ANIMAL WATCH-As the result of very persistent and persuasive phone calls from a prominent activist that an LA Animal Services' Commissioner was claiming his electronic communications were "hacked," a California Public Records Act request (CPRA) was sent to General Manager Brenda Barnette and certain members of the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission.
The results revealed startling information and confirmed more about the ugly underbelly of the purportedly public -- and supposedly non-political -- debate over feeding LA City shelter dogs vegan dog food. These revelations also provide compelling reasons why Mayor Eric Garcetti should reconsider how he is being represented.
At the November 28, 2017, Board meeting, Commissioner Roger Wolfson orchestrated a series of "experts and witnesses," composed of several vegan veterinarians, a celebrity, a civil-rights attorney and a political fundraiser for The Humane Society of the U.S. who is associated with the Mayor's office, to support his position that all impounded dogs at the city's six shelters should be fed only a meatless diet. Wolfson is one of the five LAAS Commissioners appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti.
LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette and Chief Veterinarian Jeremy Prupas cited the inadvisability of switching all dogs in Los Angeles city shelters to strictly vegan food in a report and testimony.
This issue gained nationwide media attention and comments on both sides of a passionate public argument between those who believe a change to vegan dog-food can "save the planet" and those who maintain that dogs are anatomical carnivores and cannot live on plants alone.
Wolfson argued with the Deputy City Attorney who advised no vote could be taken on the report at that meeting because it was not agendized as an "action" item. He claimed it was unfair because the people he invited deserved to know.
Wolfson's whining and insistence on being informed how his fellow Commissioners intended to vote resulted in Commissioners Layne Dicker and Olivia Garcia both defying the City Attorney and announcing they would vote "yes," after being warned that the outcome of the vote should not be disclosed in advance because of provisions in the Brown Act.
FINAL VEGAN DOG-FOOD DEBATE INDEFINITELY POSTPONED
At the continued hearing on December 12, a motion was approved for further research to be gathered for a study and a decision by the Commission at a future date. That future date now is postponed as the City Attorney and LAAS management review the matter further.
This could be at least partially due to the letter of concern submitted on December 22 by the California Veterinary Medical Association, stating that they believe the "Vegan-Only Proposal is not only clinically contraindicated, but -- if adopted -- would constitute a clear violation of California law.” It concludes, "While the sentiments of the Vegan-Only Proposal are laudable ... the CVMA strongly discourages adoption of the Vegan-Only Proposal and will -- if necessary -- mount a legal challenge to the Proposal." (Emph. added.)
We have to wonder why three Commissioners -- Roger Wolfson, Olivia E. Garcia, Layne David Dicker (all attorneys) -- are ignoring the obligation to abide by rules and protocol of the City. And, why do Wolfson and Dicker engage in persistent public arguments with the Assistant City Attorney on legal issues, thereby jeopardizing the protection of public interest?
From the latest email disclosures, the question arises as whether they may also be succumbing to manipulation, abandoning ethics and reasoning for feel-good emotions, and ignoring potential outcomes of their actions to maintain favor with political and/or major humane donors/contributors.
PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST ELICITS UNEXPECTED CONTACTS
A California Public Records request (CPRA) on January 1, 2018, for emails and other communications on the vegan dog-food issue between the Commissioners beginning September 1, 2017, (prior to any vote on this issue) revealed that, in violation of the Brown Act, Roger Wolfson was in communication with at least two other members of the Board regarding the orchestration of speakers and his anticipated success in changing the diet of the dogs by Commission vote. Oh, and it also included reminders of his "love" for them!
Re: hey Olivia!
Roger Wolfson (email@example.com)
Mon 11/20/2017, 3:31 PM
To: Olivia Garcia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you so much for your willingness to move things around. Let me talk with my witnesses and see what time works best for them. I appreciate and love you. :)
11/30/2017 3:05 PM
Roger Wolfson: To Olivia Garcia
People in the field have come up with this kind of FAQ guide to responses to concerns about plant-based diets in shelters.
I hope it’s helpful, please feel free to forward it if people raise concerns to you! Also, feel free to raise any concerns you might have with me – I’ll respond immediately.
All my love –
December 03, 2017 3:16 PM
Roger Wolfson: To Layne Dicker
…So glad that you’re on our team. Much more to come from this side – but, not obnoxious, and not form letter...You, btw, are the hero for all of them.
They already had me. But I get questions about you all the time, you have a fan base now.
Including me, I’m president of the chapter. :)
November 28, 2017 1:58 PM
Layne Dicker wrote to Stephanie T.:
Please be advised that I fully support Commissioner Wolfson’s proposal.
CITY OFFICIALS' OBLIGATION TO RETAIN AND PROVIDE INFORMATION
Members of the Board of Los Angeles Animal Services’ Commissioners are not only City officials but also identified in the City Charter as the “Head of the Department.” LA Administrative Code, Chapter 1, Sections 12.1 – 12.3 define “records” (including any type of communication), outline responsibilities, and describe retention requirements.
Records for which a retention period is not otherwise specified..."shall be retained for a minimum of two years."
WAS COMMISSIONER WOLFSON DELIBERATELY INACCURATE?
On May 4, after the call regarding "hacking," the LAAS Custodian of Records provided Commissioner Wolfson’s response to my second CPRA:
"I no longer keep any emails whatsoever from this account. Everything from email@example.com is automatically and immediately erased by my system. I have none."
When reminded that the request included any account used to conduct any official correspondence during that period, on May 7, Commissioner Wolfson quickly responded:
"Same answer as before. I keep no emails at all. It’s a philosophical choice about how I choose to live my life."
DID COMMISSIONER ROGER WOLFSON’S E-MAILS REAPPEAR?
What Commissioner Wolfson did not know was that I had made the same request to Commissioner Layne Dicker and General Manager Brenda Barnette, who provided the following:
Note the same e-mail address was used by Commissioner Wolfson on Nov. 20, 2017 (above). Did he deliberately misrepresent that his e-mails are immediately erased?
Mar. 30, 2018, at 8:58 PM Roger Wolfson (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
Layne, I’ve read your texts with (name withheld).I hope that you realize that she is unstable, unkind and not sane.
It deeply hurts my feelings to see you communicate with her, and I ask that you consider not doing so. I’m also not sure it’s appropriate, she’s threatening to sue the city and I don’t believe any of us should encourage her. By being friendly with her, and not challenging her incredible lies – you’re empowering her. To seek my resignation and sue the city. I’m really surprised and terribly saddened by this.
Furthermore, as we discussed after the last hearing I attended, there was never any issue whatsoever with my wanting to talk briefly about my item during my future agenda items comments, and as you know, I've never stopped you from making the case for yours. You spoke on my behalf during the hearing, it hurts me to see you not doing so on FB, in a public forum that (name withheld) has already used to try to oust me.
This is a landmark proposal, my friend. I look forward to discussing it with you in a proper and legal forum.
BTW, anyone like (name withheld) or ANYONE says crap about you, to me (and she did, prior to deciding I was evil)? They get a mouthful. I will always have your back.
From: Roger Wolfson (email@example.com)
Date: April 1, 2018 at 4:35:28 PM PDT
To: Layne Dicker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
And, Layne – do you realize that you are admitting her to having extensive private communications with a woman who (a) profits from killing animals and feeding them to dogs, (b) is calling for the ouster of a fellow commissioner, and (c) is threatening to sue the city?
I had no idea that you were communicating with her other than on facebook.
What are you doing, man? What’s going on?
April 1, 2018, at 7:27 PM, Roger Wolfson (email@example.com) wrote:
Layne, your missives with her have been public. On facebook. Anyone can see them. They are not private.
If you're admitting to saying worse things to her, by email, that's your business and (obviously) terribly upsetting to me. But it's your business. I'm just talking about your facebook posts, that anyone can read.
And included in my first line, is that (name withheld) is not sane. You cannot trust her to keep anything private, Layne. Others have learned that the hard way. I have no knowledge of what she might be sharing or not -- but she's crazy, man. You're really, really wise to stay away. And certainly not to support her in trying to oust another Commissioner or sue the city.
Anyway, I thought we were friends, Layne, and I'd like to stay that way. I have always had your back and I'd appreciate if you would have mine.
April 2, 2018, at 7:22 PM, Layne Dicker (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
Honestly, Roger, as hard as I try, I can’t get past the very first line of your e-mail.
How did you come into possession of my and/or (name withheld) private communications? I haven’t shared them with anyone and neither has she, so they must’ve been hacked which is, of course, a crime. I’m absolutely not implying that you hacked them, but someone did. Accordingly, please send me copies of all such communications in your possession as well as a complete description of how these came to you, and from whom, as I intend to take this matter to the appropriate authorities.
Second, I find this to equally troubling, is that you actually read them. You read communications that you knew to be private. It's as if someone handed you a letter addressed to me, and you opened it. I’m truly shocked.
WHILE WE ARE EXPLORING LAAS COMMISSION CONDUCT
The following is unrelated to the vegan dog food topic but is an example of the vocabulary used by Commissioner Layne Dicker. He resorts to expletives during Commission meetings and laughs or dismisses it, if he even notices. No one else thinks it's funny!
On Wed, Apr 25, 2018, 8:46 AM Layne David Dicker wrote (in an email string to Brenda Barnette) obviously about City business:
So, (name withheld) is 8 miles up my ass this morning saying I undermined (name withheld) last night by suggesting that DPFL come in. Not how I remember it and not my intention. Any validity to her observation? Anything I need to do?
This shit isn't easy.
Layne David Dicker
Los Angeles Animal Services Board of Commissioners
UNTRUTHS, HACKING, CURSING -- PROFILE OF THE LAAS COMMISSION
What more is there to say?
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.