On June 30, 2020, investigative reporter Aura Bogado tweeted a thread about text messages sent or received by LAPD Chief Michel Moore during the June 2, 2020 meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission. Bogado obtained these on June 29, 2020 as a result of a June 3, 2020 NextRequest filing.1
As you may know, I’ve had some trouble getting the Los Angeles Police Department to even respond to my CPRA requests, let alone to actually produce significant records quickly enough to be useful. So I asked Bogado how she’d done it, but it turned out that she had no idea whatsoever, although she thought she understood. Here’s what she had to say:
I did a standard CPRA to police records; made sure to include why I thought the records existed (Soboroff lifted his phone to the camera at some point) and also included that the request was subject to litigation if I didn’t get a response. I sue, and win, but that’s usually with the federal gov (I cover im/migration nationally) so I think this was part of the motivation to take my request seriously.
She naively assumed her success was due to intrinsic qualities of her request. She told them they’d be risking litigation if they didn’t comply, and she’s sure her reputation for filing a lot of FOIA suits against the feds encouraged LAPD’s diligence. Although of course well-formed requests and the willingness to file lawsuits aren’t actually enough to get LAPD to produce records. Not. In. The. Least.
Since 2016 I’ve filed 24 distinct CPRA suits against the City of Los Angeles and its various business improvement districts and charter schools. I haven’t lost a single one, and I write very solid requests.2 The City and its subsidiary legislative bodies have paid my lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars and uncountably more to their own lawyers for defense.
Stop LAPD Spying has successfully sued the City over public records at least twice and their years-old requests are still stalled. If being competent and litigious were enough to get LAPD to follow the law we’d be living in a very different world. On the other hand, LAPD is famous for releasing records when it suits their purposes to do so.
I don’t know what LAPD purpose was furthered by the rapid release of Bogado’s records, but there must have been at least one. I have newly uncovered evidence showing that LAPD fulfilled Bogado’s request quickly and thoroughly because Bryan Lium, commander of LAPD’s Legal Affairs Division, which includes the CPRA unit, personally and repeatedly hassled Richard Tefank by email and phone until he’d collected the responsive records. This began at 4:45 PM on June 5, just two days after Bogado’s request, with Lium emailing Tefank:
Please find attached my desk note with additional information. Please call me on my cell ⬟⬟⬟ ⬟⬟⬟-⬟⬟⬟⬟ at your convenience to discuss. I know this is going to be challenging with the Commissioners working remotely during this pandemic .
Thank you for your help
The email wasn’t all, though. As Lium notes, he’d attached a “desk note” about Bogado’s request as well. Lium emailed Tefank again at 5:15 and again at 6:01. It’s also possible that they spoke about the request via telephone. Lium followed up with Tefank again by email on June 15, 2020, and twice more later that day. The records were produced two weeks later.
Contrast this behavior with Lium’s later comments about a CPRA request from Stop LAPD Spying. On September 5, 2019 Stop LAPD Spying submitted Request 19-4995 via the NextRequest platform. A year later, on August 31, 2020 organizer Hamid Khan wrote to Richard Tefank complaining about LAPD’s incompetent mishandling of the request. Tefank forwarded the letter to Lium, and Lium responded quite differently than he did to Bogado’s request:
LAD has received and we will review with the City Attorneys. He has multiple massive requests we are working on… We have to balance his requests with the rest of the journalist and other citizens that have requests that need to be filled also.
This is essentially permission from the boss to continue to ignore Stop LAPD Spying’s CPRA requests. It’s certainly not comparable to Lium’s diligent work on getting records to Bogado. For some reason, as yet unknown, Lium really wanted to see Bogado’s records published, and he personally made sure it happened quickly. Neither he nor anyone else at LAPD wants anything Stop LAPD Spying requests to be published. So he and the rest of them stall, stall, and stall, and then lie when asked to explain themselves.3
And strangely enough, Lium’s emails don’t mention Bogado’s threats to sue, they don’t mention her litigious reputation, nor do they mention her proof that the records exist. They don’t mention any reason at all, but Lium never does this kind of thing. I’ve read over 10,000 of Richard Tefank’s emails from the last couple years and haven’t seen anything like Lium’s interest in Bogado’s request.
We’ll probably never know why Lium wanted the info out there, but it’s easy enough to conclude that it wouldn’t be available probably even now if he hadn’t pushed for it. In any case, Lium’s personal intervention in the CPRA process to facilitate Bogado’s request along with his personal disdain for the constitutional rights of Stop LAPD Spying are surely a case of his misusing his City position to create a private advantage for Bogado.
This, of course, is a violation of section 49.5.5 of the Los Angeles Muncipal Code. I’ve filed a bunch of complaints about this very law with the City Ethics Commission, and this blog post is based on a complaint I’m working on right now, so keep your eyes open for that!
- Here’s a screenshot of the request in case it goes away later.
- Of course, I would say that, but in these 24 suits, with the respondents attacking every aspect of everything, they’ve never tried to say that my requests lacked essential elements, and they would if they could think of a non-frivolous way to do it. This is my sole evidence regarding the quality of my requests.
- Expect to see a LOT more information about this in the next few weeks. It’s monumental, not kidding!