DONE WATCH-It seems EmpowerLA is doing its darndest to keep a lid screwed on a three-page policy memo, almost as tight as the Nixon administration trying to can the Pentagon Papers.
In a strongly worded letter, using terms like "petty, vindictive, extortive, and punitive” the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council (LFNC) called out Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) General Manager, Grayce Liu, late last year because they had had enough nonsense. The letter, which reads like an indictment, asserts longtime DONE staffer, Mario Hernandez, acting in a new "Neighborhood Empowerment Advocate" role "spiked" their $6K+ project funding payment to get some bleacher seats on a city-owned kids soccer field.
Hernandez insisted that a LFNC motion whose lack of three letters: "N-P-G" (Neighborhood Purpose Grant) clearly violated the Ralph M. Brown Act-- even with 13 pages of grant paperwork in the agenda! Accordingly, LFNC did not concur with Hernandez's legal opinion. Feeling rebuked, the next day he lodged an "Improper Funding" case putting the kibosh on any payment processing. Because, he could.
This dubious move came coincidentally just before the neighborhood council (NC) fiscal year funding deadline, where $6.3K would have been "swept" back into the City's General Fund; actually, to the Neighborhood Council Fund "NCF" budget line where all surplus funding goes to be "redistributed," later.
Hernandez forced LFNC's Board to scramble a Special Meeting to go back and do it, again ... That is if they didn't want to forfeit the money. Feeling bureaucratically boxed and effectively extorted, Los Feliz acquiesced.
MEMO TO: BUDGET AND FINANCE COUNCILMEMBERS BONIN AND KREKORIAN: When querying DONE why NC's have a hard time "spending their money," reread the two paragraphs above. Americans, no Angelenos, can spend money faster than just about anyone, and the "Department" surely knows why NC's failed to spend $570K+ last year. Dive deeper on how swept NC monies ultimately get used, or reused? Or how many "improper" requests are routinely kicked back?
There's one thing most NC's do agree on and that's no one wastes a volunteer’s time quite like EmpowerLA, and after a wholly unnecessary meeting was jackbooted on them, LFNC wanted to know since when could a snitch-- they actually wrote snitch-- with no legal training arbitrarily interpret the Brown Act over them? Where was the written policy granting this new authority? Were there notifications describing this sea change? What other veto powers were NEA's given? Are they incentivized to drop dime on their assigned councils? Like traffic cops with ticket quotas? Who trains them in law?
Or was this another chapter in DONE's history of Mickey Mouse management?
Sixteen minutes after City Hall shut down for the Christmas season break-- LFNC got Liu's formal e-mail response accepting no fault, but attaching a document that's best described as a NEA Policy Guide To Good Behavior Whilst Birddogging NC's, think: Miss Manners with a municipal twist. While Liu insists Hernandez was "not incorrect" in his amateur legal call, she offers no explanation why he was right, instead proxying in the City Attorney for a legal read on this imponderable and other purportedly long established DONE policies LFNC had also never heard of. Liu, as is her wont, dodges the question of if any new policies were created before her NEAs were sent out on field ops with new marching orders?
Was this damage-control doc typed up an hour before it went out?
The policy, memo, treatise, guide, field manual, whatever reads like a point-by-point response to LFNC's complaint, and it's classic DONE; no cover page, no date, no attribution... No accountability. But what Los Feliz got was at least a semblance that DONE's NEA's had an operating framework to avoid future clashes. Even the litany of City muckety-mucks cc'd on the back-and-forth exchange probably all thought, "We're glad that's solved."
Except. It's. Not.
What LFNC got on record, apparently no other NC did. From Sylmar to San Pedro, from West Hills to LA32, it's clear no one else was given access to Liu's "NEA Papers" (or their operational directives). As if she thought let's just throw Los Feliz a bone, and our (lack of) policy gaffs go away.
Except. They. Won't.
NEA's John Darnell and newbie, Julien Antelin, marched out of P.I.C.O. NC's March 2018 Board meeting after Darnell refused to bear witness to blatant Brown Act violations. With the blind leading the blind, it's clear both NEA's were one, not made privy to Liu's phantom NEA Papers; two, clueless that P.I.C.O's four practicing lawyers, including President, Brad S. Kane, have read the Brown Act; and three, rookie NEA Antelin hasn't figured out everyone employed at DONE has a different idea (maybe 50% factual) on how the world works.
Including his bosses at 200 Spring Street.
(This advertorial was paid for by the DONE Watch Coalition, founded by Laura Velkei and supported by a coalition of Los Angeles neighborhood council activists.)