The City of Los Angeles famously and frequently violates the California Public Records Act. One of the most difficult-to-counter ways in which they do this is to deny that they have responsive records at all. It’s pernicious because the only recourse for violations is to file a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court but the statute only authorizes petitions when:
it is made to appear by verified petition … that certain public records are being improperly withheld from a member of the public.
That is, if the City says there are no records and there’s no evidence to the contrary it’s likely a judge will believe the City’s claim and deny the petition. Which means it’s often useful to have evidence that responsive records exist even before requesting them. It’s also really important to duplicate requests to as many City departments as may have copies, since they all have different search methods.
Fairly regularly one City department will say that there are no responsive records while another one will produce proof that the first was lying. For a recent and spectacular example of this phenomenon take a look at this stunningly good Twitter thread from @LANCWatch.
Sometimes even the same department will produce proof that they themselves are lying, an example of which is the subject of today’s post! On June 19, 2021 I asked LA Sanitation for some information about ride-alongs on their CARE/CARE+ homeless encampment sweeps:
Continue reading LA City Sanitation Blatantly Lied In A Response To A CPRA Request For Information About Ride-Alongs With CARE/CARE+ Encampment Sweep Teams — They Said They Didn’t Do Ride-Alongs — But I Already Knew — And Could Prove — Using Evidence Produced By LA San In Response To Another Request — That They Did Before I Made The Request — This Kind Of Dishonest Nonsense Completely Derails Requests From People Who Don’t Know That They Lie About CPRA Requests All The Time — And Is The Zillionth Reason We So Badly Need A Municipal Sunshine Law In The City Charter
In 2020 LAPD was in full-on attack mode against the protesters who filled the streets of Los Angeles supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other progressive causes. They shot, beat, and falsely arrested protesters by the hundreds. As part of their carefully planned media response strategy LAPD engaged former Police Commission president Gerald Chaleff to write a report on their misbehavior.
Given the psychopathically lenient approach the Commission takes with respect to LAPD oversight no one sensible expected Chaleff’s report to tell much truth, and we the sensible certainly were neither disappointed in this expectation nor surprised that Chaleff’s recommendations boiled down to the usual training, training, and more training.
Chaleff’s connections with LAPD, from his time on the Commission to his stint as William Bratton’s Special Assistant for Constitutional Policing, whatever that may be, have been widely reported. But I haven’t seen any reporting on the fact that in February 2020, before COVID shut down the City and before he was engaged to write his report, Chaleff applied to LAPD to be a civilian hearing officer.
Continue reading Gerald Chaleff — Who Wrote A Report Exonerating LAPD Of Moral Responsibility For Their Appalling Violence Against Protesters During The 2020 Civil Unrest — Applied In February 2020 To Be An LAPD Civilian Hearing Examiner — Which Casts Even More Doubt On His Ethical Independence From LAPD — Hearing Examiner Applicants Have Their Fingerprints Run Against DOJ And FBI Databases — Even Chaleff Had To Do This Although He Was Formerly President Of The Police Commission — No Surprise That He Came Back Clean But What Is Surprising Is That I Have Copies Of The Confidential Reports! — And So Do You If You Want Them!!
The Los Angeles Police Department routinely violates the civil rights of Angelenos. They kill, beat, and maim, of course, but also conduct countless racist pretextual stops of drivers and bicyclists. They’re allowed to do this by the LA City Council, and without good information about what they’re up to it’s not easy for Angelenos to control them.
But they also routinely violate the California Public Records Act. The details range from egregiously obvious to subtly technical but in every case the goal, and for the most part the actual result, is to keep public records out of the hands of the public. They have been sued repeatedly and successfully for this over the last five years. To my knowledge they’ve never prevailed in a public records case.
LAPD’s violations are expensive. Since 2016 the City of Los Angeles has paid out at least $1,377,224 to settle CPRA suits against the police department only. Given the number of pending cases this figure is likely to top $1.5M by the end of 2021. The fact that settlement payments come from the City’s general fund clearly facilitates LAPD’s strategy of denying access to records until a suit is filed.
One of the most common reasons LAPD gives for denying the public access to records is that to produce them would be “burdensome.” There’s no such exemption in the CPRA, but courts have found, in some cases, that a public agency’s use of its resources, including employee salaries, to fill a request serves the public interest less than the production of the records would do.
Continue reading Los Angeles Has Paid Almost $1.5M Settling Recent Public Records Suits Against LAPD — But LAPD Continues To Violate The Law With Impunity — Newly Obtained Reports Show That They’ve Radically Decreased Staff In The CPRA Unit — Even As They Deny Requests Which They Claim Would Use Too Much Staff Time To Fill — They Pad Their Request Completion Stats By Prioritizing Innocuous Automated Reports Rather Than Substantial Material — And They Handle Requests From Mainstream Media Outlets More Promptly Than Others
In January 2021 Lorena Ochoa of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps emailed Ellen Endo of the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District to tell her that one of their Big Belly trash cans often had hypodermic needles in it and that therefore they wouldn’t service it any more:
Just want to bring to your attention the high volume of syringes being tossed inside this bigbelly. I cannot have the corpsmember driver service anymore bigbelly’s under these conditions. It’s a safety hazardous matter taking syringes to the City of LA sanitation site. I’m going to attach a list of Call Active Clean up companies that can come out and service these types of matters.
Endo wrote to Adriana Velasquez, a staffer in CD14 rep Kevin De Leon’s office, explaining Ochoa’s position and suggesting that they replace the Big Bellies with normal wire trash cans as soon as possible:
Continue reading According To LAPD Senior Lead Officer Adrian Lopez “providing services to the homeless is useless. The homeless need to be removed … and the area cleaned and restored back to its original state.” — The City Of LA Cedes Municipal Services To Private Actors Like BIDs — Who Are Incapable And Unwilling To Provide Them — And To Police — Who Are Incapable Of Delivering Anything Other Than Violence — Here’s An Example From Little Tokyo
The City of Los Angeles is generally very, very, very bad at complying with the California Public Records Act. There are no consequences that matter to them for violating it so they violate it wantonly. Only lawsuits will get them to comply, and only in that specific instance. So we were glad to hear that our friends at the Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition filed yet another petition against the City of Los Angeles to enforce compliance.
The issue is a bunch of requests for emails from CD1. For a couple years Gil Cedillo’s office, mostly in the person of long-time crony Mel Ilomin, was incredibly compliant with the CPRA, just super-helpful. But then, on a number distinct occasions, we here at the blog exposed Cedillo’s machinations to the light of public scrutiny, which may have contributed to Ilomin’s sudden refusal, beginning in 2019, to comply with the law.
In any case, for whatever reason, he stopped complying, and of course a suit is our only recourse. This, by the way, is the second time that Cedillo’s office has induced a CPRA suit via idiotic noncompliance. So take a look at the petition, stay tuned for details, and read on for a short list of dirt we’ve gotten on Cedillo via the CPRA!
Continue reading Last Week The Los Angeles Sunshine Coalition Filed Yet Another Public Records Suit Vs The City Of Los Angeles — This One Relating To Emails About Gentrification And Real Estate In CD1 — But Gil Sadill Is Not Worse Than His Fourteen Unindicted Co-Conspirators — Who Also Won’t Follow The Freaking Law — So While These Lawsuits Are Effective In A Limited Scope The Overall Problem — That The City Of Los Angeles Repeatedly And Intentionally Violates The Public Records Act — Can’t Be Solved This Way — Because Neither The City Nor Its Staffers Suffer Consequences For Their Violations
The Los Angeles City Council is very fond of giving away publicly owned property to real estate developers to build what passes for affordable housing. Judging by the fact that they never do it, they’re decidedly unfond of building public housing. At least some Councilmembers, though, are also fond of lying about their ability to build public housing at all — ask one about it and maybe they’ll tell you that new public housing projects are illegal in California.
This is a lie, by the way. An utterly shameless lie. In fact they could easily use City land for City-owned housing. Here are some steps we might take to force them to do it. But first let’s talk about the origin of this illegal public housing lie. It’s based on Article 34 of the California Constitution. The key part says:
Continue reading Our City Council Could Easily Build Public Housing In Los Angeles — Instead Of Giving Away Public Property To Private Developers For Putatively Affordable Housing — But Instead They Say Public Housing Is Illegal — They Say They Can’t Do It — This Is A Lie — Here Are Concrete Steps We Can Take To Force Them To At Least Try To Build Some
Redistricting in the City of Los Angeles is handled by a commission whose members are appointed by municipal elected officials. Presumably the commissioners are expected to be somewhat fair and independent, or at least to appear so, but as you can imagine the process is deeply corrupt. It’s at least plausible that if the commissioners carried out their work via an adversarial process the result wouldn’t be precisely tailored to the idiosyncratic interests of the electeds who appointed them, but in practice, as you can imagine, this doesn’t happen.
Everyone involved, from commissioners to electeds, has an overriding interest in helping their colleagues attain their individual goals so that they’ll get the same consideration in return. The one rule that might prevent absolute coordination between the commissioners and the electeds who appointed them is the ban on ex parte communications. However, some emails I recently obtained show that even this regulation is easily evaded.
Last September unlamentedly former CD4 repster David Ryu appointed former CD13 rep Mike Woo to the Commission. On September 29, 2020 Woo emailed Ryu’s also-now-former Chief of Staff Nick Greif with a draft statement for some required form. But most interesting was Woo’s postscript:
P.S. At some point I need to discuss with you how we should deal with the likely restrictions on ex parte communications. It also would be helpful to me if we could have a longer conversation, including the Councilmember, about his redistricting priorities.
But, as the whole world knows, Nithya Raman quite handily kicked David Ryu’s metaphorical ass at the November election which, among other things, unhatched Woo’s already-counted Commission-involved chickens. After Ryu conceded Woo emailed Raman tendering his resignation but, at the same time, making it clear that he was willing to continue to serve and also giving her some (astonishingly man-splainy, by the way) reasons for choosing him:
Continue reading David Ryu Appointed Former CD13 Rep Mike Woo To The Redistricting Commission — When Nithya Raman Trounced Ryu Woo Tendered His Resignation To Raman — And Then Tried To Convince Her To Reappoint Him — By Explaining To Her How They Could Evade The Ban On Ex Parte Communications — And Explaining To Her That There’s No Place For Equity Or Justice In The Redistricting Process — Except When The Feds Investigate Civil Rights Violations — And Explaining To Her That It’s All About Political Self Interest And Treachery — That She Should Hire Her Own Consultant Because The Ones That Nury Martinez Wants Won’t Have Raman’s Interests In Mind — Woo Is An Expert At Working The System — Who Never Seems To Have Considered That Maybe The System Is Bad — Spoiler Alert! — Raman Fired Woo And Put Her Own Person — Alexandra Suh — On The Commission Instead
Former City of Los Angeles staffers are super-famous for their seamlessly corrupt transitions between public service and the lobbying industry, so much so that we had to create a so-called revolving door ordinance to (very lightly) regulate the practice. As with so many of the rules putatively enforced by our beleaguered and underfunded Ethics Commission, though, this ordinance is widely ignored.
We’ve seen many examples of this revolving door phenomenon, for instance, Marie Rumsey moving from CD13 to the Central City Association in 2015, but I’m not aware of much information on what goes on when the door is opened and the former staffers prepare to step across the transom. Some light is shed on this phase of the process by a newly acquired email conversation from November 12 and 13, 2020, though.
The discussion is between registered lobbyist Dwayne Gathers and soon-to-be-former CD4 Chief of Staff Nick Greif. It also sheds light on the fate of an ousted CM’s staff, as they struggle with divided and dividing loyalties while deciding whether to submit their resumes to the new regime after their boss David Ryu conceded to Nithya Raman on November 6.
Continue reading November 2020 — The Last Days Of David Ryu — Registered Lobbyists Currying Favors By Forwarding Job Announcements Around To Soon-To-Be-Former CD4 Staff — Soon-To-Be-Former CD4 Staff Agonizing Over Whether They Should Submit Resumes To Raman’s Transition Team — Zillionaire Trust Fund Baby Nick Greif Floating Above The Fray — Submitting Gracious — But Still Condescending — Recommendations To Raman’s Camp — Along With Weirdly Patronizing Advice — From A Guy Whose Boss Had Just Lost An Election No Less
Last fall former Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu was fighting ultimately successful challenger Nithya Raman for his job repping CD4. He lost by four points in November, so it’s easy to imagine that in October his internal poll numbers were terrifying him. This situation no doubt also contributed to the remarkably negative turn his messaging took around that time.
Los Angeles elections are regulated, albeit not heavily, by the Municipal Code. In particular, LAMC §49.5.5(B)(4) forbids [u]sing City equipment, vehicle, supplies, or resources, including but not limited to mailing and distribution lists, electronic mail, and electronic data.
So you can imagine my surprise when a friend of this blog passed me a copy of this October 8, 2020 email sent by former Ryu staffer Nick Greif using his City email account to himself at a private account. The email has an attachment, which is an MS Word document entitled 09.30.20_TPs for Supporters.docx, and a note from Greif to himself on planned revisions.
This is about as clear a violation of the code section as I’ve ever seen, even without the Word document’s metadata. so this morning I reported Greif to the LA Ethics Commission and we’ll see what comes of that! Meanwhile, read this ridiculously desperate memorandum! Or read on for images!
Continue reading October 2020 — Former David Ryu Staffer Nick Greif Used City Email To Send A Copy Of Ryu’s Unhinged Campaign Talking Points To His Private Account — Along With Notes To Himself Concerning Revisions — Which Suggests That This Well-Known Hatchetman Had A Significant Role In Developing Ryu’s Desperate Attack Messaging — Either Way Though This Is A Violation Of LAMC 49.5.5(B)(4) — Which Forbids The Use Of City Resources For Campaign Purposes — So Not Only Did I Report Him To The Ethics Commission — But I Have A Copy Of The Talking Points Memo As Well!