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Code of Conduct: Just A Game? 

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - Though we are fourth in the nation among large cities in the category of veteran victimization, we have a lot to learn from San Diego when it comes to military contracting fraud. 

Leonard Glenn "Fat Leonard" Francis, a giant in the corruption industry has been making a podcast. The San Diego newspaper gave the impression last week that among the most significant of Fat Leonard's crimes had been his abject misogyny.  

For those who don't collect corruption cards TM Fat Leonard pleaded guilty in January 2015 to bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. He agreed to testify for the prosecution and is awaiting sentencing which has been delayed until  February 2022.  

He admitted "he bribed 'scores' of U.S. Navy officials with $500,000 in cash, six figures' worth of sex from his 'Thai SEAL team' of traveling prostitutes that greeted ships, lavish hotel stays, spa treatments, $2,000 boxes of Cuban cigars, Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, foie gras terrine, cognac, and an array of other luxury goods."   

In return, Navy officers provided Francis with classified informationsuch as ship movements, enabling him to routinely overcharge the Navy for services his firm provided for warships in port, such as sewage removal, ground transport, and communications. 

It takes a village and he'd enlisted Singapore citizen who fabricated invoices, concocted bids by nonexistent competitors to satisfy acquisition requirements, and massively overbilled for vessel husbandry services. 

Everyone was doing it, according to Leonard.  

The Board of Supervisors has on it's Tuesday Agenda, The Report on the Financial Status of the Sheriff’s Department with whom the Board has been publicly feuding of late. The item has been called on a receive and file basis, Pending submittal of the requested report.

There is no report posted,  "There's nothing to see, Mr. Preven, keep moving." 

Though, not a confidence booster, we are used to it and were encouraged to see among the nearly sixty items, one calling for the  Implementation of the Principles of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).   

And in a stunning follow up to an August motion by the Board of Supervisors the CEO has developed an expedited contracting and procurement process for American Rescue Plan Act - ARPA - funding.   

It was essential, that the current processes (of getting the money out the door) not be overly time consuming which might prevent timely relief to constituents, and that underserved communities be served, while also ensuring ARPA and other federal requirements were followed.  

As part of the streamlined ARPA Competitive Procurement Process the CEO and County Counsel have recommended that certain County Code sections and policies be waived. [Red Flag.] 

Although these policies and standard provisions DO serve important interests and minimize risk to the County, the board balanced these interests with the need for urgent action to support communities suffering from the pandemic. [It's hard out there.] 

It is critical that the Board approve the new Competitive Procurement Process and provide the CEO with the authority to enter into these agreements as quickly as humanly possible to ensure ARPA funding is expeditiously provided to those most in need. 

Out of an abundance of caution, because ARPA compliance and reporting is complex, a few extra guidelines should be followed to rightsize fraud levels while allowing the CEO’s Anti-Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative (ARDI) and the Center for Strategic Partnerships who have been exploring strategies with philanthropic partners to do their thing.   

The county wants to be on a mission to position small businesses and CBOs for success by doing the right thing. 

 

Getting to Zero: 

Some small businesses and CBOs are not appropriate.   

For instance, please do not bring up, The Youth Policy Institute and Dixon Slingerland, who engaged in “lavish” dining, travel and entertainment etc. 

Fred Ali, the chair of the 2021 Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission and a longtime nonprofit and philanthropic leader, who was succeeded by Miguel A. Santana as head of the Weingart Foundation said he had "NEVER seen a nonprofit group in Southern California grow to such a size and then fall apart so quickly." 

The lesson of Youth Policy Institute, according to Ali, is that nonprofits need effective oversight as they expand. “You have to have sound internal controls. You have to have strong financial management systems. And you have to have effective governance,” said Ali, whose group distributed several grants to the Youth Policy Institute. 

You have to ask at every turn, "Does this partner have a history of: public corruption: pay-to-play, sole-source contracts, intimidation, retaliation, and favoritism in hiring. 

 

ARPA funding accelerator:

By taking the steps enumerated below the CEO of LA County feels that the Competitive Procurement and Contracting Process for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funded Contracts can be shortened from 6 -13 months down to only 2-3 months (after an RFP is publicly released).  That's a Total Time Savings of: 4-10 months (approximately) which is truly great news.  

The whole city and county of Los Angeles are watching as Fesia Davenport, the replacement CEO for Sachi Hamai, runs the Hurry Up huddle, often favored by Coach and former Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas MRT, currently indicted for bribing a USC dean.   

MRT was the one who ordered a report from top county officials, including John Naimo on what changes might be needed to improve the “outcomes and accountability” of sales tax funds generated for homeless services under Measure H.   

The current ARPA speed-up proposal... is as follows: 

--Procurement Document time Allocation: up to 1 month (approximately)

--Evaluation Time Allocation: 1 month (approximately)

--Protest Process Time Allocation: 2 weeks (approximately)

--Agreement Time Allocation: 2 weeks (approximately) 

In order to keep things moving one has to ensure that the rank and file employees are content, which is why I supported the 706% increase in incidental expense in support of recognition events, from two weeks ago.   

The item jacked the total annual incidental expense limit of $50,000 ($10,000 per event) for third tier departments in Fiscal Year 2021- 22, to cover the costs of employee recognition events associated with County business, to an amount not to exceed $403,000. 

The County deselected my public comment, because they do that while overpaying AT&T who refuse to explain their selection process,   

If you ever see anything wrong, why not try the... Speak Up! Program. 

Ask yourself:  What Would You Do?  And then keep the answer to yourself.  It's fun:  

If you stopped by a co-worker’s desk to ask a question and noticed that he was looking at a website with pornographic content. Your co-worker sees the look of surprise on your face and tells you not to worry, that he only goes on these kinds of sites occasionally and never shares them with others. Is that OK?  [Response redacted.] 

You just got a delivery at the office. It was an expensive thank-you gift from a grateful vendor. [Still thinking.] 

If you learned that a Like-Minded Partner who provides the best pricing and emoluments has possibly been involved in:    

Human rights abuses? 

Violating employment laws? 

Night swimming?

Disregarding cultural mores? 

Line dancing? 

Which action is appropriate?  

--nothing

--redacted

--join in

--other

 

Dos: 

--Keep record of wrongdoing, including client's preferences for Vietnamese prostitutes "two at a time" in a non governmental email account. 

--Make sure your activities are legal. 

--Claim you have sex addiction. 

--Claim your dog is a service animal.  

--Deny emptying a luxury hotel of its entire stock of Dom Perignon champagne during a “raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes,”  

--Deny accepting a wrist watch worth $25,000 

--Attend employee recognition events.

 

Don't:  

--Forget that it’s always appropriate, under all circumstances, to ask for help.  

--Solicit your co-workers to get involved in your personal political or charitable activities [Supervisor Solis?  Sheila? All y'all?] 

--Offer or accept anything of value, either directly or indirectly (through a third party), to gain an improper advantage for yourself or the County.  

--Facilitate payments to expedite a permit, license or action.  It is strictly forbidden at the county.  

[OK, at City of LA see Bob Blumenfield and Kevin James.]  

--Accept the services of prostitutes on dozens of occasions, and acknowledge that your family members accepted fine wines, hotel rooms, electronics, and luxury watches.  

--Admit having indulged in group sex. 

--Get caught overbilling by more than five million dollars by fabricating invoices, concocting bids tendered by nonexistent competitors to satisfy  acquisition requirements, while allegedly committing conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making multiple false claims. 

 

Never:  

--Keep detailed notes about cash, luxury hotel stays, international airfare and tickets to a Lady Gaga concert and a “Lion King” performance.  

--Engage in conduct unbecoming of an County official. 

--Write in an email, "It's been a while since I've done 36 hours of straight drinking." 

--Jot down – the who, what, why, when and where.

 

Sometimes:  

Discuss confidential business in public places such as elevators or behind a pillar at City Council meetings. 

Provide five-figure group gourmet meals at LA hotspots. including stays at Hotels that enjoy Transit Occupancy Tax consideration. 

Utilize County memorabilia in the commission of (only consensual) sex acts.

 

Always:  

--Erase emails to conceal crimes.

--Use good judgment and moderation 

--Block the installation of special equipment to detect overcharging schemes. 

--Blow the the whistle promptly and appropriately in comfort.

 

FAQ: 

When has a business courtesy gone too far? 

Once the effort to improperly influence anothers’ actions has succeeded. 

Can you guess the question?  

--Corruption and bribery are inconsistent with our value of fairness but we win with innovation and services delivered craftily.   

--Only share concerns with a co-workerif you are comfortable doing so. 

--Use good judgment when dealing with competitors or others at industry meetings, seminars and conventions.  

--Disclose conflicts. Most conflicts can be avoided or mitigated if they are promptly disclosed. However, failing to disclose an actual or potential conflict could cause a loss of trust and make the situation worse. [Eg. Sheila Kuehl and Peace Over Violence]

 

Best Practices: 

--Insist on winning the right way...   

--Be courageous enough to go after a Supervisor accused of accepting a job offer for a close relative; of providing charitable donations or political contribution and engaging in an unseemly partnerships.  

--Gather Competitive Intelligence. Get information fairly and legally – for example, through internet searches, media sources and CityWatch articles –never through deception or fraud.  

--Lead with integrity.  

--One bad choice – even if inadvertent – can have serious consequences for all of us, including Staffer B John Lee.

 

Pop quiz:

Our Commitment Re: Insider Trading -- As county residents or employees, we may know of material, nonpublic information (“inside information”) about companies the county works with.  Do we ever share that information to gain an unfair advantage?   

--occasionally

--always  

--sometimes 

 

True or False? 

On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors will Declare 20 California Travel Trailers located as follows as surplus property:  

--10 California Travel Trailers at 3606 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90016; and 

--10 California Travel Trailers at 8509 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90003. 

The worthy missions of both HOPICS, a division of SSG a non-profit organization founded in 1956 and St. Joseph, founded in 1976, as a non-profit multifaceted human services organization committed to serving people in need, and strengthening and building communities, is all we need to see to warrant the gift of public funds.

 

(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)