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That’s Half a Billion, with a ‘B’

CLOSING--The County Board of Supervisors will virtually slink into an audio-only Special closed session in place of their regular open board meeting Tuesday March 30, but City Hall will be on recess to commemorate the 3rd day of Passover.   

On Wednesday, the City will scurry into a Special “Cesar Chavez day” closed session at 10:00am to discuss the Judge Carter LA Alliance lawsuit regarding our homeless crisis.  

No general public comments will be accepted at these meetings but there is a good crib sheet about how to speak out  Passover thought:  Please don't detain the press. "Let my people go..." 

Fencing:

After team coverage of what Mitch O’Farrell and the mayor are calling the "largest housing transition of an encampment ever in the city's history" resulted in the brief detention of James Queally, a LA Times reporter who has been covering the criminal courts for a number of years, folks are wondering where do we go from here? 

Hard to make predictions, but Queally and an extensive team of LA Times reporters that provided meticulous coverage of the Mayor's dream to "house more than 200 people" are not likely to sue the city.   

It raises the question, why not?  Apparently, everybody else is.  

Since FY 2016-17 LAPD has settled 177 False arrest cases under $20,000 and 30 False arrest cases with payouts between $20,000 to $6,000,000. 

Is transparency really the best disinfectant? Or is it just a bumpy ride on a very old merry-go-round of citywide lawsuits that require "repairs" to a badly broken system.  It's a serious question.   

My brother and I wrote a piece a couple years ago wondering if opening up the backroom might help, "Public scrutiny would have a moderating effect in both directions, with the public balking both at unfairly small settlements and those which are exorbitant." 

Records: 

Curious about how the city has been progressing behind closed doors, fighting the uninterrupted supply of lawsuits against us, a record request produced two spreadsheets from 2007 through January 2021.   

Between 2006-2007 - 2015-2016 there were 14,678 payouts totaling $569,278,962.  Yes, that’s more than half a billion in just ten years.    

Between 2016-2017 - 2020–2021 there were 7,184 payouts totaling $572,517,462.  Yes, that is also more than half a billion in less than five years. 

From FY 2016-2017 through January 2021 there have been 109 cases with settlements by the city over $1,000,000.   

The largest case was settled by the Office of Finance regarding a utility tax for $45M.  Two are major ADA cases at $10M and $21M and the remainder are mostly dangerous condition suits of DOT and Bureau of Street services and Public works.  Big city stuff. 

Of the top 50 most expensive cases... 17 are courtesy of LAPD.  

5 false arrest

3 wrongful death

2 disability medical

2 law enforcement related injury excessive force

1 ordinance challenge

1 employment uncategorized

1 sexual harassment

1 retaliation

1 civil rights 

 

I was completely flabbergasted by the volume of cases.

 

44 cases that cost LAPD over $1,000,000

38 cases that cost LAPD between $500,000 and $999,000

48 cases that cost LAPD between $200,000 and 499,000. 

29 cases that cost LAPD between $99,000 and $200,000.

55 cases that cost LAPD between $50,000 and $95,000.

Among all of those payouts, 46 were for harassment, retaliation or discrimination.

 

A lot of the smaller payouts are traffic accidents or property related damage but there are a half dozen retaliation cases mixed in among the 1233 cases between a $50 civil rights violation of Gregory Owen (good value) and the $49,999 settlement with Edward Jordan for Race/Color/National Origin Discrimination. 

Harassment, retaliation and discrimination 

Here's a spreadsheet of all the city harassment, retaliation and discrimination across departments. 

LAPD's total of $126,179,997 accounts for 62% of the total citywide harassment, retaliation and discrimination number $202,339,899. 

The LAPD payed out for harassment, retaliation and discrimination cases $94,537,382 in 2007-2016/17 and $31,642,614 thru 2017/18 -2021 so far [it's early]. 

And not everything is in this report, like the settlement two weeks ago of $1,995,000 with the family of Jane MBQ for the abuse by Robert Cain, that was signed by the mayor this month, is not in there. To my knowledge Garcetti did not raise the issue of the LAPPL covering the cost.    

So, we may as well throw it on the pile along with the $150,000 payed out to the Huizar aide, who was retaliated against for speaking out.  

Numbers blur the meaning.  If the people could be in the room, wouldn't they object, like #metoo.  

Starts at the TOP

It's easier to blame the police, and I will in a minute,  but let’s briefly blame the  mayor and city council for promulgating the culture that permits misconduct to go unchecked.   

That's why the closed session is so in vogue among officials worried that the public will catch wind of their horrible misconduct.  

Imagine Melody Jaramillo's surprise when she was asked to sign a DISGUSTING settlement agreement enduring sexual harassment in CD12. Jaramillo "promises to delete from her personal electronic devices all copies of audio or video related to the matter."  That's almost worse than a NDA -- a lil promise to 'destroy evidence’?  

How could our city attorney provide cover for John Lee who came to be known as staffer B and Mitch Englander to sexually harass young city workers? "Plaintiff further agrees to not reapply for a job with the city, and the city will not be liable for not hiring her (even if she's qualified) for five years." (tk.)    Why should she be banished for speaking out?    

I suppose John Lee deserves the benefit of the doubt, but why would she make up what she alleged?   

The Million Dollar Question 

If Jaramillo wanted to go for the jugular, she would have hired the McNicholas & McNicholas law firm. 

This group of Civil Rights experts are skilled at both deploying the various immunities for the LAPPL, one of their most impressive clients, while also shaking loose settlement money from the department--and cutting checks to Paul Krekorian, Mike Feuer et al. the deciders, who, to my knowledge do not recuse themselves on cases that McNicholas brings against the city.  

I first noticed that McNicholas was a contributor to Paul Krekorian and then spotted a $1,500,000 settlement to Jeffrey Shoemaker, a hulking white guy cop who kneeled on a shell at the firing range, where he worked as a gun toting LAPDist-- got injured, then sued for retaliation and harassment. 

A year or so later, An African American Sergeant Wayne Guillary alleged years of retaliation, and harassment--and was awarded $500,000, by the city.  

In both cases the attorneys for the plaintiffs was McNicholas & McNicholas. In both cases Krekorian and Feuer were the decision makers for the defendant cops.   

So, why such an astonishing discrepancy in the settlement?  That’s the million-dollar question.  

Glass Ceiling Intact 

For benchmarking, another white fella, Jamie McBride, a veteran police detective who sued the city, alleging he was denied career advancements for refusing to sign a statement that contained false information, got $1.5 million payment plus some accrued interest.    

Sachi Hamai, an Asian American woman of Japanese descent, got white guy LAPD money for pain, suffering and great emotional distress.  It is hard to fight with stubborn men and women, but the public only witnessed ‘courtesy’ greetings between the Sheriff and Hamai.  

[Why doesn’t Ms. Hamai pay Skip, who did an excellent job spinning the Board of Supervisors, out of her pocket?] 

Mary Ann Bunag was a rank-and-file officer who did not fair so well.  

The LA Times never covered her case because they generally don't cover cases unless they exceed an arbitrary $1,000,000 threshold. 

The case was on a claims board agenda, where Paul Krekorian briefs himself before the check is cut.   

Apparently Bunag accepted $70,000 in settlement for her lawsuit against LAPD Hollywood for sexual harassment. She'd alleged that Stone and Cohan, two male superiors sexually harassed her over several years:  "If you sleep with me, I will make sure you get two out of three points," expressly guaranteeing her a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. 

She settled in the corridor.  

The victim, a sworn officer, should not be ignored because the settlement amount is so low. Minimization by the harassers and Mike Feuer should not exclusively determine the significance of a case.  I guess she shoulda hired Matt McNicholas or Skip. 

 

(Eric Preven is a Los Angeles activist and CityWatch contributor.)

-cw