The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission does routine audits of candidate campaign committees. This duty stems from the Los Angeles City Charter at §702(d). The results of these audits are presented by the Executive Director at the Commission’s bimonthly meetings, the next one of which is scheduled for Wednesday, August 18, at 9:30 AM. Here’s a copy of the agenda if you want to participate.
And here’s a copy of Executive Director David Tristan’s report (the two audit reports are at the end). On page 17 find the audit of John Lee For City Council 2019, which ran Lee’s campaign in the 2019 special election to fill Mitchell Englander’s seat, vacated so Englander could take a job as a lobbyist. On page 22 find the audit results from Lee’s Runoff election committee.
City law limits each contributor to an aggregate total of $800 in contributions per Councilmember per election and the auditors look for violations of this. They often find a few, but they’re not locking anyone up for them. According to the Ethics Commission’s Excess Contribution Policy if the candidate “cures” the violation by returning the contribution and any associated matching funds within a specified time after being caught by the audit they don’t get in trouble for it but the illegal contributions are still reported in the audits.
Lee had a few excess contributions to cure, and they’re pretty interesting. First of all, for the first special election we see former CD7 repster Felipe Fuentes, who resigned from City Council in 2016 to take a job as a lobbyist. Fuentes gave $800 on February 7, 2019 and then another $350 on May 30, 2019. Obviously he knew he gave the max in February so it’s hard to see this as anything but an attempt to sneak excess money past the regulators, since there are no consequences for getting caught.
Continue reading John Lee Had To Return A Number Of Illegal 2019 Campaign Contributions — From Former CD7 Rep Felipe Fuentes — Now Some Kind Of Creepy Sacramento Lobbyist — From Brenton Tesler — Now Lee’s Chief Of Staff — Tesler Only Gives Money To Lee By The Way — $3200 Since January 2019 — (Including The $800 Returned By Lee) — And Mega-Contributor Attorney Patricia Glaser — Who Makes A Good Living Defending Rapists Like Harvey Weinstein And Has Given More Than $85K To Local Candidates Over The Years
It’s been a big few days around here! The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition filed two CPRA suits against the City of Los Angeles and one against LAHSA and I personally filed one against the City of Los Angeles. Both LASC and I are repped by the formidable Gina Hong of the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action.
The case against CD15 is based on a request I made in June 2019, for which, two years later, I’ve only received minimal responsives with no unexpired deadline for production forthcoming. Buscaino staffer Amy Gebert’s shameless violations of the CPRA led me to file two distinct complaints against her with the LA Ethics Commission, one in August 2020 and the other in February 2021.
This is an extremely exciting petition. It’s the first time I’ve used a cause of action based on California Code of Civil Procedure §526a, which allows taxpayers to file suit against government agencies for wasting tax money. The idea is that by insisting on producing emails by printing them in color on paper and then scanning the paper to PDFs CD15 is wasting staff time on unnecessary processes and public money on completely unnecessary color printing.
Continue reading Last Week The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition And Friends Filed Four CPRA Petitions — Three Against The City Of Los Angeles And One Against LAHSA — The LA City Suits Are Versus CD4 — And CD15 — And The Information Tech Agency — The CD15 One Includes A Taxpayer Suit Based On California Code of Civil Procedure 526a — Which Lets Us Allege That Buscaino Is Wasting Public Money By Using It To Violate The CPRA — And May Lead To Lasting Policy Changes Rather Than A Mere Production Of Records
By now the whole world knows that John Lee, Los Angeles City Councilmember for District 12, formerly chief of staff to now-indicted former CD12 rep Mitch Englander, accompanied his boss to Las Vegas in June of 2017 to be plied with liquor, money, and sex in exchange for the usual list of favors to real estate developers. And Lee, known as City Staffer B in the indictments issued so far, admits going on the trip but denies receiving anything untoward or engaging in suspect or illegal activities.
And even though Englander’s indictment doesn’t mention anything leading up to that June 2017 trip, it’s clear that he and surely also John Lee had to have been conspiring with the developer for a while. Without a lot of prior discussion and understandings how would these conspirators have trusted one another enough to offer and accept such blatantly corrupt incentives? The indictment refers repeatedly to text messages between Englander, Lee, and the corrupt developers, so at least some of the pre-Vegas communication probably took place via cell phone.
And the City issues cell phones to Councilmembers and selected staff. While most criminals can probably understand that it’s a bad idea to arrange crimes on your work phone, it’s not impossible that Lee didn’t realize this at first. Regardless of the wily criminal tendencies of these political thugs they’re not bright people or at least have astonishingly poor impulse control. So perhaps early on Lee did use his work phone to communicate with his co-conspirators? And maybe at some point he realized that he might be leaving evidence by doing so? Which is speculation, of course.
But speculation or not it would certainly explain the highly suspicious fact that in January 2017 Lee asked his aide Brandy Turnbow if it were possible to get detailed billing records for his work phone from Verizon. By that time he’d worked for the City of Los Angeles for more than 20 years and yet the question hadn’t come up for him before his boss was running a criminal conspiracy out of City Hall. So Turnbow emailed Matthew Webster of Verizon asking him about it. And after a lot of tedious discussion he sent her the information she requested as an email attachment.
Which was tremendously good luck, because of course City emails and their attachments are public records. Which is how I laid hands on one of the most remarkable documents I’ve had the good fortune to receive during my long career of requesting public records. This is a detailed 300+ page call-by-call log of CD12 work phone activity from October 2016 through January 2017. It has all of Mitch Englander’s work phone calls, all of John Lee’s, and also other staffers. It includes not only the number called but the location of the caller’s phone when the call was made.
Continue reading In January 2017 — When The Mitch Englander CD12 Crime Conspiracy Must Already Have Been Busily Whirring Away — City Staffer B — Which Is To Say John Lee — Asked His Assistant Brandy Turnbow To Get A Copy Of His Detailed Phone Log From Verizon — Could He Have Been Using His Work Phone To Do Crimes? — Worried About What Lurid Or Incriminating Information He’d Spilled? — And Turnbow Did Get Them From Verizon — Via Email! — Which Is How I Came To Have Copies Of John Lee’s Phone Logs! — And Mitch Englander’s! — For November And December 2016 — Including Number Called And Location Of Lee/Englander At Time Of Call! — They’re Not Quite Formatted Enough To Search Or Sort Reliably — But Here They Are For To Exercise Your Detective Skills! — Like An Easter Egg Hunt For Grownups!
By now the whole world knows that former Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander is a sleazy corrupt fellow who was in Las Vegas in 2017 on June 1, 2, and maybe 3 being bribed with cash, liquor, and women and that he was accompanied on this funhouse mirror hero’s journey by his as-yet-unindicted co-conspirator and then-chief-of-staff John S. Lee, sitting Councilmember for the Twelfth District, known in the ever-increasing number of official indictments and mockingly on Twitter as City Staffer B.
Lee admits that he went along with Mitch on the trip, but he continues to maintain that he did nothing wrong and, says Lee, that he “was unaware of any illegal activities for which Councilmember Englander is being charged.” Not only did, according to himself, do nothing wrong but also, according to his spokesperson Grace Yao he especially “absolutely [was] not” supplied with women. It’s certainly curious that Lee denies everything but he extra-super-duper denies that part.
Almost as curious as the fact that Lee omitted that June 2017 trip to Las Vegas from his official 2017 appointment calendar, which I recently obtained from the City of Los Angeles via a Public Records Act request. You can see that he had a full day of actual work on June 1. Presumably he traveled to Las Vegas with Mitch that night. On June 2 he has nothing at all listed except a late-night 11 PM meeting with a mysterious as-yet-unidentified figure known as Justin Cruz.
Continue reading City Staffer B — John Lee — Sitting CD12 Representative — Admittedly Accompanied His Then-Boss Mitch Englander To Las Vegas In June 2017 Where Englander Was Bribed With Wine — And Women — And Hard Cold Bathroom Envelope Cash — And Lee Denies He Knew Any Of That Was Going On — And Very Specifically Denies That He Himself Was Bribed With Women — But He Did Not Put The Vegas Thing In His Appointment Calendar — Which To Me Screams Consciousness Of Freaking Guilt — Because This Is A Guy Who Obsessively Enters Every Trip He Takes — Work-Related Or Not — Including Three Trips To Competitive Cheerleading Events Between February And May 2017 — So Why Would He Leave Out The Sleazy Vegas Trip If He Wasn’t Trying To Keep It A Secret? — And Why Keep It A Secret If He Actually Thought It Was Legit As He Now Claims He Did?
On Tuesday, March 17, 2020 the Los Angeles City Council considered an emergency ordinance to halt evictions and give renters 24 months to cover missed payments. Or at least that’s what the original motion, introduced by CD11 rep Mike Bonin, called for. During the debate, though, various other councilmembers, notably Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, and Herb Wesson, argued passionately against the harm that such an ordinance would do to the proverbial mom and pop landlords by giving these deadbeat tenants so damn long to settle up.
Two years is far long, they said. Mom and pops can’t afford to wait, they said. Will increase default rate, said they. They said all kinds of impassioned stuff in favor of reducing repayment time by a murderous 75%. But one of the things they didn’t say was that all three of these councilmembers are themselves landlords. It’s impossible to imagine that they weren’t thinking of their own interests while arguing to amend this motion. I wrote a piece on this a few days ago, the research for which also revealed that they weren’t the only three, by the way.
It turned out that Jose Huizar, Nury Martinez, and Curren Price are also landlords and also voted yes on the change to a 6 month grace period. My method of landlord discovery relied solely on Form 700s, which are annual financial disclosure forms required of elected officials in California. And rental income is a specific category which must be identified as such. For instance, consider the relevant section from Paul Krekorian’s most recent filing.
But it turned out that this method was flawed. Not flawed in the sense of producing false positives. The six that I identified are in fact landlords. Flawed, though, in the sense of producing false negatives based, as it is, on the disclosures being honest. And that’s how I missed the fact that CD4 representative David Ryu is also a landlord, although it’s certainly not obvious at all from his most recent Form 700. First, take a look at the relevant section:
He lists an assessor’s parcel number rather than an address. I didn’t previously look up the property, though, because he checked off the box indicating that he’d received no rental income. It turns out, though, that skipping this was a huge mistake on my part. I finally did look into the matter and it turns out that I had previously missed everything! Read on for the whole astonishingly sordid story of David Ryu and this property!
Continue reading David Ryu Certainly Seems To Be Yet Another Landlord On The Los Angeles City Council — And Apparently Perfectly Comfortable Voting On Various Tenants’ Rights Issues Without Recusing Himself Or Even Mentioning It — He And His Sister Esther Bought A Four Unit Apartment Building In 2018 — And Immediately Signed It Over To A Shady Entity Called Daejopia LLC — Controlled By Their Brother Joseph — Ryu Acknowledged On His Form 700 That He Owns The Building — Although He Lists It By Parcel Number Rather Than Address — But Denies Receiving Any Rental Income From It — Which Seems Really Highly Unlikely Given That It Appears To Be Fully Occupied — But Maybe He’ll Explain Himself If For Some Unknown Reason It Is True — Did I Mention That Kenneth Yoon — Who Sold The Building To David And Esther Ryu — Turned Around And Gave Ryu An $800 Contribution A Month After The Deal Closed? — And That The Ryus Only Needed To Borrow $460K On What Was Apparently A $840K Transaction?