Tag Archives: Mike Dundas

City Of Los Angeles Concedes Defeat In My California Public Records Act Petition Based On Cedillo Staffer Mel Ilomin’s Wildly Unsupportable Exemption Claims — They Settled Up And Paid $4,720 In Fees And Costs — It Seems To Me Personally That It Would Be More Efficient Just To Follow The Damn Law From The Get-Go — Rather Than Paying $5K Every Time Some Council Staffer Feels Like Throwing His Toys From The Pram — But I Am Willing To Admit That I Have Zero Experience In Running Major Cities — So Perhaps This Loss Is A Net Win For The City In Some Inscrutable Way That We Amateurs Have No Hope Of Unscrewing — Concluding With An Unscientific Postscript On What Bethelwel Wilson’s Petulance Reveals About Some Ad Hoc Bullshit CPRA Obstructionism That Mike Dundas Made Up One Time

Recall that in June of this year I was forced by the utterly indefensible intransigence of Gil Cedillo staffer Mel Ilomin, who would persist in his bizarre claims that some emails between his office and LAPD were exempt from production under the California Public Records Act, to file a writ petition seeking to enforce my rights under that hallowed law. And less than a month later the City caved and produced a bunch of emails.

Which, as you may know, makes me the prevailing party which, as you also may know, means that the City must pay my attorney’s fees and the court costs, which they just recently did to the tune of $4,720, and here is a copy of the settlement agreement laying out the terms.1 And one of the tragic aspects of this basically silly little case is that they have not mended their ways in the least. City offices continue to make totally bogus exemption claims for which the only remedy is another suit. And if that’s what the City wants, well, I’m not going to be the one to disappoint them.

Oh, yes, the interesting thing about that settlement!2 So the CPRA imposes various duties on local agencies, local agency being something of a term of art in CPRA-ology3 meaning “entity subject to the CPRA.” Like for instance, when a local agency receives a request, the local agency must respond in ten days.4 And when a local agency once releases some records to any member of the public, then by law the local agency has thenceforth and for all time waived the possibility of claiming exemptions and must therefore release that same record to anyone who asks for it.5
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Concedes Defeat In My California Public Records Act Petition Based On Cedillo Staffer Mel Ilomin’s Wildly Unsupportable Exemption Claims — They Settled Up And Paid $4,720 In Fees And Costs — It Seems To Me Personally That It Would Be More Efficient Just To Follow The Damn Law From The Get-Go — Rather Than Paying $5K Every Time Some Council Staffer Feels Like Throwing His Toys From The Pram — But I Am Willing To Admit That I Have Zero Experience In Running Major Cities — So Perhaps This Loss Is A Net Win For The City In Some Inscrutable Way That We Amateurs Have No Hope Of Unscrewing — Concluding With An Unscientific Postscript On What Bethelwel Wilson’s Petulance Reveals About Some Ad Hoc Bullshit CPRA Obstructionism That Mike Dundas Made Up One Time

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Since 2016 Eleven CPRA Lawsuits Against The City Of Los Angeles Have Been Disposed Of — The City Lost Two At Trial And Paid Up — And Settled Eight Before Trial And Paid Up — And The Only One They Didn’t Lose Was The One Wrongly Filed In Federal Court By A Pro Se Litigant — For A Total Of $662,722 — And Given That They’re About To Pay More Than $324,000 To The ACLU To Settle Another Loser — This Is More Than A Million Dollars In Less Than Four Years That They Wasted Because They Can Not Or They Will Not Comply With The Law — For That Kind Of Money They Could Hire A Damn CPRA Coordinator — And Some Staff — And Stop The Bleeding

If you make requests of the City of Los Angeles under the California Public Records Act you will have learned by now that they fail to comply in almost every possible way. They delay access to records, they wrongfully withhold records as exempt, they fail to respond to requests at all, they say that there are no responsive records when in fact there are, they manipulate requesters into asking for far less than they have a right to by wrongly citing authorities, they insist on printing electronic records onto paper and then charge for copies, and so on and on and on. It’s a real nightmare.

Some of the City’s shenanigans are due to the fact that the state legislature, in its wisdom, has made judicial action the only means of enforcing the CPRA. The City, probably with reason, assumes that most requesters don’t have the resources or the tenacity to follow through with a lawsuit, so the expected consequences for their abject noncompliance are pretty minimal. And that may be an accurate assessment, it’s hard to tell because I don’t have access to all the data.

But not having access to all doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get access to some, so I have been investigating CPRA suits against the City of Los Angeles. I first started thinking about this matter in 2015 but was at that time told by Deputy City Attorney Mike Dundas1 that the City had no way of listing CPRA suits against it. But after all that nonsense happened in San Diego recently, what with their City Attorney,2 Mara Elliot, tricking Senator Ben Hueso into introducing his appalling and since-withdrawn CPRA-gutting SB 615 and then some people got a spreadsheet showing how much the City of San Diego had spent on CPRA suits since 2010.

So I thought I’d ask Mike Dundas again and what do you know!? He came through and also informed me that the City Attorney3 had assigned a cause code to CPRA suits in 2016 so that it was now possible to track them individually.4 And then, kablooie! He produced this list of ten closed cases with payouts since 2016!5 And then later he told me that there was this one other closed case that didn’t involve a payout since the City was dismissed from it on a motion.6 And according to him he will be producing7 a list of the currently open cases.8

And just the bare numbers here are really interesting, but not a good look for the City of Los Angeles. Since 2016 eleven CPRA cases against the City have been disposed of. The City went to trial on two of these and lost, paying a total of $558,690.57 to petitioners’ lawyers. The City unfavorably settled eight of them before trial, paying a total of $104,032 to petitioners’ lawyers. And the City got itself dismissed from one before trial, but only because the petitioner mistakenly filed the case in federal court.

I obtained copies of all ten of the properly filed petitions, and you can find them here on the Archive and there are also links to the individual files below. From a practical point of view, those eight cases that the City settled without going to trial are the most interesting of all. First of all, they were all avoidable. None of them hinged on any subtle interpretations of the statute. If the City had just followed the explicit requirements of the law none of them would have been brought in the first place.

I describe each of them briefly below, by the way. The City has really come to rely on not being sued, and I don’t think we have any hope at all of improving their compliance without a lot more petitions being filed. It’s my hope that these statistics along with access to these cases will encourage more lawyers to get involved in suing the City over CPRA violations. It really looks like there’s some money to be made.

But, much, much more importantly, it looks like it might be not only practically possible, not only morally desirable, but also economically feasible to get the damn City of Los Angeles to just comply with the damn CPRA in some kind of predictable way. The money they spend settling these cases could easily fund a Citywide CPRA coordinator and another staff member just to keep all the City departments on track so that we get access to our records and the City avoids an endless parade of these entirely avoidable suits.
Continue reading Since 2016 Eleven CPRA Lawsuits Against The City Of Los Angeles Have Been Disposed Of — The City Lost Two At Trial And Paid Up — And Settled Eight Before Trial And Paid Up — And The Only One They Didn’t Lose Was The One Wrongly Filed In Federal Court By A Pro Se Litigant — For A Total Of $662,722 — And Given That They’re About To Pay More Than $324,000 To The ACLU To Settle Another Loser — This Is More Than A Million Dollars In Less Than Four Years That They Wasted Because They Can Not Or They Will Not Comply With The Law — For That Kind Of Money They Could Hire A Damn CPRA Coordinator — And Some Staff — And Stop The Bleeding

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John Walker Of The Studio City BID Asked Rita Moreno Of The Clerk’s Office For Advice On A CPRA Request I Made And She Gave Him A Detailed, Thoughtful, Largely Correct Response Despite The Fact That Doing So Directly Contradicts Her Boss, The Mendacious Ms. Holly Wolcott, Who Has Asserted Time And Again That “the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of … BIDs”

In the great and good1 City of Los Angeles, business improvement districts are overseen by the City Clerk‘s office. They have a whole subsection of their website about BIDs; how to form one, what they are, and so on. And not only that, but as part of their oversight process, each BID signs a contract with the City Clerk’s office. These are all about the same as one another, and if you want to look at one, here’s a link to the Studio City BID’s contract.2

And, like every one of these contracts between the City and its BIDs, this one contains, in Section 16.3, the following fairly unequivocal requirement: “… Corporation and the Board of Directors are also subject to and must comply with the California Public Records Act.” Finally, buried deep down in this website, they have published a stunning little item called the Service Operations Summary, which purports to explain the City’s role in relation to its BIDs.

In particular, in Section 5, this document claims that:3 “THE [CLERK’S] OFFICE PROVIDES CONTINUOUS CONTRACT COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE. Staff monitors the use of revenue in order to ensure that assessments paid by district members are used appropriately and in accordance with contractual, budgetary, statutory and City regulations and procedures.”

Now, it’s a tragic aspect of the CPRA that the only remedy for noncompliance that the legislature has seen fit to provide is a lawsuit. However, it seems at least plausible from the foregoing that if a BID is not complying with the CPRA, it’s the duty of the office of the Clerk to ensure that they do comply with it. Acting on this theory, and hoping to avoid a bunch of damn lawsuits,4 once upon a time in 2016 I tried to get Ms. Holly Wolcott to mediate between me and uppity non-CPRA-compliant BIDs.

But she, almost certainly acting on the advice of rogue deputy city attorney Michael Joseph Dundas, denied that the City had any power whatsoever to compel BIDs to comply with the law, despite what the above-quoted Service Operations Summary claimed. Despite the fact that the City has a contract with each BID and the contract requires CPRA compliance. And she didn’t just deny it, she denied it vehemently:, stating in an email to me5 that:“…the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of the various BIDs which are entities wholly separate from the City.”

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I sent a CPRA request to the Studio City BID, asking for a bunch of stuff. When the material showed up yesterday, I found an exchange between John Walker and Rita Moreno, a City Clerk staffer in charge of many aspects of BIDs, discussing my request. Basically he was all like do we have to do it because expensive and time-consuming. And she was all like … well, turn the page to read all the emails and see exactly what she was all like, but suffice it to say she was all like DIRECTING him to do it because of the law. That is, she was doing precisely what her boss, the famous Ms. Holly Wolcott, said that the City would never do and didn’t even have the power to do.
Continue reading John Walker Of The Studio City BID Asked Rita Moreno Of The Clerk’s Office For Advice On A CPRA Request I Made And She Gave Him A Detailed, Thoughtful, Largely Correct Response Despite The Fact That Doing So Directly Contradicts Her Boss, The Mendacious Ms. Holly Wolcott, Who Has Asserted Time And Again That “the Clerk’s office [does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of … BIDs”

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CPRA Goes Meta: Holly Wolcott Refuses To Release Some Records But Ends Up Releasing Advice Email From Deputy City Attorney Mike Dundas Authorizing Her Refusal

Holly Wolcott reimagined as a child of the 60s, chanting the Nam Myoho Renge Kyo of her people, which goes like this: “CPRA does not obligate me to answer questions. Only to provide records. CPRA does not obligate me to answer questions. Only to provide records.” HEY HOLLY!! CPRA also does not obligate you to not answer questions…
Perhaps you remember the long and winding narrative of how I spent almost half of last year trying to get the City Clerk’s office to cough up mailing addresses for the property owners in the Venice Beach BID, which they finally did do. There is a reasonable summary with links right here. Today I can reveal a little behind-the-scenes episode in that story.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of about a thousand pages of emails that the City Clerk’s office finally handed over, only about six months after I asked for them, I found this little gem of an email chain. Most of it is me hassling various Clerk staffies for the list of addresses, but right in the middle of it all, there’s an interlude between Holly Wolcott and Deputy City Attorney Mike Dundas, who’s evidently some kind of CPRA specialist over there in City Hall East.1

The TL;DR is that she goes: “Mike, do I gotta give him the goods?” and Mike’s all: “Nah, Holly, you don’t gotta because reasons.” It’s also interesting that the reasons he gives her are specious, providing, among other things, yet another example of how the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 (which makes BIDs subject to CPRA) seems not to be understood so well over at City Hall. You will find some discussion after the break, along with quotes if you’re PDF-averse.
Continue reading CPRA Goes Meta: Holly Wolcott Refuses To Release Some Records But Ends Up Releasing Advice Email From Deputy City Attorney Mike Dundas Authorizing Her Refusal

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Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Concerning The Question Of Whether BID Consultants Qualify As Lobbyists And What The Proper Course Of Action Might Be If They Do

A pseudo-artistic computer-modified image of Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott.
Here’s a letter I sent this morning to Holly Wolcott and Miranda Paster concerning the question of whether BID consultants qualify as lobbyists for the purposes of complying with the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. My feeling, of course, is that they do qualify, they ought to register with the City, they should be punished for the fact that they have not done so, and the City staff who work with them without insisting that they register ought to be busted for aiding and abetting. But since evidently this has never occurred to anyone before, I thought it would be decent to give everyone involved a chance to assess their own risk in choosing a course of action. Hence this letter. There’s a transcription with live links after the break if you don’t want to deal with a PDF.
Continue reading Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Concerning The Question Of Whether BID Consultants Qualify As Lobbyists And What The Proper Course Of Action Might Be If They Do

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A Bunch Of Interesting New Documents: City Attorney, LA Times, And Sanitation Reports From Encampment Cleanups

This is just a quick announcement of some interesting new collections of records, with minimal commentary. First of all, there’s a collection of emails between City Attorney spokesman1 Rob Wilcox and various L.A. Times Reporters. You can get the whole batch here:

Also I have a full set of reports2 from the Bureau of Sanitation on the cleanups of three homeless encampments on March 22, 2016. It took almost three months for them to hand over this material, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been following my recent interactions with them. This is likewise available from:

I don’t presently have much to say about the sanitation reports. At this point I’m collecting as much material as possible in order to (a) figure out what kind of material is available so that I’ll be able to make focused, effective requests in the future, (b) learn what kinds of arguments they make against handing over records so that I can make focused, effective counterarguments against them, and (c) understand all the players in the HE3 game and the roles they’re playing. I hope to be able to synthesize all of this at some point, but meanwhile I want to make the records available because I know smarter people than I are also reading them.

But I do have this and that to say about the emails,4 and after the break you will find commentary and links to interesting individual instances.
Continue reading A Bunch Of Interesting New Documents: City Attorney, LA Times, And Sanitation Reports From Encampment Cleanups

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Miranda Paster, Subverter Of Arts District BID Alternatives: Some Of What $3000 Bought The BIDs of Los Angeles Over The Years And How She Got Temporarily “Bumped” Due To Allegations Of Conflict Of Interest

I can't find any usable pictures of Miranda Paster, so here's another picture of Holly Wolcott!
I can’t find any usable pictures of Miranda Paster, so here’s another picture of Holly Wolcott!
Miranda Paster is the director of the LA City Clerk’s Neighborhood and Business Improvement Division (NABID), which administers the City’s BID program. Her job description (updated in February 2014) includes among her duties presenting at the conferences of the International Downtown Association:1 …deliver formal presentations, including analyses and recommendations, to the City Council and its Committees and International Downtown Association Conferences…

The story begins in 2011,2 when BIDs gave Miranda Paster $3000 to attend the IDA’s 2011 annual conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a look at this collection of emails and records of payments from 2011. These show that less than two weeks before the conference started, Paster was scrambling to get the money together to attend, but that she already had a commitment from the BIDs to pay $3000 (a log of the actual payments is included there). It seems that in 2011, Paster’s attendance at this conference was a new thing for her, as the financing was arranged in such a hurry. I’m guessing that at this point presenting at this conference was not yet part of Paster’s official duties. It’s a rare bureaucracy indeed which will not pay its employees’ expenses to carry out their duties. So the BIDs paid, buying at least a sense of obligation.

Unfortunately, IDA records of the 2011 conference don’t seem to show what Paster did there, but by the 2012 conference, held in Minneapolis, she was a panelist. This is interesting in itself. The panel, moderated by Rena Leddy, now of the Fashion District BID but then of Progressive Urban Management Associates, or PUMA,3 was entitled How Cities Encourage BIDs: Trends and Challenges.4 Here is a copy of a Power Point summary of the session, which is astonishing in its own right.5

Now, you may not be familiar with the story of the destruction and resurrection of the Arts District BID. It began in 2011 when Yuval Bar-Zemer of Linear City development initiated a campaign against the BID based on the theory that BID assessments used for marketing campaigns didn’t benefit assessed property owners in any way allowed under state law.6 A court case ensued, and in May 2013 Superior Court judge Robert O’Brien ordered the BID to dissolve.
Continue reading Miranda Paster, Subverter Of Arts District BID Alternatives: Some Of What $3000 Bought The BIDs of Los Angeles Over The Years And How She Got Temporarily “Bumped” Due To Allegations Of Conflict Of Interest

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Venice Beach BID Proponents Carl Lambert and Andy Layman Are Being Sued by City of LA For AirBnB Shenanigans, We Have Copies of The Complaints!

WWJMD?
WWJMD?
It’s well-known that two of the major proponents behind the nascent Venice Beach BID, Carl Lambert and Andy Layman, are being sued by the City of Los Angeles for illegal AirBnB activities. You can see the pro-BID petitions submitted by these two dimwits here: Lambert 1Lambert 2Layman 1. By the way, if you haven’t seen them yet, the full set of pro-BID petitions is also available.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to find copies of the complaints online, and the Superior Court charges one dollar per page for PDFs, which is not within our budgetary constraints. But fortunately, the ever-helpful Mike Dundas came charging over the metaphorical hill like the metaphorical cavalry this morning and sent me copies, which I’m now making available to you:

Note that Feuer’s office filed two other complaints against illegal AirBnBers, but as they’re not BID-related, I’m not discussing them here. However, I did publish all of them on the Archive. These make interesting reading, chock-full of accusatory goodness, and are worth your time. You can read them yourself, and there are some excerpts after the break.
Continue reading Venice Beach BID Proponents Carl Lambert and Andy Layman Are Being Sued by City of LA For AirBnB Shenanigans, We Have Copies of The Complaints!

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Update on the Question of Why BID Security Patrols Aren’t Registered with the Los Angeles Police Commission

Richard Tefank, Executive Director of the LA Police Commission.
Richard Tefank, Executive Director of the LA Police Commission.
I have some new information about, although not an answer to, the question, which I wrote about last week, of why BID security patrols aren’t registered with the Los Angeles Police Commission even though LAMC 52.34 would seem to require registration. If this is the first time you’re hearing about this, you should read that post first for background.

First of all, I exchanged a number of emails with William Jones, a senior management analyst with the LAPD permit processing section. He directed me to Officer Vicencio in the Police Commission’s Enforcement section. Vicencio was on vacation last week, but I finally got a chance to speak to him on the phone. He told me that BID Patrols were exempt from the LAMC 52.34 requirement because state law exempted them. He did not know what section of state law exempted them. He also told me that “about fifteen years ago” the City Attorney issued an opinion stating that BID Patrols were not subject to the registration requirement. He said that any private security firm that was under contract to the City or had an MOU with the City was not required to register.
Continue reading Update on the Question of Why BID Security Patrols Aren’t Registered with the Los Angeles Police Commission

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LAMC 41.47.1: This Seemingly Unknown Municipal Bathroom Law Could Change the Whole Public Urination Discussion in Los Angeles, but it has Never Been Used

These signs are hanging all over the City of Los Angeles, and it turns out that they're completely unenforceable.
These signs are hanging all over the City of Los Angeles, and it turns out that they’re completely unenforceable.

Arrests for public urination/defecation are a fundamental tool in the war against homeless people in Los Angeles, as well as being a major part of the BID Patrol’s work in Hollywood. In 2015, for instance, the BID’s data shows that about 8%1 of the arrests that Andrews International made across the two HPOA BIDs2 were for public urination/defecation, which is a violation of LAMC 41.47.2.

When the City Council passed LAMC 41.47.2 in 2003, they were roundly (and rightly) criticized by advocates for the rights of homeless people, who pointed out that it was inhumane to criminalize an activity that is necessary to sustain life without providing a practical alternative. My colleagues have written before about how Councilmembers responded to this by promising informally that it wouldn’t be enforced if there were no nearby public restrooms and by promising to install more public restrooms around the City. However, they failed to amend the actual statute, which has led to widespread abuse.3 And 13 years later there aren’t significantly more public restrooms.

However, there is another part of the public urination law, LAMC 41.47.1, which is never even mentioned in discussions of the issue, and yet it is not only relevant, but radically, transformatively relevant. It was adopted by the Council in 1988 and says:

If restroom facilities are made available for the public, clients, or employees, no person owning, controlling, or having charge of such accommodation or facility shall prohibit or prevent the use of such restroom facilities by a person with a physical handicap, regardless of whether that person is a customer, client, employee, or paid entrant to the accommodation or facility. Employee restrooms need not be made available if there are other restroom facilities available on the premises unless employee restroom facilities have been constructed or altered to accommodate the physically handicapped and such facilities are not available elsewhere on the premises.

This has the potential to change the entire conversation about public restrooms, public urination, and homelessness in Los Angeles.
Continue reading LAMC 41.47.1: This Seemingly Unknown Municipal Bathroom Law Could Change the Whole Public Urination Discussion in Los Angeles, but it has Never Been Used

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