How I Reported The Los Feliz Village BID To The LA County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit For Brown Act Violations

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I published a big stack of emails from the famed Los Feliz Village BID. Amongst these were this little gem of an email chain, wherein the entire Board of Directors of the LFVBID, over the course of about two weeks in May 2017, discuss some nonsense relating to something called Urban Air Market. The facts themselves are as tedious as can be but, as I noted previously, the Brown Act at §54952.2(b)(1) explicitly forbids this kind of thing:

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.

Well, I’ve been so busy working on matters related to the revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance that’s presently being worked on by the Ethics Commission that I’ve barely had time to think of anything else. Yesterday, though, I needed a little break from lobbying and decided to take the time to write up a report to the LA County DA’s Public Integrity Division regarding this egregious violation. You can download a copy of the complaint or read a reasonably faithful transcription after the break.1


Report to the Los Angeles County District Attorney concerning a Brown Act violation by the Los Feliz Village Business Improvement District Corporation

I. Synopsis

1. The Los Feliz Village Business Improvement District Corporation administers a business improvement district in the City of Los Angeles. State law requires such corporations to comply with the Brown Act. In May 2017 the Board of Directors held an extensive email conversation about their participation in a street festival. This clearly falls within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Board. Therefore the email conversation violated the Brown Act’s prohibition on discussing such matters outside an authorized meeting.

II. Background

2. Business improvement districts (“BIDs”) are a form of temporary special assessment district in California. They are authorized and regulated by the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 19942 (“PBID law”).

3. The PBID law at §36612 requires BIDs to be administered by private non-profit corporations, known as “owners’ associations.” The law explicitly makes owners’ associations subject to the Brown Act:

… an owners’ association shall comply with the Ralph M. Brown Act … at all times when matters within the subject matter of the district are heard, discussed, or deliberated …

III. Facts

4. The Los Feliz Village BID is a BID in the City of Los Angeles. The owners’ association which administers the Los Feliz Village BID is called the Los Feliz Village Business Improvement District Corporation (“LFVBIDC”).

5. The members of the 2017 Board of Directors of the LFVBIDC are:

a. Rafik Ghazarian
b. Sarah Loveless
c. Chris Serrano
d. Aimee Benell
e. Rosa Marie Spinoso
f. Cat Martinez
g. Mardi Kari
h. Ziad Richa
i. Dino Pantazis

See Exhibit 1.

6. On May 17, 2017, LFVBIDC Board President Rafik Ghazarian sent an email to all members of the Board,
stating:

Good afternoon LFVBID members,

I have reserved a corner booth for us to represent the Los Feliz Village BID at the Urban Air Market. What I will be doing is making a spreadsheet of our businesses that we can hand out to attendees that day. Let me know if there is anything else you feel we should hand out. This will be a great opportunity for the LFVBID to get exposure. Please let me know by this Friday, May 19th if you can participate and assist in the booth. We will be sharing our space with the Los Feliz Improvement Association. Thank you.

Rafik Ghazarian

President

Los Feliz Village BID

See Exhibit 2.3

7. Over the next two weeks the Board continued to discuss matters relating to the Urban Air Market, including whether or not they ought to sell tee shirts, what color tee shirts to sell, and other related issues, all of which fall within the subject matter jurisdiction of the LFVBIDC Board. See Exhibit 3 for the entire email chain.

IV. Conclusion

8. The facts described in Section III above constitute a violation of the Brown Act at §54952.2(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.

V. Requested action

9. I ask the Los Angeles County District Attorney to investigate whether these actions constitute a violation of the Brown Act on the part of the LFVBIDC Board of Directors and, if they do, to see that they’re held responsible for their actions and be warned not to violate the law in the future.

What will come of it? Who can say. But if anything does you’ll certainly read about it here.


Image of the temptation of Rafik Ghazarian is ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and I made it from this picture of LA and also this picture of Rafik Ghazarian. The micronarrative is, of course, adapted from here.

  1. It’s not possible to provide an exact transcription due to the differences in capabilities between HTML and LaTex.
  2. California Streets and Highways Code \textsection36600 et seq.
  3. I obtained this and the other emails reproduced in this report from the LFVBIDC via the California Public Records Act, to which the owners’ associations of BIDs are also made subject by the PBID law at §36612. For unknown reasons the LFVBIDC chose to supply emails by forwarding them to their lawyer, Jeffrey Briggs, who then passed them along to me. That’s why they all appear to be from Rafik Ghazarian to J. Briggs rather than to the recipients listed in the body of the email. However, Briggs assures me that, although the records supplied are not exact copies due to the forwarding, the content of the forwarded emails is unchanged.
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