LAMC 49.5.5(A) states, rather succinctly, that:
City officials, agency employees, appointees awaiting confirmation by the City Council, and candidates for elected City office shall not misuse or attempt to misuse their positions or prospective positions to create or attempt to create a private advantage or disadvantage, financial or otherwise, for any person.
Here’s what seems to be required of a City official or employee to violate this law:1
- That they misuse their position, where I’m thinking “misuse” means:
- They do something that requires the powers granted to them by virtue of their position and
- their powers were not granted for the purpose of doing that thing.
- The misuse creates a private advantage or disadvantage for someone, where I’m thinking “private” means:
- The advantage or disadvantage created does not further public policy goals. E.g. getting arrested creates a disadvantage for the arrestee, but the disadvantage furthers a public goal. Winning a contract through the City’s bidding process advantages the successful bidder, but the advantage furthers a public goal.
The law is enforced by the City Ethics Commission, although it doesn’t seem to have been used much. There is, e.g., this case from 2010 involving a Fire Inspector who charged money for successful inspections. This is the kind of thing one would expect to fall under this statute. However, there is also one high profile case pending right now which doesn’t seem ordinary at all. It seems quite unexpected. In 2014 LAPD Officer Jim Parker was among those who responded to a sex-in-a-car call involving Daniele Watts and her boyfriend. She accused the police of racism and brutality, and Parker anonymously leaked an audio recording of the incident, which exonerated the police. Subsequently, the Ethics Commission issued a public accusation against Parker for violating LAMC 49.5.5(A) on the theory that leaking the confidential audio recording, which he only had access to by virtue of his position, constituted a misuse which created a private advantage for himself.2
This is very encouraging. It seems that perhaps the Ethics Commission is willing to at least think about a broad application of this seemingly very broad law. And it’s an interesting thing about laws that no one can actually be sure what they mean, what the range of application is, until they’re repeatedly tested in the courts. Well, that’s not exactly right. If a court decides that people of average intelligence can’t be sure at all what the law actually prohibits or requires, they’re likely to toss it out as unconstitutionally vague. But, I guess, if people don’t know exactly what the law prohibits or requires, but average people could have realized that it potentially prohibits what they’re doing or requires what they’re not doing, then it’s not too vague, even if no one actually did realize those things.3 That’s the space I’m interested in exploring with respect to LAMC 49.5.5(A). And because I’m not interested in philosophical explorations any more I’m going to explore this issue by actually turning people in to the CEC to find out what happens, beginning with our old friend, Peter Zarcone. You can read some details after the break, and even get your very own copy of the complaint I sent the Ethics Commission the other day.
First of all, you may recall how our old friends the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, as part of their ideologically charged racist crusade to destroy all Hollywood bars that serve non-white people using lies and scorched earth tactics, decided to hold an essentially white supremacist music festival on Cahuenga Boulevard.4 But they neglected to get the proper permits, so Peter Zarcone told the Hollywood Vice Squad not to enforce the law against festival participants.
Well, it turns out that a few venues that participated in the festival, notably Fabio Conti‘s restaurant on Sunset, the Fabiolus Cucina and that creepazoid new hotel at Selma and Wilcox, Mama Shelter,5 actually have Conditional Use Permits that disallow live music. So that when Peter Zarcone sent his famous email telling Vice not to arrest anyone who was participating in the festival, whether they had one-day permits or not, there were actually people who gained an advantage from this. Notably, Fabio Conti, current president of the freaking Sunset & Vine BID, and Mama Shelter. This actually seems like a fairly straightforward application of LAMC 49.5.5(A), which is why I used it to kick off the project.
So yeah, you made it this far! Take a look at the complaint I sent to the CEC. I also sent a copy to the Office of the Inspector General. After all, both agencies seem to be investigating Jim Parker, why shouldn’t they both investigate Peter Zarcone as well? I have three more of these in the pipeline, and I hope to be done with the next one by Sunday, so stay tuned for further episodes of the famous MK.org “How Far Can We Go With LAMC 49.5.5.(A) Experiment!”
- Please, please don’t forget that not only am I not a lawyer, but I only actually know what I’m talking about intermittently, and unfortunately I can’t distinguish the times when I do from the times when I don’t.
- As you can well imagine, the Police Protective League is FTFO about this development, not least because police officers are also subject to discipline by the Inspector General as well as the Ethics Commission. Just as an aside, how bush league is it that the Police Protective League owns the domain “lapd.com”? And why is their website straight outta 1995? I expected freaking background music when that puppy loaded. And why is the Inspector General’s website on wix.com? Sigh…
- This is what seems to be going on with Jim Parker. From the outraged commentary by the Police Protective League, as well as by actual sane people like Jasmyne Cannick, it seems to have been generally understood by no one ever that slipping a tape to TMZ violated this particular law. Of course, it’s all being adjudicated and maybe this application will be tossed out, but we shall see, sha’n’t we?
- Mostly to demonstrate to businesses that they could make money without catering to “those people,” Cahuenga Boulevard being the part of the BID where “those people” are least likely to turn up, for whatever reason.
- Which for some reason I am never going to understand, Kerry Morrison is acutely enamored of. I just don’t get it. She hates bars, she hates music, she hates non-white people. Mama Shelter is full of all of them. Except the non-white people are all foreigners. She loves foreigners. Maybe that’s why? Or maybe it’s just cause Mama Shelter is owned by French people (not making that up, even though it seems like I would be). Kerry Morrison freaking loves French people! (Note that I don’t actually know whether or not that’s true, but it certainly ought to be. Plus I’m kind of curious about whether it’s possible to sue someone successfully for saying falsely that they love French people.)