one direct communication with a City official or employee, conducted either personally or through agents, for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.
Proving the communication with the City isn’t hard in the case of BID consultants. Neither is proving that they’re influencing municipal legislation. The BID law at §36621 requires the City Council to pass a resolution of intention to form a BID and again at §36625 to pass a resolution of formation. Both of these are crystal clear examples of municipal legislation as defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance LAMC §48.02:
any legislative or administrative matter proposed or pending before any agency (as defined in this article), including but not limited to those involving the granting, denial, revocation, restriction or modification of a license, permit or entitlement for use (including all land use permits) if the Mayor, the City Council, any of its committees, any agency board, commission, committee, or general manager, or any agency officer or employee charged by law with holding a hearing and making a decision, is charged by law with making a final decision on the matter.
What turns out to be really, really hard without special information, is proving the thirty hours over three consecutive months. However, with the invoices in hand it becomes trivial. Read them for yourself, of course, but to see what I mean, take a look at this one from January 2017. She bills for 122 hours between July 2016 and December 2016. That’s six months. It’s not possible to distribute 122 hours over six months without having 30 in at least one string of three consecutive months.5 And see that among the activities she’s billing for she lists her discussions with the City Clerk, which takes care of the requirement of communicating with a City official. This one PDF is essentially a successful complaint to the Ethics Commission without even needing much explanation.6
Anyway, that’s a brief outline of why this material is so very important. I’ll be putting it to a number of uses in the future, all of them bad news for the shadowy one. Stay tuned!
Transcription of the quoted email:
Subject: Re: Update
Date: Friday, March 31, 2017 at 12:46:52 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Tara Devine
To: Ellen Riotto
I just submitted the drafts to the Clerk. They are attached. Please do not distribute to anyone. As we go through review , these documents may change substantially . At this point, they almost certainly contain some errors (potentially even large ones) as well, due to their inherent complexity.
We may uncover parcel changes or corrections that will significantly affect the final budget and final parcel assessments herein. Based on my experience, owners can get upset over drafts vs. finals. When people see something in writing, they want to “take it to the bank.” This is NOT bankable. Distributing a draft , especially a first draft, is highly likely to create questions and potentially headaches for both of us.
I ended up having to move a lot of things this week to be available for this. Now I have to pay the price for it. So please bear with me as I will be out of the office on Friday and the first half of Monday for a mix of client and personal appointments, and also stare down another client deadline for Tuesday.
Some tiny fraction of the pixels in the image of Tara Devine began their lives embedded in this photo from her LinkedIn account. The resulting mess, I’m proud to say, is ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. The words in her mouth in the second version are a paraphrase of the famous From Hell letter.
- There have been lawyers involved already, and there are going to be more lawyers involved before we’re through. As Tara Devine might say (PDF; transcription at end of post), you can take that to the freaking bank, friends! I’ll write on the lawyerly details when things are in a more settled state. For now, let’s just note that their production of all of Tara Devine’s invoices, which turned out to be no more than 108 pages including a bunch of probably intentionally vexatious duplication, is not overly burdensome and is, in fact, actually required by the the freaking law.
- Again, while the lawyers are slugging it out this is necessary, because much of the disarray was caused by the South Park BID’s refusal to supply emails in native format as required by CPRA at §6253.9(a)(1), which states in part: Unless otherwise prohibited by law, any agency that has information that constitutes an identifiable public record not exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter that is in an electronic format shall make that information available in an electronic format when requested by any person and, when applicable, shall comply with the following: (1) The agency shall make the information available in any electronic format in which it holds the information. The SPBID’s twisted little pipsqueak of an operations director, Katie Kiefer, had the nerve to tell me that the BID only keeps emails in PDF format. You can see from the metadata of the PDFs they gave me that they created them in June 2017 in response to my request using Outlook. So they seem to be claiming that their version of Outlook stores emails as PDFs? I’m not sure what it means, but it’s obviously wrong. When this controversy is settled in my favor, as it will be, the material will be in a very useful state indeed.
- I have in no way forgotten about her. It’s just that sometimes CPRA requests can take freaking forever, especially when we’re dealing with such a bunch of dimwitted obstructionist blockheads as are presently in control of the South Park BID. There’s a lot of goodies here, and tons more in the pipeline, so don’t despair, Venice friends!
- Although that estimate may be subject to severe revisions once I have a chance to analyze the new material I’m announcing here.
- This is an example of a generalization of the pigeonhole principle. I’m glossing over the details, but when I file a complaint based on this material you can read all about it then.
- By the way, I’m sorry I can’t provide a transcription. This is one of the deeply messed up PDFs I was talking about.