In 2004 LA City Councilmembers Jack Weiss and Greig Smith initiated the process of giving away a piece of Thrush Way, up in the Bird Streets, to the owner of an adjacent parcel. As they will do, the City Council approved the motion in January 2005, but the property owner dropped the ball, missed some requirement or another, and the offer expired. The parcel used to be in CD5, which is why Weiss was involved, but now is in CD4.
According to ZIMAS the property was sold in 2014, apparently to an LLC owned by a Costa Mesa man named Rami Batal, known as 5B Enterprises. Batal hired land use lobbyist Randall Akers to revive the street vacation plan. In 2016 this actually happened, with a motion from Joe Buscaino, seconded by David Ryu. The new motion ended up in Council File 16-0566. It generated a ton of opposing public comment and apparently more than one lawsuit, which explains why, on March 22, 2017, the Council voted to continue and file the motion.
And that’s about it! Oh, wait, that’s about it until four years later, on March 2, 2021, when Nithya Raman, who famously showed weirdo incumbent David Ryu a thing or two last year, filed a short but exceedingly consequential motion of her own, seeking to reactivate the council file. Nury Martinez didn’t fool around with this one, by the way. She didn’t send it to a committee, but rather, the very same day Raman filed it Martinez referred it to the full council and a few days later the Clerk put it on the agenda for April 6, 2021.
Continue reading What Does Progressive Darling Nithya Raman Have In Common With Despicable Developer-Loving Lickspittles Like Jack Weiss — Greig Smith — David Ryu — And Joe Buscaino? — All Five Of Them Support Giving Away A Specific Piece Of City Property In The Bird Streets — To An Anonymous LLC — Known As 5B Enterprises — Owned By Costa Mesa Zillionaire Rami Batal — Which Would Vastly Increase The Value Of A Particular Residential Lot — Batal’s LLC Is Represented By Land Use Lobbyist Randall Akers — Who Apparently Lobbied Raman Over This Matter — Even Though He Is Not Registered With The Ethics Commission — Meet The New Boss I Guess — Who Looks Awfully Darn Similar To The Old One!
The Brown Act famously forbids the Los Angeles City Council and its committees from meeting in secret to conduct its public business. The prohibition is found at §54952.2(b)(1), which states categorically that:
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.
But anyone who pays even a little attention to meetings of the Los Angeles City Council or its committees can see that there’s some kind of collusion going on behind the scenes. There are too many unanimous votes, too many obviously scripted comments by Councilmembers responding to scripted comments by other Councilmembers when there’s no legal way for them to have known what their colleagues were planning to say, and just too much foreknowledge of the course of legislation.
It’s really unlikely that the Councilmembers themselves make all the arrangements. Almost surely the collusion is done by their staff. This doesn’t make it any less against the law. It’s exactly the scenario contemplated in the phrase “directly or through intermediaries.” So for instance, if 15 staff members, one from each Council district, got together to discuss pending motions, votes, or anything else within the subject matter jurisdiction of the City Council and then relayed information from the discussion to their bosses it’s a violation.
One of my very long term projects is finding proof that the City Council does in fact engage in these illegal meetings and also to understand the means by which they do it. It’s slow going, though, and not just because of the City’s general unwillingness to comply with the Public Records Act. What I’m looking for is evidence of habitual and chronic outlawry, so the City has even more pressing reasons to withhold the records. But from time to time I come across something interesting and suggestive, and today I actually have two!
Continue reading A Couple Of Newly Obtained Emails Reveal Hitherto Unknown Clues About The LA City Council’s Famously Habitual Brown Act Violations — All Fifteen Council District Chiefs Of Staff Held An Impromptu And Illegal Serial Meeting In March 2020 — The Statute Of Limitations Has Run But It’s Clearly A Violation And Clearly Neither The First Nor The Last Time This Has Happened — And Another Email — This From CD5 Enviro-Dude Andy Shrader To His Boss Koretz — Suggests That The Chiefs Aren’t The Only Staffers Doing This — He Mentions A “Daily Staff Meeting” That Includes Republicans Who Might Spill Beans To Other Councilmembers — Sounds Like Another Brown Act Violation To Me!
This post is about a confidential email conversation between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble and CD13 staffer Dan Halden about a CPRA request of mine. If you’d like to read the email without reading my nonsensical rantings about it you can find it here on Archive.Org
If you spend any time at all asking the City of Los Angeles for copies of public records you’ll have realized that compliance with the Public Records Act is not a high priority of theirs. They violate it constantly, in small ways and large, intentionally and out of sheer careless indifference. They violate it because they can afford to pay out any number of settlements and most people won’t sue them. They violate it even though compliance with the CPRA is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of California.
And now, although I’ve long suspected it to be true, I have proof that the City Attorney’s office actually advises them to decide whether to violate it based on whether or not they think the requester will sue them which, as Strefan Fauble so succinctly puts it in a top-secret confidential April 2019 email conversation, “would involve a lot more work.”
But it takes resources to sue them, so effectively this policy favors rich requesters and corporate requesters, even though the Constitution guarantees access to every person, which clearly means equal access. It’s surely no coincidence that rich people and corporations are much, much less likely to be critical of the City. This story begins with a request I sent to Dan Halden on March 12, 2019. I asked Halden for:
Continue reading Confidential Attorney Client Conversation Between Deputy City Attorneys Mike Dundas and Strefan Fauble And CD13 Staffer Dan Halden Reveal That The City Denies Requests As Burdensome Even Though They Know A Judge Wouldn’t Buy Such An Exemption Claim — That They Consider Whether A Requester Will Actually Sue Them When Deciding Whether Or Not To Deny As Burdensome — Which Is Intrinsically A Violation Of The CPRA — And That Mike Dundas Understands The CPRA Far Better Than Strefan Fauble
December 31, 2018 was now-convicted felon Mitchell Englander’s last day on the Los Angeles City Council. He was all like “I am stepping down for a once in a lifetime career blah blah blah” but of course he was getting out ahead of his arrest, exposure, conviction, and sentencing for corruption. The impending disgrace, however, didn’t stop his zillionaire cronies from cushioning his landing with job offers and fancy lunches.
Most famously, of course, on January 1, 2019 he started his new career with the Oak View Group, which is a Los Angeles based “global advisory, development and investment company for the sports and live entertainment industries.” In other words, a perfect landing spot for an as-yet-unindicted former politician. Nothing hurts these politicos more than being forced out of the inner circles of power, though, and making a zillion dollars a year as a lobbyist doesn’t quite fill the kind of ego void created by public disgrace.
And unhinged typewriter fetishist and perpetual inner power circle dweller Steve Soboroff, at that time president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, apparently understood this quite well. Which is probably why, on January 31, 2019, Soboroff fired off an email to Hollywood power lawyer Warren Dern, also a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Police Foundation:
Continue reading Soon-To-Be-Indicted Mitch Englander Resigned From LA City Council Effective January 1 2019 — By January 31 2019 Steve Soboroff — At That Time President Of The Police Commission — Was Conspiring With LAPD Chief Michel Moore And LA Police Foundation Board Member Warren Dern To Get Englander A Seat On The Police Foundation Board — Soboroff And Dern Had Lunch With Englander At Freaking La Scala To Discuss It — Although Nothing Seems To Have Come Of The Plan
Flashback to those lazy hazy crazy days of Summer 2020, those days of COVID and ethics complaints against CD15 staffer Amy Gebert! Well, after I filed that complaint, Gebert flipped out and, using a fake email address, started emailing me every week or two telling me that my request would be ready in a week or two and then, on the last day, emailing me again to tell me that the production date was postponed.
Obviously she was doing this in response to my having filed a complaint against her. She started about a week after I filed it, and proceeded to send me 8 emails over the next few weeks at a rate almost 12 times more frequently than she had in the year prior to the complaint.
As obviously she was doing it to irritate me. What possible legitimate reason could she have for repeatedly lying about when the records, which by the way I still don’t have, would be ready? Sure, she could be withholding them to hide the criminal conspiracy conducted by her boss, Joey “Joe Buscaino” Buckets, but that has nothing to do with this compulsive notification/denotification.
And doing things to irritate people because they file complaints against you with the Ethics Commission is, it turns out, a separate violation of the Municipal Ethics Ordinance at LAMC §49.5.4(B), which tells us that:
City officials and agency employees shall not use or threaten to use any official authority or influence to effect any action as a reprisal against another person who reports a possible violation of law to the Ethics Commission or another governmental entity.
And so today I filed yet another complaint against Gebert with the Ethics Commission. You can read the complete complaint here, and there’s a transcription of the complaint, but without the exhibits, below.
Continue reading I Filed A Complaint Against Joey Buckets Staffer Amy Gebert In August 2020 — Which Apparently Flipped Her Out So Much That She Started Emailing Me Every Week Or Two Using An Alternate Account Designed — Unsuccessfully — To Conceal Her Identity — About How My Request Would Be Ready In A Week Or Two — And Then Cancelling And Postponing — She Did This Eight Times In Just A Few Weeks — Which Is About Twelve Times As Often As She Did It Before The Complaint — Then Stopped Abruptly In December 2020 — And Still Hasn’t Produced The Damn Records — So I Filed Another Complaint Against Her With The Ethics Commission — This One For Retaliating Against Me For Filing The First Complaint
You know how you go to a Los Angeles City Council meeting and all the action seems scripted and predetermined? That’s not an illusion. Obviously they decide everything in advance, or they did before everything changed last year. And this is completely illegal in California per the Brown Act but it is so freaking hard to catch them at it!
Not impossible, though. Scope this Sunday, June 21, 2020 email from LAPD City Council liason Harry Eddo to Chief Michel Moore discussing some of this summer’s flood of cop reform motions, these scheduled for the Wednesday, June 24, 2020 meeting of the Ad Hoc Police Reform Committee. Apparently it’s part of Eddo’s job to track such motions, ones that potentially affect LAPD, and help Moore plan responses.
Which by the way brings up an important question — why does LAPD have a person doing this job at all? If the idea is that the police are an instrument of civilian public policy, controlled by elected civilians to carry out the public’s purposes, then it’s hard to justify spending public money paying staff to monitor and influence the source of control. It almost looks like the LAPD is more concerned with institutional survival and control rather than with doing their jobs.
So Eddo talks to Council staff, which I guess is what liasons do. And they talk back to him. And apparently, on June 21, 2020 or before, he talked to folks from the office of then-Chair Herb Wesson, who told him exactly what would happen with the motions: they would be approved “on consent after holding considerable public comment.” Wesson’s staff had it all figured out three freaking days before the meeting, and any of that “considerable public comment” that happened to oppose Wesson’s plans was wasted. It was all wasted, actually, even supporting comments:
Continue reading Anyone Who Watches The Los Angeles City Council Closely Suspects Them Of Colluding Behind The Scenes — In Blatant Violation Of The Brown Act — But Man It Is Hard To Find Proof! — Cause They Do It By Whispering In Both The Literal And — These Days — Figurative Corridors — But A June 2020 Email From LAPD City Council Liason Harry Eddo To Chief Michel Moore Reveals That Ad Hoc LAPD Reform Committee Chair Herb Wesson Had Exact Foreknowledge Of The Fate Of A Number Of Motions — His Staff Told Eddo Four Days Before A Committee Meeting That They Would Pass On Consent After Extensive Public Comment — Is There Any Legal Way He Could Be So Sure? — I Doubt It!
On October 10, 2020, LAPD Chief Michel Moore sent an email to a bunch of police luminaries with the subject line CM Marqueece Harris-Dawson Tweet – Ridiculous. The outline is in the headline and the full text is below. But first, is anyone still wondering who actually runs this City?
After the City Council choosing layoffs and furloughs over even freezing LAPD’s budget, let alone reducing it? After seeing police officers surround and intimidate CD 7 rep Monica Rodriguez? After the LAPPL’s disingenuous attacks on CD11 rep Mike Bonin?
If so, they won’t be wondering after reading Michel Moore tell more than twenty five of his subordinates that he “expect[s] better” from Councilmember Harris-Dawson, that he’s “committed to holding [politicians] accountable,” that after their conversation Harris-Dawson had the “ridiculous” tweet, apparently neither written nor approved by him, deleted and replaced “with a positive and supportive message.” Here’s a transcription of the email:
Continue reading On October 10, 2020 LAPD Chief Michel Moore “Was Personally Insulted By The Content” Of A Tweet On Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s Twitter — So He Asked MHD About It — MHD Denied Writing It Or Even Knowing About It — But Promised To Replace It With “A Positive And Supportive Message” — Then Moore Emailed 27 LAPD Brass And Told Them That He Had “Personally Discussed This With The CM And Expect[ed] Better” — Who Is It That’s In Charge Of This City Again?
I can’t remember where I learned that the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst writes briefing notes for each meeting of each City Council committee, but obviously as soon as I heard I started trying to get copies via the California Public Records Act. And so on June 24, 2020 I fired off a request asking for a few years worth.
And you know how the City of LA is. I didn’t get a response at all until September 29, when CLA staffer Karen Kalfayan sent me this ill-considered bit of crapola, claiming that she would have denied my request as “overly broad” but that instead she was denying it as so-called “deliberative process,” a court-created interpretation of the CPRA at §6255(a):
With regard to your request for briefing notes for the period January 1, 2016 through June 24, 2020, please be advised that this Office has made its determination on your request as required by Government Code section 6253(c).
Please note that the request is overly broad, and normally we would request you to clarify your request in order for us to search for specific records. However, please be advised that records may be withheld under Government Code Section 6255 because they would show the officials’ deliberative process. As to these documents, Government Code Section 6255 permits nondisclosure because the public interest served by protecting the official’s decision-making process clearly outweighs the public interest served by the records’ disclosure.
But, you know, I had a thought about this. These briefing notes must be distributed to committee members, otherwise what’s the point? And the Brown Act, not the Public Records Act, contains a really important, really useful bit at §54957.5, also worth quoting:
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Staff Lie All The Time About The Public Records Act — And Also Did You Know That The Chief Legislative Analyst Prepares Briefing Notes For Council Committees? — Two Sets For Each Meeting — One Is For The Chair — The Other For The Members — And CLA Staffer Karen Kalfayan Had The Nerve To Claim These Were Exempt From Production — Even Though The Brown Act States Specifically That They Are Not Exempt And Must Be Released Immediately On Request
On June 16, 2020 Council District 5 rep Paul Koretz was one of only three Councilmembers to vote against asking City staff to report back on ways to cut a mere $150M from the LAPD budget. For some background check out this excellent essay by Jacob Woocher in Knock-LA. Koretz defended his position both before and after the vote by admitting that he’d received public comments urging him to support the cuts but also, according to Elizabeth Chou of the Daily News, “Koretz said he’s heard “emphatic” calls to defund the police dept, but he said he’s also heard from others who “feel very differently, and for whom public safety is a very high priority.” Those people fear “slower response times” from police”.
Koretz wants to show the world that he’s representing his constituents, rather than voting the straight LA Police Protective League line in opposition to his constituents’ desires. But doesn’t he sound like he’s lying? So I thought I’d check it out by asking CD5 for the communications from the public, hoping to learn how many of these folks who, according to Koretz, “feel very differently, and for whom public safety is a very high priority” actually did get in touch with Koretz.
Continue reading In June 2020 Paul Koretz Was One Of Only Three LA City Councilmembers To Vote Against Even Studying An Absurdly Minuscule LAPD Budget Reduction — He Told The Daily News That He Had Heard From People On Both Sides Of The Issue — Creating The Impression That He Was Balancing The Conflicting Wishes Of His Constituents — But I Just Got Copies Of All The June 2020 Constituent Emails To Him On Police Defunding — Can’t Count Precisely But There Are Around 270 In Favor Of Defunding — And One — Yes, One — Against — So It Looks Like Koretz Was Confused — Which Is A Politely Sarcastic Way To Describe What Koretz Really Is — About Who He Represents