Studio City BID Issues Dishonest And Combative But Mostly (Although Not Entirely) Submissive Response To My Brown Act Demand Letter — BID President Tony Richman Signs His Name To A Bunch Of Ill-Tempered Truculent Lies Probably Written By Ill-Tempered Truculent BID Lawyer Carol Humiston — Does That Make Tony Richman An Ill-Tempered Truculent Liar Also? — Maybe — But Also Maybe Just A Patsy

A few weeks ago I sent the Studio City BID a Brown Act demand letter insisting that they stop breaking the law in four specific ways. According to the Brown Act at §54960.2 the BID can avoid litigation by responding to such a demand with an unconditional commitment to refrain from violating the specific statutory sections in the future. And on Monday, October 15, the SCBID Board met and decided to do just that.

And amazingly enough, the next day, this letter showed up in my inbox! So they weren’t just blowing smoke, it seems. The BID hired Bradley & Gmelich to represent them, which definitely means Carol Freaking Humiston, the world’s angriest Brown Act attorney, almost certainly wrote the letter. And it is written in her inimitable style,1 which essentially consists of variations on the following narrative in six acts:

  1. You’re wrong about what the law says.
  2. Because you’re stupid.
  3. Nothing in the law requires us to do what you demand.
  4. You thought it did because you’re wrong and stupid.
  5. So shut up.
  6. We’re complying with your demand.

The four issues I raised in the letter were first that IDs were required to attend the Board meeting, second that the Board didn’t adequately describe the subject of its closed session, third that the Board didn’t reconvene in open session after the closed session, and fourth that a majority of the Board members had at one time discussed a matter via email instead of in public.

The BID’s response letter was overflowing with a lot of sound and fury2 and belligerent bluster but essentially contained adequate unconditional commitments never ever to do three out of the four. The third item, though, on reconvening in open session, for some reason they declined to commit not to violate. With respect to that, well, I’m studying my options and stay tuned for updates.

For more details about the contents of the letter, the usual amateur analysis, and a modicum of mockery, turn the damn page!

ID required to attend Board meeting

The first issue has to with the fact that the BID held its meetings on the CBS Studio Center lot, which requires the production of identification as a condition of entry. The Brown Act at §54953.3 says:

A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

The BID claimed in the letter, as all BIDs seem to do when challenged about ID requirements, that it wasn’t the BID that required ID, but rather the owner of the facility, in this case CBS. In particular, thus ranted Carol Humiston:

For the security of the individuals and facilities on the CBS Lot. everyone who wishes to enter must check-in at a security guard station, including me and the Board members, and a determination is made that presence on the CBS Lot is authorized.The BID has no control over the CBS Lot security and has no access to any records maintained by the CBS Lot security. … The BID does not require identification to attend a Board meeting.

Now, take a look at the language of the statute. It purposely does not say just who is forbidden from requiring ID. It does not say that the legislative body of the local agency3 is forbidden from requiring it but anyone else can require it. Instead, the law says that a member of the public can’t be required to show ID. Not a word about who can’t do the requiring. Therefore no one can. Not the BID, not CBS, not anyone. Of course, Carol Humiston, who is mean, who is angry, who has sold her soul to the wicked gods of white supremacy, is nevertheless not stupid. This is why the BID agreed never to do this no more:

Notwithstanding the fact that there has been no violation of the Brown Act, in order to avoid unnecessary litigation, the BID hereby unconditionally commits to the following:

(1) Members of the public will not be required to provide identification to attend Board meetings.

Oh, and I can’t close this section without mentioning that, even as great minds think alike, so do evil BIDdies who are challenged in their privilege. In 2014, when I told Kerry Morrison that it was illegal for her BID to require ID to attend Board meetings, she immediately told me that I was wrong because ID was required to enter the Los Angeles City Hall to attend public meetings. And here we are in 2018 and Carol Humiston is making the same damn argument:

The situation is no different than other secure locations where Board meetings are held; for example, there is no requirement to provide identification to attend the Los Angeles City Council meetings, but there is a requirement to provide identification to enter City Hall.

The funniest part of this, of course, is that there is in fact no requirement to provide identification to enter City Hall if one is attending a meeting that’s subject to the Brown Act. This is the absolute truth. If you tell the cop who’s handing out stickers and checking IDs that you’re there for a meeting you are absolutely not required to show ID. The City takes this so seriously that if you try to show the cop your ID he or she will wave it away and not look. So not only is Carol Humiston wrong about the law, she’s wrong about the facts. But of course none of that matters because on her advice the BID capitulated.

Adequate descriptions of closed session items

This one’s a little technical, and I’m skipping the details. It’s explained pretty well in my post on the demand letter itself, and again, after explaining to me in great detail why I’m wrong and dumb and mean, Carol Humiston directs her client, the BID, to capitulate:

Notwithstanding the fact that there has been no violation of the Brown Act, in order to avoid unnecessary litigation, the BID hereby unconditionally commits to the following:

(2) The Closed Session Agenda will provide a “brief general description” of personnel matters.

Board discussions via email

This is the same old junk we see all the time. The Board discusses issues within their subject matter jurisdiction via email instead of at a public meeting. This is explicitly forbidden by the Brown Act at §54954.2(b)(1) which states:

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.

And they did it, there is no question. You can read the details in the demand letter and the short version is that the Board exchanged a number of emails about parking in the BID. Obviously parking is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the BID and obviously this is a discussion. But Carol Humiston doesn’t see it that way, not at all. She’s going to pretend that the law only forbids taking action, even though anyone who can read can see that it forbids discussing the kind of things that the Board is allowed to take action on, not that they’re planning to take action on. Thus raved Carol Humiston:

Finally, with respect to the emails of John Walker on May 23, 2018, Mr. Walker is the Executive Director of the BID and not a member of the legislative body of the BID. His communications to the Board, in whole or in part, are never a Brown Act violation.

Moreover, Mr. Walker’s communications with the Board were not on a topic within the BID s jurisdiction or on which the BID was authorized to take action. To the contrary Mr Walker’s email was for informational use only (“FYI”) about a feasibility study being conducted by the City on City-owned property, not the property of shareholders within the BID. He specifically advised the Board members that if they wanted to offer their opinions personally, they should write their congressman directly; there was no discussion nor even an inference that the BID Board should act on or comment on the subject of Mr. Walker’s email as a Board. In fact, at the time Mr. Dunn and I5 responded with an inquiry to Mr. Walker’s email, unclear about the nature of Mr. Walkers’ email, Mr. Walker made clear that the subject of his emails was not an issue that was before the Board or within the jurisdiction of the BID.

Note that Carol Humiston says that the communications “…were not on a topic within the BID s jurisdiction or on which the BID was authorized to take action.” This is absolutely untrue. The communications were on the subject of parking. The BID is authorized to take action on parking. That they chose not to do so with respect to this item doesn’t erase the violation, which is based on the fact that they’re allowed to act on Studio City parking in general, so that they can never discuss it as a body via email. This Carol Humiston is very sneaky, is she not? And, as usual, she doesn’t even believe her own arguments, which is why the BID’s reply states explicitly that:

Notwithstanding the fact that there has been no violation of the Brown Act, in order to avoid unnecessary litigation, the BID hereby unconditionally commits to the following:

(3) A majority of the Board members will not communicate via email regarding matters within their subject matter jurisdiction.

Reconvening after a closed session

OK, oh my goodness. The law here is super clear. The Brown Act right there at §54957.7(b) says:

After any closed session, the legislative body shall reconvene into open session prior to adjournment and shall make any disclosures required by Section 54957.1 of action taken in the closed session.

This says that there are two things that must occur after a closed session. First, the BID must reconvene. Second, any required disclosures must be made. Note in particular what it does not say. It does not say that the BID must reconvene only if there are disclosures to be made. The plain language of the statute says that either way they must reconvene. Of course, the issue in the demand letter is that they did not reconvene, even though I asked them to.

And this is not just a technicality. Even if they didn’t take action in the closed session, the fact that they did not, as revealed by the lack of required disclosure, is important information. Further, I’m not sure how they’re supposed to be sure that they won’t take action in the closed session. What if there’s a motion?

Anyway, in her typically aggressive and intentional misreading of everything in what she sociopathically imagines to be the best interest of her client, Carol Humiston makes a valiant but ultimately futile attempt at blame-shifting:

Moreover, you were expressly told, by your own admission, that there would be no reporting out after Closed Session because no action would be taken. Specifically “I asked executive director John Walker whether the board would reconvene in open session to report any actions taken in the closed session. He told me that they would not. I asked why and he told me that there were to be no actions to report so they weren’t required to reconvene.” Mr. Walker’s statements to you were accurate and legal.

To be clear, the statute you have cited in your letter, California Government Code §54957.7, expressly provides that reporting out is only required if “action taken.” Even then there are even more limited circumstances when in fact “action taken” must be reported out verbally at the same agendized meeting. Since no action was taken, there was no requirement for a report of “action taken” after Closed Session.

See how she shifts the requirement? The law requires reconvening. By the end of her rant she’s acting like the law requires reporting out even if there’s nothing to report. It does not, but it does require reconvening.

So that’s the whole story of the BID’s unconditional commitment to refrain from future violations of three out of the four sections of the Brown Act that I brought to their attention. As to the fourth, like is it worth filing a petition over their failure to commit not to violate it in the future? As I said above, we’re all thinking about what to do and we will reconvene as soon as there’s something to report!

Image of Tony Richman is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. Take a look at this lil puppy if you wanna see something similar-ish.

  1. For the sake of comparison take a look at this post from 2017 which is the story of another Humistonian response to another demand letter in which she gave about a zillion reasons why compliance was not required and then, for no reason, complied.
  2. Signifying the usual kind of stuff signified by a lot of sound and fury.
  3. This is a term of art in the Brown Act, where it means nothing more than the entity that is subject to the Brown Act. In this case, clearly, it’s the BID.
  4. This is really not true, but it’s a little off topic to go into. If some Board members tell John Walker what they think about an issue and then John Walker tells some other Board members what the first Board members said and the total number of Board members involved is a majority then John Walker’s communications are part of a Brown Act violation. It’s true that John Walker himself can’t violate the Brown Act, so by the principle of charity I guess I should assume that that’s what Carol Humiston means here, but John Walker’s communications can absolutely be a Brown Act violation on the part of the Board.
  5. Here “I” refers to Tony Richman, who signed the letter, rather than Carol Humiston, who wrote it.

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