GUEST COMMENTARY - The story “broke” on February 15, 2023 when the majority of board members resigned from the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council (HSDNC) over a decision made by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) to shed out $4.000.00 of the HSDNC’s yearly budget and “sponsor” an outreach event hosted by the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, which is affiliated with the LA County Sheriff’s Department (LASD).
Several stories in CityWatch LA, Knock-LA and Twitter reported on what happened at the 02/08/2023 HSDNC Special Board meeting. According to these sources, as well as statements made by resigned board members, the board members were told by DONE’s field representative Mario Hernandez that they could not do anything about the funding for outreach to sponsor the Foundation’s “annual event”. It was also reported that the entire board had to attend that “annual event” in person, or be removed from the board.
In its official statement DONE said that “The organization was in fact, a recommended partner in a previous discussion among board members, and no objections were raised about participating at that time.”
This is a direct contradiction to the resignation letter by the board members who made it clear that “The board members and stakeholders present [at the 02/08/2023 Special meeting] vehemently objected to sponsoring or participating in this event because of the violent, white-supremacist, criminal gang activity historically and currently perpetrated by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.”
Nevertheless, the city apparently approved the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation requested sum of $4,000.00 on 02/15/2023. (PDF 1 – FUNDING)
However, Jamielyn Flores, Executive Director of the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation told me in her email correspondence that “Based on the articles that were written about our organization over the weekend and the issues that were brought to light by the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council (HSDNC) we have opted to decline the oﬀer for the proposed funding. As of today, our Youth Empowerment event has been postponed indeﬁnitely.” (Emphasis added) (PDF 2 – Flores Email)
This statement just whirls up one additional question:
Are we to believe that the HSDNC was the sole sponsor of this event that had no official date, time or location?
If this event is truly about the Empowerment of Youth, then the Foundation surely must have had other sponsors to carry on with it.
Even so, the entire request should have been red flagged by DONE as there were many areas missing in the request letter, such as the actual date and location of the event. Pieces of necessity that DONE would have needed in order to provide any outreach flyers for the HSDNC to promote the event, despite the fact that the event most likely would have been held outside the HSDNC boundaries.
Unless things regarding funding changed since I was on this very same Neighborhood Council, DONE always required particular pieces of information for every funding request we submitted: Date of Event, Location of Event and the reason why this event was considered by the Board.
Neither the letter nor the “invoice request” from the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation showed a real date or location for the event. Instead, it only listed a tentative date and a name: Annual Youth Empowerment Event.
It puzzled me that the organizations website didn’t even show the “Annual Event” at all.
What is even more puzzling to me is the fact that the Organization’s website is now “under construction”, even though they just as recently as today had a message from the former Sheriff, Alex Villanueva. (PDF 3 - Villanueva)
In any case, I am still awaiting answers from the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation to the questions I originally asked:
1) Who directed the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation to DONE to make the funding / sponsor request of $4,000.00 for its “annual event”?
2) When and by whom the Foundation told to make said request to the HSDNC via DONE’s Mario Hernandez?
3) What is the final date and location for the event they were seeking sponsorship for?
4) Who are the current members of their Foundation’s Board?
I would also like to see the flyer that was referenced in the Foundation’s letter, yet there is no sight of it anywhere.
Perhaps City Controller Mejia can get answers to those questions, as DONE will hide behind the “Public Records Request Act [PRA]” as a delaying tactic when asked for documents regarding this ever so strangely developing story.
Mr. Mejia is in a position to start an audit of DONE. He should do this simply because of the fact if this happened to one Neighborhood Council, it either already has or will happen to others, too.
Through a financial audit of DONE, the Controller’s office may also uncover any inappropriate activity of the Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization that indefinitely postpones an “Annual Event“ just because the publicity got too hot and they perhaps do not like the fact that a scandal could be brewing under this thick layer of events that is reaching into their boundaries.
Well, boundaries are there for a reason, and it looks as though DONE and The Sheriff’s Youth Foundation have overstepped them.
(Ziggy Kruse Blue is a freelance contributor to CityWatchLA and also a Former Board Member of the HSDNC.)