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Needed: No Bribery Signage in City Hall

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - The Queen was apparently hunkered down at her desk doing royal paperwork after her small bout of over exhaustion.

She's apparently looking forward to getting back to her royal schedule. The Queen (b. 1926) in a typical week takes care of a lot more business than Sheila Kuehl who is significantly younger (b. 1941).  

We glanced at the Supervisors' public schedules before and after memorial day and I must tell you, it is nice work if you can get it.  Sheila had very few items on her list of things to actually do.  Note: this is different that her so called, To Do list. 

The Queen of England by contrast is amazing. Takeaway: We are getting royally screwed.

 

Misunderstood:

Huizar is pissed, in fact, he's outraged that his advocacy for downtown building is being misconstrued as run of the mill $1.5 million in a briefcase bribery.  Pffft.  Apparently, his lawyers have answered some of the Federal charges and are calling for a wholesale dismissal of most of them. 

Huizar had big ideas and low inhibitions. He grew mad with power and like his various cell mates, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mitchell Englander, he went too far.   

The pay to play culture is evolving.  If we can't hold public officials in power accountable to basic honest services and open government expectations, because we allow things to bog down into "an official act," definition rondelay, we'll never make it out of Dodge.  

#metoo did not litigate the definitions of each of the acts performed. Why?  The legal strategy is used all the time,  but... if it smells to high heaven...  sometimes, no further questions, your honor.  

And, you Señor Huizar, are OUT!

  

Public, get in here!

Following on two poorly attended committee meetings last week, at which the public was virtually faked out of participating ($13.5 million over budget in one year on payroll system and a fanciful O'Farrell RFP for 1,000 trash receptacles) a third fiasco materialized. 

The  meeting to discuss the posted signs that will eventually go up in connection with city law 41.18 warning people about not sitting or lying down in various rights of way. 

The Bureau of Sanitation and Department of Transportation provided a dainty little estimate of $11,000 - $15,000 per sign, across approximately 116 sites.   Say what? 

Since the cost of a sign is near $50, what's up? 

DeLeon seemed confused about what an 18x36 sign was and had to be reminded that political yard signs are that size. 

We understand that these signs, some of the most insulting signs ever conceived are about restricting usage of public places, but why so much money? 

The city argued, there were and are a lot of unknowns about these sites. Each location is different and needs to be surveyed. Some places will be simple to attach or clip the sign to a fence, but other places we are going to have to.. "I don't know." 

What? Dig an underground stairway?  

It made no sense. I wonder if we could get the Quality Assurance consultant to help determine whether the processes needed to deliver the project successfully are in place, and properly executed.  I'm not volunteering, but available. 

And I was surprised that among other things in the $11,000 to $15,000 per sign there is a built in security charge.  

I beg your pardon?    

The idea here is that the signs are going to be unpopular and the staff who are putting them up, an unidentified set of cheerful and helpful contractors, are likely to be attacked.  By whom?  LAPD?  The public over this ripoff? 

No, apparently, the unhoused who are being asked officially with signage...  not to sit down.  

If we have any money left over, after stealing $1.5M and installing $500,000 worth of signs, maybe we can  

Post some signs in city hall, like:

No Bribery 

No Influence Peddling

No More Overt Facts

No Conspiracy to Prohibit Criticism

  

T is for Texas and Trillion! 

Interesting twitter dispute, Elon Musk has received near $5 billion dollars in tax subsidies from the government, so a member of the public quickly calculated that would be about a $15 per taxpayer subsidy to Mr. Musk.  

The man is a quite the rainmaker.  Tesla booked an order the other day from Hertz for 100,000 Teslas to ensure Uber and Lyft drivers can have access to fairly priced vehicles  from HERTZ. 

One can only imagine how many hours, for how many days one would have to rent a car to earn $12,000 no benefits driving in a Hertz Lyft mobile?   

 

More is better (conserve water):

Mr. Musk may be a rainmaker but we still need rain.   

Even after the biggie that filled Lake Tahoe by a full 5 inches with billions and billions of gallons of water, which does sound refreshing, we're not out of the woods.   

In fact, we're quite deep in the woods so please, keep the showers short; use a towel when you're clean and then leave it out to dry rather than washing it every single time.  Though, do wash your towel ever three or so times, as we don't need additional foul odors coming from Carson or El Segundo... 

 

Better than a job: 

Kimi Yoshino, a longtime editor and fan favorite, has pulled chalks and will be taking a cool job in Baltimore. 

The @latimes is also hiring for among other openings: a reporter on the criminal justice team. 

Do let them know if you're interested. 

Or a solid alternative is the guaranteed basic income program, which is showing signs of life in Los Angeles.  

Building on the success of the last tranche of $20 billion in fraudulently mismanaged state EDD money, the city is getting in on the action.   Money is now available for random qualified people. 

The city Mayor Eric Garcetti is  rolling out  a total of five thousand $5,000 payments to 5,000 lucky winners.  

That's a total of $25,000.000.   Million!  State EDD $20 billion in fraud.  

Not to be outdone, Curren J. Price has arranged for 3,200 random recipients to be chosen for $1,000 / month for a year and he's setting up a command center during the ten day window to help applicants get in there.   

Question: Chosen randomly by whom?  

 

Meter is running: 

 

If you think the signs for 41.18 are pricey, you should see these lawyer bills.  

And Budget and Finance committee that meets Mondays at 2pm is a great place to poke around for them.  Once the public is dismissed from the meeting, almost immediately, there are usually a few show pieces, where the council members faux admonish, or check in on subjects they want us to hear, and then they slink into the backroom to discuss the lawsuits.  

Amrit Kulkarni, a lawyer who works for the City Attorney on dozens of cases over the years with the firm Meyers Nave Riback and Silver,  makes $425 hour.  Not too shabby. 

I was surprised to see that he and his firm have a favored nations clause.   

When I looked at it first, I was confused.  The deal insists that the rates charged and the other economic terms and conditions provided in the Agreement, taken individually, are at least as favorable to the City of Los Angeles as those provided to any other client of Outside Counsel.   

So, if you are a firm that wants to work for the City of Los Angeles Office of City Attorney, nobody else can pay you more than we at City of LA do. And more importantly, nobody can pay your firm a lower rate.  

Since we hire this firm to take hundreds of thousands of dollars on cases that we collectively know we will lose and are merely fighting for political reasons, like the  The Santa Susanna Rocketdyne lawsuit,  referred to in prior columns, they need to be loyal. 

If we could see the Case Evaluation and Plan for Rocketdyne, which is a written independent evaluation of the case that's used to develop the City's legal position and strategy, that would really help justify another $84,000 on top of the $600,000. 

Sharing that would also assist the city in controlling litigation costs, and explain how it makes any sense to pursue a case  brought by Andrea Ordin, the former LA County Counsel and City Ethics Commissioner.  She lost badly on appeal.  So, to spend another nickel, let alone $600k in federal court.  

I look forward to being proven wrong on that.  

 

Wrong is right:

Now that the Council President has made her irritation known about the Redistricitng process, I wonder if we should Dine & Dash on the contract with Olson Remcho who were up in Bud Fi attempting to collect $55,000 as an initial amount to assist the City Attorney with redistricting and the Voting Rights Act.  Madame President, the floor is yours... 

Since there's so much outrage, including fake outrage, the Nury monster is creating an ad hoc committee, which has a lower Brown Act standard. Since the process is done once a decade, hard to argue we didn't know it was coming.  Ad hoc, should adopt full Brown Act rules for a topic as important (and dry) as redistricting.  

Maybe we should review the itemized billing statements for services rendered under this Agreement, as required?

Such backup documentation is maintained in an auditable format and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. Which is why it is so weird that the County Cousel Rodrigo Castro-Silva won't share Skip Miller's take.  

Tick tock... we'll get them eventually. Right? 

 

United Way: 

Los Angeles County will NOT share what the Miller Barondess LLP firm is REALLY getting paid, so we wonder, could the great work that Mira Hashmall challenging charges of a false variety in proximity to charges that are clearly not false, to potentially taint the entire claim of Sexual Harassment, in Inglewood, be probono?  No. 

We could use some independent investigation here by Peace Over Violence, those who remember the firm that Sheila Kuehl was accused of helping, while the entire city pretended not to notice that the real sponsor for Peace Over Violence, was Mayor  Eric "I saw nothing" Garcetti.  Maybe EG should take a POV workshop a couple dozen more times.  

Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger were all ready to move quickly past the MRT fiasco. 

Though, Janice Hahn, who  wants to give MRT the benefit of the doubt,  She was one of the recipients of more than $600,000 from Samuel Leung, a Torrance-based developer.  

Leung donated to support her, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A.-area politicians between 2008 and 2015.  as he was seeking city approval for his $72-million development in L.A.’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood, north of the Port of Los Angeles. 

The only problem with Mira's brilliant victory at protecting the papa bear in Inglewood, is it raises the question, where was the same "rufkm" approach to the suggestion that the our elected Sheriff harassed Sachi Hamai by suggesting that her United Way affiliation was problematic. I think he called it something worse, like illegal.  The reaction was vintage Skip.  

 

Put the invoices on the table, real slow: 

Q: Where are Skip's legal invoices, Mr. Preven?  You sued the county and won over this, what up, bro?  

Thanks for the question.  

It appears that county counsel is claiming the invoices are attorney client privileged because the matters are not yet resolved. 

It’s true that the Cal. Supreme court ruled “yes” on the disclosure of “long settled” cases, with redaction if necessary.  But if the case remains open, the court ruled, the invoices might reveal a strategy…and could be privileged.  

If that is the case why would an government attorney, who hired a private attorney, ever willingly resolve a case? ✔️ 

Why would county counsel Mary Wickham or Rodrigo Castro-Silva, ever subject Skip who they clearly adore,  to itemized public scrutiny? ✔️ 

Better to leave the matter open perpetually (it's perfectly legal, right?)  and not disclose the millions in awkward payouts to… Skip Miller et al.  Whoever! 

Including Skips fees for recommending the $1.5M payout to the former board member of United Way, Sachi Hamai, who could very well be county official 2?   

We don’t know, do we?  One wonders: Maybe Mr. Ridley-Thomas knows. 

The county counsel has deferred disclosure in favor of issuing invisible payments to Miller Barondess, LLP.  

Is it Abuse of Attorney Client privilege?  Yes. 

How will we ever get the full picture on private legal work for our public agencies and electeds?  

If you ask for the invoices, the first response is:   

This email is in response to your October 8, 2021 email regarding “invoices from Miller Barondess.”  On July 23, 2021, we responded to your request for invoices by sending you the total amount of fees paid from 2010 through 2020.  After conducting a further review, there is no other disclosable information at this point.  The seminal case on this issue noted that “[w]hen discussing information that might be unprivileged after a matter concludes, Los Angeles County pointedly did not discuss billing entries or other aspects of an attorney's invoice. Instead, it expressly limited its analysis to ‘fee totals’ [in legal matters that were concluded long ago].”  (County of Los Angeles Bd. of Supervisors v. Superior Court (2017) 12 Cal. App.5th 1264, 1275 (emphasis added) (citing Los Angeles County Bd. of Supervisors v. Superior Court (2016) 2 Cal. 5th 282).) 

Then, if you say, nonsense, "Please provide the redacted documents immediately. " you get:  

Thank you for your voicemail.  As noted before, billing invoices are protected by the attorney-client privilege.   Under the seminal case of County of Los Angeles Bd. of Supervisors v. Superior Court (2017) 12 Cal.App.5th 1264, 1274, the only information in billing invoices in long-concluded legal matters subject to disclosure is limited to fee totals—the rest of the information in the billing invoices is attorney-client privileged and not subject to disclosure.  However, when a legal matter is pending, all invoice information is privileged.  (Id. at 1272 (the attorney-client privilege “encompasses everything in an invoice, including the amount of aggregate fees”).) 

The last case for which the county with held invoices among the dozen or so I requested, was Heriberto Rodriguez v. LASD. It was a shameful case involving Extreme Tasering Facts,  among those requested in what Noro described as the seminal case of County of Los Angeles Bd. of Supervisors v. Superior Court (2017) 12 Cal.App.5th 1264, 1274) 

Angelenos know the case as ACLU/Preven v. BOS. 

The county ran the clock to the absolute bitter end—defined as when the legal time limit for appeal has lapsed. 

At that time, under great pressure, they provided the redacted records.  

But that case is closed, why would they ever willingly resolve a case with ... dirty laundry?  😉

 

USC: Stunned but not surprised: 

Multiple fraternities canceled parties and mixers scheduled over the weekend, according to information obtained by the Daily Trojan, following the suspension of Sigma Nu. Protests continued on the University of Southern California’s fraternity row Monday as more allegations have emerged of alleged sexual assault at multiple houses.    

Sigma Nu is not the first fraternity put on interim suspension by the University. The investigation into Sigma Nu is ongoing. In 2018 and 2019, the University suspended Sigma Alpha Mu, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Phi Sigma Kappa and Pi Kappa Phi for hazing allegations.     

In 2019, the University stopped recognizing Theta Xi after a separate hazing investigation.  It also suspended Pi Kappa Alpha who eventually lost University recognition for alleged drug use, as well as Sigma Delta Alpha and Tau Kappa Epsilon because of prior investigations related to hazing.  

In 2013, the National Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity officially banned the Sigma Phi Epsilon California Beta Chapter “for up to five years” after reports of sexual misconduct.

 

Read in fee motion: 

Buscaino showed up late to impose a charge on ocean carriers and the trucking companies that would prevent containers from lingering on the property slowing down the works.  For each container left for more than 9 days he would like to impose a penalty and another penalty for 3 days. It was not easy to hear because it was so last minute.

Why?  Not sure about the $2.5 million dollar upcharge for some grading to clear a place to put some of these containers. 

Meanwhile, Buscaino seemed pleased with his nasty charge of $100/ per container, to increase by an  increment of $100 per day, per container.  Boom. That ought to git R done. 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)