@THE GUSS REPORT-As the City of Los Angeles prepares to issue costly citations for anyone whose dog is unlicensed, providing no amnesty for unpaid licenses from the past, it should issue its first citation to LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff, who pledged last year (after being shown that he was decades behind in licensing) that he paid for all dog licenses he owed – he has had 10 dogs over the past 20 years – while refusing to provide the receipts showing exactly how much he paid and for what.
Now we know why …
After sitting on a California Public Records Act request for more than a year, LA Animal Services finally coughed up the records which show that Soboroff only paid for his current dog licenses, not what he owes for past unpaid licenses.
Those are the same fees LA City Council is planning to level on all other residents of the city.
Shown those receipts, Soboroff now says he will pay what he owes, “if the city bills me,” but fails to grasp that dog licensing is done on an honor system, in which you have to disclose which dogs you have or had; prove with a vet certificate whether each was spayed or neutered; and how long they lived. The city doesn’t inherently know how much to bill for animals that owners refuse to disclose. This is a fatal flaw in the city’s proposed licensing initiative.
In Soboroff’s case, public records and his dated click-thru social media posts do the disclosing for him.
In our running dialogue last week, Soboroff, who made a fortune developing swanky swaths of Westside property, disingenuously employed fuzzy math to self-discount the thousands of dollars he appears to owe, because (a) the dogs sometimes went off to school with the kids; (b) one died young; (c) he gave away the Saint Bernard; and (d) how his dogs average only six years of age (if that is to believed.)
Or in Soboroff’s own words: “Say 20 years average age 6. At $20 a year that's $2400 … So prob under $800.”
Soboroff could neither explain how he got from $2,400 down to $800, nor why, if he knew in 2016 that he owed thousands of dollars, it’s still due in 2017.
Soboroff then pulled the ultimate Richie Rich move: a veiled threat to sue me, which he quickly retracted when reminded of the discovery process. Wouldn’t that money be better spent just paying what he actually owes to the city?
LA Animal Services’ click-thru records show that Soboroff bought no licenses prior to 2000; only four annual licenses for “Rusty” Soboroff from 2000 through 2003; no licenses from 2004 through 2015; and only present dog licenses for his dogs in 2016, for a grand total of $175.
Using all available records, including just three spay/neuter certificates of Soboroff’s, and a dollop of common sense, it is estimated that Soboroff owes the City of Los Angeles between $3,500 and $15,000, depending on whether he can prove each of his dogs was sterilized. If a dog is not altered, its intact dog license/breeder’s permit is approximately $390 per dog per year, plus a late fee. (LA Animal Services says that it is the owner’s responsibility to prove spay/neuter status.)
I asked Mayor Garcetti’s office whether his appointees get a free pass on dog licensing.
Garcetti’s spokesman George Kivork replied, “We hold all residents, including appointees, equally and fully accountable for licensing their dogs.”
But Kivork was coy when asked whether anyone from the Mayor’s office actually asked Soboroff about his debt. “I can only go by the records from LAAS,” Kivork said. But if he had examined those records, he would see that Soboroff only bought 9 single-year dog licenses, with more than a decade’s worth of time between purchases, for 10 dogs over the course of twenty years.
In 2012, then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa forced LAAS Commissioner Ruthanne Secunda, a wealthy talent agent, to resign from the post when it was discovered that, in addition to violating other humane laws, she voted on dog licensing issues while none of her dogs had been licensed for any of the previous six years. At that time, LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz stated in an email to city staff said, “Your commissioner is an idiot, and absolutely should go.”
While Koretz’ harshness about Secunda was because she was a sitting LAAS Commissioner, Soboroff, it has been established, knew he owed significantly more than he paid. Soboroff now compares his debt obligation to parking at an expired meter.
Since City Hall does not appear intent on an immediate and transparent accounting for Soboroff’s licenses, if you are issued a dog license citation, email the LAAS GM at Brenda.Barnette@lacity.org and make a California Public Records Act request for all records for any dog in the city going back twenty years for anyone whose name is Soboroff, Englander, Wesson, Richard Hilton and Diane Lipari. Include in your request the comprehensive dog licensing records of Ms. Barnette, as well.
Email me at TheGussReport@gmail.com, and show me what, if any, documents they send to you. I will help prepare you to use those documents, or lack of them, to contest the citation, and appeal it if you lose, citing the 14th Amendment’s equal protection under the law, as your defense. In a court of law, not in the inhospitable confines of LA City Hall, the city has neither the resources nor argument to win.
If the city’s flawed dog licensing initiative applies to any of us, it applies to all of us, including police-badged cronies of Mayor Garcetti.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. [[ hotlink ]]His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.