Quick summary! In August 2018 I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of Blair Besten, half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core BID, to file a petition seeking to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act. So the usual on-and-freaking-on process of CPRA litigation happened and after a few archetypally zany moments, like La Besten denying under oath that those things her BID sends out via MailChimp are, you know, emails, everybody filed their briefs in July and on November 5, 2019 we finally had the damn trial and the BID lost big freaking time!
And when a local agency such as a BID loses a CPRA case the law is very clear. The judge must award costs and fees to the requester. It doesn’t happen automatically, though. The prevailing requester has to file a fee motion and if the parties can’t agree on it there’s a hearing. So we filed the motion, and by “we” I mean my attorney, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, and here’s a copy of the fee motion. The BID flipped out and you can read their reply to the fee motion and our reply to their reply if reading a flipout is interesting to you.
We were supposed to have a hearing in May, but of course that didn’t happen. However, the judge did issue a tentative ruling, of which there is a transcription below, and awarded us $39,720 in fees and $1,099.25 in costs. This may seem high, but Chalfant cut Flynn’s hourly rate from $740 to $400 based on his unarticulated evaluation of the difficulty of the case and the level of expertise involved, which apparently judges mostly just have the discretion to do.
Continue reading Historic Core BID Slammed With $40K In Costs And Fees As A Result Of My California Public Records Act Request — Defended By Hollywood Superlawyer Jeffrey Charles Briggs — Who Has Not Won A Single One Of These Cases For His BIDdie Clients — His Whole Argument Here — And In The Rest Of The BID CPRA Cases He’s Defended — Is That I Should Lose Because My Entire Motive For Requesting Records Is To Trick BIDs Into Violating The CPRA — Then Sue Them Repeatedly — And Eventually Drive BIDs Out Of Business — This Is Provably False — And Patently Idiotic — And Explicitly Irrelevant Anyway — But Briggs Keeps Screeching About It — At Some Point I’m Expecting The BIDs To Realize That It’s Cheaper — And Easier — And Smarter — To Just Follow The Damn Law — But It Keeps Not Happening
As you probably know I’ve been investigating LAUSD charter schools using the California Public Records Act since January 2019. I was moved to this work by the monumental UTLA strike and especially the union’s focus on charter co-location.
I obtained some striking early results including an incredibly consequential release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools, some of the fruits of which got wide and fairly devastating coverage in the media, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere.
But this kind of success breeds resistance, so a lot of charters lawyered up and stopped producing records in response to my requests, or even stopped producing without the benefit of a lawyer’s advice. The only option left in such a situation is to start filing lawsuits, and that’s just what I’ve been forced to do.
In January 2020, for instance, I filed two. One ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ and the other against white savior charter conspiracy PUC Charter Schools, in some vague sense co-founded by former LAUSD board member and convicted felon Ref Rodriguez.
Continue reading Two Of My Public Records Act Lawsuits Against Charter Schools Settled In April 2020 — ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ PUC Charter Schools — Between Them They Paid More Than $11K — Which Was Supposed To Be Spent On Educating Children — But Which These Privatizing Pirate Academies Wasted Due To Their Appalling And Antisocial Arrogance — Here’s Some Background And Copies Of The Settlement Agreements!
UPDATE: Today, February 7, 2020 Judge Beckloff changed his mind about the bench warrant for technical reasons that I don’t understand. Not sure what’s going to happen next and even though it remains quite likely that George Yu will be hauled off in chains in the near future, it won’t be because of the warrant that was issued on Wednesday. Here’s a copy of today’s order.
In 2018 Katherine McNenny and I sued the Chinatown Business Improvement District over their failure to comply with the California Public Records Act. And for the last 18 months neither BID director George Yu nor anyone else from the BID has appeared in court at all. In due course they lost, Judge Mitchell Beckloff issued an order to them to hand over the records, and they ignored that as well. Late last year we moved to have Yu held in contempt for his failure to obey the order, and the judge issued an order for Yu’s arrest and suspended it pending a hearing at which he ordered Yu to appear in person and explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt.
That hearing was held this morning. Perhaps predictably, Yu didn’t show up today either, and the judge released the arrest warrant. Apparently this isn’t the kind of warrant where the cops go out and hunt down the offender, but if he’s pulled over or a cop has some other reason to enter his name into a computer, this will come up and he’ll be arrested and hauled before the judge. The Chinatown BID is in CD1, Gil Cedillo’s little kingdom, and as do all BIDdies with their Councilmembers, Yu has hitherto enjoyed Cedillo’s unconditional love. But having the guy arrested and hauled by force before a judge to explain why he refuses to obey the law may, just may, not saying for sure, erode that affection, that tolerance, just a bit. We can hope!
Continue reading George Yu Fails To Appear At His Last And Final Contempt Hearing — Judge Mitchell Beckloff Orders Yu Seized — And Detained — And Chained — And Hauled Bodily Into Court — To Explain In Person Why He Has Been Ignoring The Judge’s Order To Hand Over The Damn Records — And Also He’s Ordered To Pay Our Lawyers An Additional $21K In Legal Fees — Looks To Me Like Now He’s Pushed His Luck Too Far — I Am Guessing That Gil Cedillo Will Have To Withdraw His Support At Some Point — Beginning To Look Very Much Like Yu’s Days Are Numbered
In January 2019 I started investigating Los Angeles charter schools using the California Public Records Act and immediately ran into the typical block-headed obstructionism so beloved of CPRA-subject public agencies. I got some pretty interesting material early on, when I was still focusing on how charters reacted to the UTLA strike. As I began to understand the issues better I started looking into co-locations in general and learned, e.g., a lot of important stuff about GANAS academy.
This material ultimately helped to some extent supporters of their co-location target, Catskill Elementary School, fight off their co-location attempt, which really started to show me the utility of the CPRA not just to scholars and journalists, but to anti-charter activists as well. But things really took off in June 2019 when I received a massive release of emails from Green Dot Charter Schools containing explosive correspondence with the California Charter Schools Association.
These documents revealed, among many, many other things, that LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner allowed CCSA lobbyists to vet and edit an advance copy of his first major policy speech. That board member Nick Melvoin asked CCSA lobbyists to write a board resolution for him that would facilitate charters expanding control over LAUSD facilities. That Melvoin shared confidential legal information with CCSA while they were actively suing the District.
That former Board member and now convicted felon Ref Rodriguez also allowed CCSA lobbyists to edit and vet at least one Board resolution. That CCSA intended to put all California students in charter schools by 2030. Revelations from this material were widely covered in the press, including the Los Angeles Times, and Capital and Main, and Diane Ravitch’s blog, and elsewhere. The ramifications of these revelations are still unfolding even now, more than six months later.
Continue reading PUC Charter Schools — Former Home Of Convicted Felon And Disgraced Former School Board Member Ref Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — They Refused To Respond At All And Now They Will Have To Pay — And Comply!
Last summer it was revealed that LAPD officers participated in various secretive vigilante anti-homeless Facebook groups. Stories ran in the press and LAPD Chief Michel Moore banned his officers from participating. At the time I was investigating the story through Public Records Act requests to various City departments, including all San Fernando Valley Council Districts.
Most of them complied, albeit reluctantly and with the usual idiotic foot-dragging obstructionism, but Council District 7, repped by Monica Rodriguez, actually just completely stopped communicating with me after some point. This is a typical tactic in the City of Los Angeles, and the only recourse provided by the law is to file a lawsuit seeking to compel compliance. So on Friday, January 17, 2020, assisted by fabulous and heroic attorneys Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill, that’s just what I did! Here’s a copy of the petition, and read on for transcribed excerpts!
Continue reading Los Angeles City Council District Seven — Repped By Councilmember Monica Rodriguez — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — Over Emails Concerning LAPD And Vigilante Anti-Homeless Facebook Groups In The San Fernando Valley — CD7 Ignored Requests For Months On End — Which Is Against The Damn Law!
It’s been a while since I’ve written about our old friends at the Highland Park BID but that’s certainly not because I lost interest in them! You’ll recall that in early 2018 they released a really rich set of emails in response to some requests made under the California Public Records Act. These records revealed, among other things, the BID’s complicity in the ongoing hurricane-force gentrification of Highland Park, using tactics like mural erasure and harassment of street vendors. The emails also showed the BID’s creepy Facebook stalking of local antigentrification activists, coordinated with weirdo CD1 staffer Bill Cody.
The Highland Park BID’s executive director, Misty Iwatsu, is also the ED of the Lincoln Heights BID. Lincoln Heights isn’t as under the gentrification gun as Highland Park, but it’s going to be very soon. So in May 2018 I sent some CPRA requests to the LHBID, seeking to understand their role in changing the neighborhood and also to understand their BID renewal process, which was just beginning. But by the middle of that month Iwatsu’s two BIDs had evidently had their damn fill of transparency. They hired ritzy Manhattan Beach lawyer Mark Abramson, who on their behalf immediately stopped complying with the CPRA.
And as usual I spent some time trying to convince the guy to straighten up and follow the law, but he simply would not do it. The previously smooth flow of records ceased. Abramson announced vague far-in-the-future deadlines for production and then blew through them, sent corrupted files and denied they were corrupted, and all the usual tactics that obstructionist agencies rely on. At some point it became clear that no one at either of these BIDs was planning to comply with the law, so on Monday, January 13, 2020, I filed a petition in L.A. County Superior Court asking the judge to compel them.
The public interest in accessing this material is huge even apart from the general public interest in having public agencies comply with the Public Records Act. The BID’s role in mural erasure was covered in L.A. Magazine and The Boulevard Sentinel and local activists Restorative Justice for the Arts have organized in opposition. The Lincoln Heights BID is actually involved somehow in the planned gentrification of that neighborhood, which has also been covered in the press. And in the 18 months since the BIDs stopped complying we’ve been kept in the dark about whatever else these publicly funded entities are getting up to. This cannot be allowed to continue! Read on for selections from the petition!
Continue reading North Figueroa Association — AKA Highland Park BID — And Lincoln Heights BID — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act — After I Exposed Their Mural Erasures — And Social Media Stalking — And Attacks On Street Vendors — In 2018 They Lawyered Up — And Stopped Complying With The Law — Apparently Litigation Is The Only Way To Get These Outlaws To Comply With Their Damn Obligations
This is just a short post to update you on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation‘s pending California Public Records Act petition against the City of Los Angeles. The petition was filed in September, and you can read about it some detail here. The short version is that the City put out a request for proposals for some housing stuff. AHF’s response was rejected. Subsequently AHF submitted a CPRA request asking for fifteen distinct categories of records related to the RFP process.
One part of the request was for the other responses to the RFP. The others had to do with communications regarding the RFP, names, resumes, and conflicts of interests of the people who scored the responses, and so on. And the City denied the request with a characteristically terse non-sequitur, stating that: “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”
The City of Los Angeles, you may recall, fights very, very few CPRA petitions filed against it. Between 2016 and early 2019 they settled nine out of at least ten cases. I myself have filed eight cases against the City since last year and they’ve settled three of them, agreed to settle three others, and two are just beginning. But they’re not settling this one, or at least they’re buying some time before they do settle.
And therefore on Monday, January 6, 2020, the City filed this answer to the petition. Answers in civil litigation can be notoriously devoid of content, and this one’s pretty much in line with that trend, what with the “to the extent that anything the petitioner said makes any sense respondent the City of Los Angeles denies it” and other such circumlocutions. But Bethelwel Wilson, the Deputy City Attorney who’s staffing the case, did include a couple fragments of substantial argument. In the first place, quoth Wilson:
Continue reading The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here
It occurred to me that maybe you might want a link to the petition right away without having to read through this whole damn blog post to get to it at the end. If so, here is a link to the petition!
The Office of the City Attorney of Los Angeles has a thing called the Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program, or CNAP, in which they use various civil laws to have tenants or property owners declared nuisances and evicted, required to put up security cameras and allow LAPD warrantless access to them, or other such conditions.
Often allegations of gang activity are involved. So just for instance, there’s this case against the Chesapeake Apartments on Obama Blvd between La Brea and Crenshaw. Or this smaller scale one against a woman with a house near 52nd and Vermont. Or this against a small apartment building near 56th and Western.
Most famously this year the City Attorney has been relentlessly pursuing such an action against Slauson and Crenshaw Ventures LLC, owned by the late Nipsey Hussle and his partner David Gross. The allegations against Hussle and Gross’s property seemed unsupported by evidence, though, and this is apparently not unusual.
This program and others like it have long been understood as part of the gentrification machine, particularly pernicious in Los Angeles. That is, the City can drive out tenants in rent stabilized apartments, or force property owners to install cameras and give LAPD unfettered access to them, or impose various other conditions to serve their ends. This lets landlords raise rents or forces residents to become essentially LAPD informants.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act – I Asked The City Attorney For A Bunch Of Nuisance Abatement Demand Letters – Which Everybody Knows Are A Major Tool Of Gentrification – And Although The Lawsuits Filed By The City Are Public – It Is Impossible To Understand The Scope Of The Problem Without Seeing The Demand Letters – Since Surely Many If Not Most Of These Cases Don’t End Up In Court – But Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson Was All Like Naaaah! – So I Was All Like You’ve Been Served!
I’m a little late in writing this up, but on December 9, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Joseph Wangler I filed yet another petition under the California Public Records Act seeking to compel the City to follow the damn law and hand over a bunch of records I had asked for ever so long ago. And as they often will do, they actually started handing them over immediately, although I haven’t gotten the most interesting ones yet.
The petition covers three major requests, unrelated other than by the fact that they were all made to the City’s Information Technology Agency. These are the folks to file CPRA requests for emails with if you want MBOX format, which ultimately is the best way to get emails. ITA is also the sole source for emails in the accounts of former City employees. Here’s a link to the very interesting petition, worth reading for many reasons and also containing every last detail of the requests at issue, described more briefly below.
First is a request I first made in 2016 for emails having to do with Eric Garcetti when he was repping CD13, his staffers Heather Repenning and Helen Leung, and their conspiracy with Kerry Morrison, then-commander of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID, to illegally exclude homeless people from Selma Park in Hollywood.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act – This Time Over Emails Concerning Various Matters Of Public Concern – Garcetti/Repenning/Morrison Conspiracy Against Selma Park – Wesson Corruption – Huizar Corruption – Less Than Two Weeks After Filing They Already Conceded Fault And Are Producing Documents – This Is No Way To Run A Damn City
As you may know I have been making requests of charter schools under the California Public Records Act for about a year now. Some of them have been incredibly cooperative while others, well, you know how it goes, have been less so. And no doubt you’re aware by now that the only mechanism to compel compliance with the CPRA is to file a lawsuit. Which brings us to that shady criminal conspiracy known as The Accelerated Schools. I’ve written a lot about these folks and their cartoonishly wicked white supremacy but, you may have noted, none of it has been based on public records apart from this very first thing I did in April 2019.
So I sent them a few more requests after the one that post was based on and they made a few desultory stabs at answering me in compliance with the law and then stopped responding at all. But as you’re probably aware, the situation with this Klown Kar Krew has grown ever more urgent, more of public interest than ever before.
What, that is, with their retaliatory firing of long-time employee Hilda Guzman and subsequent unfair labor practices complaint by her union, with repeated community protests at their infernal board meetings, and the unexpected recent petulant rage quit by now thankfully former board chair Juli Quinn. We need to be able to understand what these folks are up to! Which is why their special variety of unhinged intransigence can’t go unanswered, not if we expect government of, by, and for the people to not perish from this earth.
And in pursuance of it not perishing, therefore, I filed a writ petition against these privatizing creepers a couple weeks ago. And for this reason and that reason it took a while to get it served, but it was served this morning, and at long last I can publish a copy of it. And there are transcribed selections below, so stay tuned for updates and, eventually, more of the spicy records-based mockery you’re here for!
Continue reading The Accelerated Schools Sued To Compel Compliance With The California Public Records Act – My First CPRA Petition Against A Charter School – But Not The Last – Not – By – Any – Means