This story is in some sense about the absolutely intransigent refusal of Patti Berman, president for life of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council,1 to comply with the California Public Records Act. I’ll spare you the details of her violations for now,2 but they’re weird, unnecessary, and secretive. And she leads other board members into violating the law by rephrasing requests so that they can’t actually comply. It’s really bad, and DLANC records are really important,3 not least because they violate the Brown Act all the damn time, often4 via email.
Here’s the whole story in a nutshell, taken from this fabulous little gem of an email exchange (of course there’s a transcription after the break!) On April 3, 2017 Blair Besten, batty little fusspot director of the Historic Core Business Improvement District, third weirdest of the minor Downtown BIDs, tried to register online to vote against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council in solidarity with her fellow zillionaires and their minions. As I’m sure you’re aware, registering to vote online at that time required one to upload a photo of an ID. Blair Besten uploaded a picture of her business card instead.
Not acceptable, said the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment! So then DLANC president-for-life Patti Berman1 and weirdo-about-town, male-for-rent, and some kinda damn social worker Bob Freaking Newman2 emailed everybody saying please guys! Let Blair Besten register please!! And not only that, but Patti Berman used her dlanc.com email address during the conversation even though DLANC was required by City law to be neutral. Helping Blair Besten register is not neutral.
I reported a few weeks ago on how Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Board member Dan Curnow violated the Brown Act in April 2017 along with his late, unlamented colleague, moral dumpster fire, and wannabe vigilante, Jacob Douglas Van Horn. Jacob Douglas VH, of course, famously resigned from DLANC under a cloud some time ago and, by doing so, perhaps placed himself beyond the suffering of consequences for his evil ways.1 Dan Curnow, as far as anyone around here knows, though, has not (yet) resigned from DLANC and so is eligible to be complained about in every possible venue.
According to an extremely useful guide prepared by then-City-Attorney Rockard Delgadillo, in the context of the Brown Act a majority means a majority of a quorum. That is, the minimum number of members that can actually act on a motion. The DLANC has a 24 member board, and a quorum is 13. Hence these six members using email “…to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of…” DLANC is not a violation; a violation would require seven members to have been in on the discussion.
As much as I’d like to be able to take credit for this stunning development, I think it’s probably unrelated to my work. Or at least it’s not provably related. Anyway, here’s what happened. Estela Lopez missed the DLANC board meetings in July, August, and September. According to the bylaws:1
Any Board Member who misses three (3) consecutive regularly scheduled DLANC Board meetings or four (4) total Board meetings during any twelve (12) month period will be automatically removed from the Board. Each DLANC Director’s absence shall be recorded in the DLANC’s meeting minutes or other manner of Board record keeping, and that, upon missing the specified number of Board meetings for removal, the President shall notify the Board Director, copy the Board, and announce at the next regular Board meeting that their seat has been declared vacant.
Of course, President-for-life Patti Berman is not a rule-follower, but for whatever reason she seems to be following this one. Check the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the Board of Directors. Estela Lopez is not on the roster. Presumably PFL Patti will announce the vacancy tomorrow night as specified in item 1.
With all the recent revelations about how Estela Lopez ran United Downtown LA’s finances and how she used her official dlanc.com email address to send out an anti-SRNC email blast and how she and a bunch of her asshole buddies on the DLANC board seem to have lied to President Patti about their involvement with this shadowy anonymous gang, with all that, as I said, it may be easy to forget that these co-conspirators aren’t just a bunch of slavering zillionaire cannibals, blithely using their razor-sharp fangs to crack the bones of their victims that they may joyously slurp up the marrow and then slaking their thirst with long noisy draughts of the steaming blood of their prey. They’re that and so much more!
They’re also, it turns out, a band of jovial jokesters, merrily bantering with one another while they stir their witches’ brew. It being a lazy Sunday afternoon, I thought I’d take some time out from the hard-hitting journalistic salvos my loyal audience craves and look at one of these humorous moments. After all, one doesn’t know one’s enemy until one knows what they find funny.
Here’s the story, then. Recall, if you will, that all these conspirators were vying with one another to set up pop-up polls in the days leading up to the SRNC formation election. Emails were flying both thick and fast about who had gotten a new poll, who had hauled all their tenants off to vote at a poll, and so on. Now comes Karen Christopherson, some kind of real estate drone with a shadowy company known as A.I. Management, which seems to be the boss of an office building at 420 E. 3rd Street in Little Tokyo.
On May 3, 2017 the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment sponsored a hearing on challenges to the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation election. One of the main issues was, of course, the shadowy anonymous front corporation United Downtown LA and the names of the people behind it.
At that meeting, Patricia Berman, self-proclaimed President for Life of the DLANC board of directors, was moved to deny all knowledge of the matter and to affirm her overwhelming desire to find out who was behind it so she could get them kicked off the board. But don’t take my word for it! You can watch and listen to her, and here’s what she said:
If indeed one of our board members was involved with United DTLA I would love to find out about it, because I bet we could get them off the board really fast. However, I have no idea who these people are. I don’t know anyone on my board who does, and we certainly have asked around. We had nothing to do with this. I’m sorry it caused such a big stink. But the truth is it didn’t come from our listserve and it’s not something that came from us.
Jacob Douglas Van Horn is off the board for reasons that are probably unrelated to United Downtown LA, but the others remain. The most egregious case among these after Estela Lopez herself is Robert Newman, who was not only involved with United Downtown LA but was standing right behind Patti Berman when she made the statement.
She said she asked around, so either she didn’t ask him, which seems unlikely, or he lied to her when she asked him, or she lied when she said no one on her board knows who was behind the situation. None of these options look good for President Patti. However, she can go an awful long way towards washing away her sins by sticking to her promise and getting these five remaining miscreants “…off the board really fast.”