Did DA's Office Tip Off Scofflaw Newsletter?
- 07 Dec 2012
- Written by Randall Fleming
INGLEWOOD FOLLIES - An Inglewood publication previously charged with Political Reform Act violations continues to flaunt the law by receiving funds from the City of Inglewood for illegally printing public notices. A motion to introduce a resolution to change the language in the city charter will allow the City of Inglewood to print public notices in publications that fall outside LA County's definition of "legally adjudicated."
The unprecedented motion came one week after a complaint to the DA's office regarding the publication's many years of illegally publishing public notices by the City of Inglewood. Was it coincidence, or did someone at the DA's office make a phone call?
At the Inglewood city council meeting on Tuesday, the city clerk introduced "a resolution of the city council of the City of Inglewood, ordering the submission to the [voters] of the city a proposal to adopt and ratify…and amendment to the charter of the City of Inglewood relating to the publishing of city ordinances."
It seems a simple amendment to the charter of the City of Inglewood, one whereby the city council appeared to put forth a resolution that the voters would, on April 2, 2013, vote whether to allow a summary of city ordinances rather than the entire ordinance "to [be] read in full…after adoption unless after reading the title, further reading is waived by unanimous consent of the Councilmembers [sic] present."
It is a two-pronged fork that 1) seeks to deflate what remaining power Inglewood city council members possess, by having a mere summary of a city ordinance announced "at least once in a newspaper of general circulation published and circulated in said city, or…posted in at least three public places in the city," without determining in the resolution who would interpret any future city ordinances and; 2) by including the language, "newspaper of general circulation."
It is that second, seemingly benign phrase that is particularly poisonous, a phrase that was not at all mentioned during the city council meeting when the city clerk implored the city council to approve the resolution.
For many years, Inglewood's city council meetings have been remarked upon in a newsletter that bears the city's name, originally spent some time being distributed by the city via utility bill mailings, and was in 2004 found guilty of violating Code section 89001 of the Political Reform Act by having facilitated a series of "mass mailing[s] at public expense" which frequently featured incumbent elected officials. The several violations took place over three years, from October 2000 until September 2003.
The newsletter was levied fines of no less than $50,000 by the state of California. Some of the same elected officials prominently featured in the newsletter (and named in the charges) remain in the same elected seats, and will be running for election again in 2013. The newsletter, Inglewood Today, remains a publication that maintains a weekly publication schedule.
In its masthead, Inglewood Today proclaims it is a "legally adjudicated newspaper." Numerous conversations with the LA County Registrar clerk in Norwalk who personally handles such matters has confirmed that Inglewood Today is neither a legally adjudicated newspaper for the county of LA nor has been such for many years. Attempts to gain the newsletter's case number—which each and every legally adjudicated newspaper in LA County is required to posses, and which can be found on the county registrar's website—were in vain.
Of note is that if one visits the LA County Registrar's website page and clicks on the list, one will notice the title at the top: "Newspapers of General Circulation." Such papers are indeed "of general circulation," but they're also legally adjudicated. Moreover, a newsletter cannot be legally adjudicated by merely proclaiming itself as such. The process involves significant interaction with the Superior Court of LA County as well as acquiring a case number, among other actions. However, a newspaper can proclaim itself "of general circulation" and generally be that.
Nevertheless, Inglewood Today frequently runs public notices paid for by the City of Inglewood. These public notices, having been run exclusively in a newsletter that is not legally adjudicated, may well come under legal scrutiny for having possibly invalidated numerous contracts that require being properly, publicly and legally published. One such contract involves the City of Inglewood's recent management of the Forum's sale to Madison Square Gardens, Inc.
But what may well be the linchpin in how this long-running, politically connected and law-breaking newsletter seeks to find shelter is in the introduction of the phrase, "of general circulation," an amendment to the city charter which may well be illegal owing to its flaunting LA County laws—but only if the LA County DA pursues the case. Apparently that opportunity was offered to the DA's office in late November, and was allegedly ignored.
According to a resident of Inglewood who has requested anonymity, DA Investigator Edward Boyer was approached with the facts regarding the Inglewood Today's illegally publishing public notices. According to the resident, Boyer heard the complaint, asked several questions regarding the newsletter's name and the city involved, and directed the citizen to call back at another time. The resident complied, but upon calling back was told by Boyer that the DA's office refused to pursue the matter and could offer no advice.
At no time did Boyer mention that the resident might take the matter up with the DA's Public Integrity Division, the branch that handles Brown Act violations. The absence of legal publication of public notices by the City of Inglewood would trigger the Brown Act, and should involve the DA. If public notices are formally published in a non-adjudicated newspaper, then such notices are not legally recognized and the nature of business—be it a dba ("doing business as,") a call for bids, et al.—is unlawful. The Public Integrity Division also handles matters regarding election and campaign violations, a matter with which Inglewood Today is obviously familiar.
Boyer did not return calls at press time.
One week later, the City of Inglewood's website announced its weekly agenda. Buried deep in the document, amid a laundry list of reports that by their very nature induce somnambulism, was the report introducing the resolution to the city charter. Its placement on the agenda indicated rightly that it would follow most all other city business presented that night. It was the first ever resolution to the city charter by the office presenting it. And it was passed by the city council the night it was presented.
It will appear on the ballot for local elections in April.
(Randall Fleming is a veteran journalist and magazine publisher. He has worked at and for the New York Post, the Brooklyn Spectator and the Los Feliz Ledger. He is currently editor-in-chief at the Morningside Park Chronicle, a monthly newspaper based in Inglewood, CA and on-line at www.MorningsideParkChronicle.com)
Vol 10 Issue 98
Pub: Dec 7, 2012