Layoffs Yes, Layoffs No, Layoffs Maybe — What’s ‘New’ at City Council

What’s new?

At the 11th hour before layoffs of a couple of hundred city employees become official on Thursday, the City Council stumbled over the question of whether any “new” information justified an emergency debate and vote whether to back down to the unions once again.

Janice Hahn, Paul Koretz and Richard Alarcon led the charge after a 90-minute closed door session attended by the mayor on the last day of the current financial year.

“I don’t relish having to lay people off, but we’re laying off a few hundred employees so we can save 30,000 (other employees),” the mayor told reporters.

Those urging the Council blink at the last minute argued their request was both urgent and new -requirements of city and state laws – to justify debating a motion that was not on the agenda.

But Greig Smith, in an impassioned speech, threatened to walk out if they went forward since nothing had changed since the Council agreed to the budget for 2010-11 six weeks, including layoffs of 761 employees and furloughs for thousands of others.

Those actions will trigger double pay increases totaling 5.75 for 15,000 workers under terms of contracts negotiated in October in the face of a deepening budget crisis. Unions agreed to defer this year’s wage increases in exchange for no layoffs or furloughs with a guarantee they would be repaid in full if those actions are taken.

Continue reading Layoffs Yes, Layoffs No, Layoffs Maybe — What’s ‘New’ at City Council

Antonio’s Corruption Was Clear from Day One

It was an historic moment, July 1, 2005, the inauguration of LA’s first Hispanic mayor in 133 years and there was a throng of dignataries from Al Gore to Jesse Jackson, the current and former governors of California, mayors from most of the nation’s biggest cities.

“Dream with me…” was the message of Antonio Villaraigosa as he inspired the city to reach for the stars, and promised to “be a mayor who takes responsibility and
…work as hard as you do every single day.”
antoniinaugural.jpg
“We need to start thinking big again, and facing up to our biggest
challenges. I intend to be a mayor who confronts those challenges…Let’s raise our eyes skyward.
Let’s imagine the pinnacles that we can reach together…let’s make Los Angeles a city of Purpose! Let’s dare to dream! Let’s dare to dream together!”

Five days later, he issued Executive Directive No. 1: Ethics in Government (AntonioExecOrder1.rtf). It starts:


As public servants to the
residents of Los Angeles,
we must commit ourselves to
a standard of conduct that maintains and enhances the public’s trust in our
local
government. To fulfill this mandate, our individual and collective decision
making
processes must be based upon the highest possible ethical standards
.”

That same day, July 5, 2005, Antonio held his first press conference, declaring:

“Let’s be clear. Honesty and ethics in City Hall start at the top. We are the public’s servants. We must set a higher benchmark by our actions to restore the public’s faith and trust in local government. Today, we have begun to do just that.”

He then appeared before the City Council which unanimously adopted four new laws aimed at issues “raised by the grand jury probes, including a ban on city commissioners participating in the process of evaluating and recommending city contracts that their commissions will eventually vote on.”

Continue reading Antonio’s Corruption Was Clear from Day One

Gamblers and Thieves: The City Council and the Library Tax

Like every loser at every gaming table in the world, the City Council just can’t stop placing bets against the odds no matter how much they have lost, no matter how little they have left in the bank.

On Tuesday, the Council moved forward to put a parcel tax of $39 a year on each of the nearly 800,000 properties in the city no matter how little they are worth or how much. It’s the most regressive tax there is, food on the table for a family struggling to survive in hard times.but not even close to the price of a meal at the mayor’s favorite restaurants.

But gamblers like our city officials can’t stop, especially when they are playing with other people’s money, which is the only money they play with.

These are people who are firing library workers by the hundreds, slashing library funding by 30 percent or more, closing the beautiful new libraries we haven’t even paid for one day and now two days a week.

And yet they moved forward to draft a ballot measure for the parcel tax on the November ballot for the most cynical of reasons: A poll that shows it has a better chance of passing with a two-thirds majority in the statewide general election than in the March city election.

The reason, they admitted, is turnout is lower and more conservative in March than in November. A poll paid for by the unions and the Library Foundation told them so, if there was any doubt.

The other difference, which ought to have been fatal, is it costs the city more than $4 million to put the tax on the November state ballot, nothing to put it on the city ballot in March.

If the tax actually passed, the libraries wouldn’t get a cent either way until the end of 2011, nearly 18 months from now.

Still, they left the March election open as a possibility although Chief Librarian Martin Gomez told them he opposed that because it would be defeated  for sure, the pollsters told him. He would rather wait until the November 2012 presidential election, putting off the revenue stream until nearly 2013. So much for urgency.

Gomez doesn’t even have a budget for the $30 million a year this tax would raise, beyond rehiring laid off workers at a cost of $10 million.

There isn’t even yet a provision to keep the Council from stealing the money, supplanting it, as they and the mayor did when they tripled the trash free to hire cops and then used most of the money to keep the city afloat. Jose Huizar asked for taxpayer protection, which has proven to be worthless in the past as is the vague “oversight committee” proposed for this tax.

Council members know they have lost all credibility by pushing the city to the brink of bankruptcy and failing to face the problems head-on. But they are junkies, addicted to other people’s money, and can’t help themselves.

They preferred to add to the financial burden by handsomely paying off 2,400 senior employees to retire early. They transferred more workers to the DWP, where they got raises up to 50 percent, than they have laid off two years into this crisis.

And now they want a segment of the public to pay for their failure with this tax.

It’s unthinkable but they are shameless. Only Dennis Zine opposed this while the supposed watchdog for the taxpayer, Greig Smith, stood silent except for a premature effort to cut off the discussion before all the facts were before them.

I’m betting when this tax comes back before them on July 14, the deadline for the November ballot, they will blink and back down because they don’t even have the courage of their lack of conviction.

Free public libraries are a vital and basic service of American society dating back to Benjamin Franklin but they chose knowingly and willfully to take away funding for one of the few quality services the city provides.

They made the wrong choice for the wrong reasons. If they decide to put this parcel tax on the ballot, they will have made another wrong choice for the wrong reasons.

And they will lose at the ballot box in November or March or whenever they put this or any other tax on the ballot until they fix what they have broken or are replaced by people who will.

Brenda Barnette: Battleground for Another Animal Rights War — The Unanswered Questions

Would Bruno, LA’s Watchdog, be alive today if Brenda Barnette, nominated to run the embattled city Animal Services Department, had gotten her hands on him?

Probably not.
barnette.jpg
According to several animal rights advocates and rescue workers, Barnette — head of the Seattle Humane Society Shelter, AKC leader and sometimes lobbyist for dog breeders — has a thing about pit bulls, pit bull mixes and suspected pit bull mixes. She doesn’t like their temperament.

Frankly, I don’t like Bruno’s temperament much either a lot of the time. Being a mix of pit bull and Chinese Shar Pei, both fighting dogs, Bruno was dumped on the streets and wandered around until my wife adopted him and spent a fortune cleaning him up and trying to teach him self-control. He still goes berserk from time to time and needs to be managed closely.

Barnett’s view of animals like Bruno is very dark indeed, according to many in the animal rights community who have been excluded from meeting and questioning Barnette by the mayor’s team and pro-Barnette animal lovers.

Here’s the way one activist who questions Barnette’s credentials and the process put it:

“What’s wrong with asking how a dog breeder and dog breeding supporter can be in charge of a department that is supposed to save lives and enforce spay/neuter laws? 

“How will Ms. Barnette save LAAS’ (LA Animal Services) 6,500 pit bulls a year (and thousands more pit bull mixes) when she has a policy of rejecting many pit bulls, pit bull mixes and possible pit bulls, and then killing many others for failing her temperament test? 

“How can Ms. Barnette correct L.A.’s animal cruelty, Santee Alley, pit and cock fighting, and other endemic problems when she doesn’t have any background in any of those things?”

The heart of the controversy over Barnette’s appointment is how running a tiny shelter in Seattle where she boasts a 90 percent record of finding new homes for stray dogs and unwanted dogs that dropped off with the owner paying a $200 fee qualifies her to run the nation’s largest animal shelter program with thousands of unwanted dogs.

In Seattle, Barnette could be selective about which dogs she took in and which she sought to place in new homes so she didn’t have to face the euthanasia problem that exists in LA where a third or more of dogs aren’t even registered. The same is true of spaying-neutering — a massive issue in LA — a problem exacerbated by Barnette’s personal and professional roles as a dog breeder and advocate.

The people I’ve connected to are not writing Barnette off entirely, just asking a lot of questions.

Others like the Animal Defense League-LA have been able to meet with Barnette and speak extensively with people who worked with her. The group is gushing in its praise.

“We have basically put Brenda Barnette under our microscope,” says a post on their website.

“So with all the humility we can muster, we have to say that even though ADL-LA members personally scorn (Deputy Mayor) Jim Bickhart, the Mayor, (Deputy Mayor) Jimmy Blackman and others who have for years been complicit in the slaughter of animal inside LAAS, we must now give credit where credit is due. They were absolutely correct in their choice for the new General Manager and their choice seems to imply that they are ready and willing for major positive change and a new vision, a LIFE SAVING VISION, for the homeless and lost animals of Los Angeles.”

Last weekend, Barnette met with some segment of the upper crust of the animal rights world at what was described as a wine-and-cheese event in Beverly Hills, one of several meetings she has held with supporters in a carefully stage-managed presentation of her.

Critics won’t get the chance to ask her questions until July 11, the day before her nomination goes before a City Council committee.

Given the ugly decade-long controversies that have engulfed Animal Services, sharp divisions in the animal rights community and the Council’s new policy of getting all the facts before making decisions, it’s in the interest of all of us that Barnette address the questions of everyone from rescue volunteers, activists, shelter workers.

Ed Boks, whose appointment as general manager was bought for him by a billionaire’s handsome donation to the mayor’s political causes, proved to be a disaster in all regards in no small part because so little attention was paid to his past record.

Given the high sensitivity and the intense passions involved in animal issues, a full and complete vetting of Barnette in public is needed.

The questions about Barnette range from her personal finances to her limited experience
as the head of an animal rescue service that operates by appointment only and cherry picks dogs for rescue, even importing dogs from LA and elsewhere to meet the demand in Seattle.

The most serious questions revolve around her roles as legislative liaison for the American Kennel Club and with a political action committee funded by breeders who waged a vigorous fight against mandatory spay/neuter laws in California — information she has taken down from her Facebook page since her nomination.

The animal rights community has been engaged in a furious debate over this nomination. But we all have a stake in not repeating the mistakes of the past, in getting all dogs registered, in reducing the number of animals euthanized, in stopping puppy mills and getting more dogs and cats spayed or neutered to reduce the unwanted pet population.

If the Mayor Can’t Go to the Party (for free), Then the Party Must Come to the Mayor …

It’s party time at the Getty Mansion — the taxpayer-subsidized home to our favorite wannabe multi-millionaire mayor who yearns to be rich and not just famous.

Perhaps, it’s a sign to the times that the mayor is fearful of taking anymore freebies until he cleans up the controversy and legal problems he faces for taking up to $100,000 in free tickets to sports and entertainment events and an even greater fortune in luxury dining and truly fine wines.

Catch this on Facebook from political operative Mike Trujillo, who has worked on the mayor’s campaigns, Measure B and Janice Hahn’s feeble lieutenant governor effort:

Michael Trujillo
Leaving the mayors
mansion just got done partying with the cast of “The Heights” LA coolest
new play. With LaLa as my date!

lala.jpg

LaLa for the uninitiated is LaLa Romero who Trujillo lists as his music favorite.

The mayor, so in love with Twitter he never stops boasting of his numerous achievements, tweets nothing about the party we, the taxpayers presumably paid for.

WestSideGyrl.jpgBut WestSideGyrl has this to say in a tweet we can all appreciate: Truly honored to be kickin in Antonio
Villaraigosa
‘s backyard w todo mi gente doin big thangs in the
community!!

And RaqC is just so absolutely thrilled to be with this crowd she can’t stop tweeting about it.

Just pulled up the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s
house! Ready 2 mingle! Feel honored 2 be here!”
Everyone’s here @westsidegyrl @wilmervalderama @villaraigosa @edwardjamesolmos and the list goes on! What a great
bday gift!”

antonioparty.jpgWith the mayor & his daughter!!! http://tweetphoto.com/29744586
Edward James Olmos the Legend….enuff said!! “

Super blurry….lol
lol my bad!! http://tweetphoto.com/29750958

Eat your heart you millions of nobodies. You don’t get to party, you just get the bill.

Los Angeles and the ‘Good German’ Syndrome


The city
cries out for leadership and all we get is a freeloader for mayor and a bunch
of know-nothings for Council members who quibble about whose motion goes first
and who’s more ignorant than the other.

 

It’s just
not good enough anymore.

 

We’ve got
to do better.

 

The quality
of our lives and our hopes for the future are at stake.

 

Our city
should be a celebration of freedom and justice and opportunity where ordinary people
from all over the world stake out their dreams of happiness.

 

Isn’t that what
the spirit of Los Angeles
is all about?

 

Instead, we
are a failing city. FAILURE. It’s unthinkable that the promise of this blessed
City of Angels should be so broken, that the city should be so broke, so bankrupt
of leadership when so many from the richest to the poorest, from every race and
class, knows how wonderful our place in the sun should be.

 

What we have
made of this paradise is a crime — from our gang-infested neighborhoods to our
polluted waters and air, from our congested roads to our aging infrastructure.
It is as if we are in a downward spiral of self-destruction, a city divided into the rich and poor with a vanishing middle class.

 

But why? Greed?
 Selfishness? Stupidity?

 

I, for one,
cannot explain it. I cannot explain how so many smart, educated, influential
people can stand by and go along with this death dance when they all know
better. Even the fools and crooks glimmer something better. And most certainly
the vast majority of ordinary people see exactly what is going on and all too
often look the other way, lock themselves in prisons of apathy, defeatism and
negativity.

 

Are we all
like the Good Germans of another era deluding ourselves that what is wrong will
soon pass and all will be right again, that what we see around us isn’t really happening?

 

Our world is changing in fundamental ways, economically 
environmentally, socially, culturally.

 

A new age
is being born and we are living in the past. What was normal has been and is gone. The future is uncertain. Only change is
certain. Yet, every day we continue behaving as we have long behaved, only making
matters worse. It’s same old, same old all the time.

 

We must
embrace change and reform our ways of doing business in the marketplace, in the
halls of political power, in our communities.

 

We must
restore honesty and integrity to our relationships and dealings with one
another. We must respect each other, and prove that we deserve each other’s
respect.

 

I struggle
all the time to find the words that express my deepest experience and always
come far short. This is just one more attempt.

 

So is my
latest effort to trigger reform through LA Clean Sweep (lacleansweep.com), just
another blind man’s stab in the darkness to find a ray hope, to find a way to
change the balance of power so that every segment of our society and every
individual feels at least a small piece of ownership, at least a small power to
affect things, a sense of belonging and being part of something greater.

 

Where are
the leaders who will guide us into the unknown? Who among us will find the
courage to speak the truth and face the wrath of the voices of the past
striving to hold us back?

 

It doesn’t
have to be this way. This is a democracy and we are free to make different
choices. We can come together and work for something better. We can turn
failure into success. We can achieve great things and make this a great city.

 

Yes, we can
… or we can passively stand by, like helpless children, victims of a system
that holds us captive and is failing us all, rich and poor and everyone in between.

Historic Breakthrough: Council Bans ‘Stupid, Ignorant, Uninformed’ Votes

The issue was SB 1168 — City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s effort to get legislative authority to issue subpoenas and impanel a grand jury so his office can investigate misdemeanors.

Under the City Charter, the City Attorney — the city’s chief law enforcement officer — is just about the only official at City Hall who can’t issue even subpoenas.

Yet some on the City Council — notably Jan Perry and Bernard Parks — are afraid of what Trutanich will do if he can get the evidence to criminally prosecute slumlords, executives of insurance and billboard companies that violate the law, hospital officials who dump patients on the streets of Skid Row and so on.

What are they afraid of? Could the investigations lead to prosecution of friends and contributors, even to the links they have to elected officials?

Of course, that isn’t the tack they took Friday. The issue was solely that it might cost some money to catch these criminals — money Trutanich says he will take out of his existing budget which the mayor and Council have slashed by 30 percent in two years.

Their goal on Friday was to stall the vote on whether to support SB 1168 — a measure that Sen. Gil Cedillo steered through the Senate and is now in Assembly committees facing a July 6 deadline to move to the full Assembly.

In an impassioned speech to avoid hearing from the City Attorney’s office and to put of a vote until June 30, Perry argued the Council would be “stupid” to discuss the issue in “ignorance” of all the facts.

Herb Wesson jumped aboard, declaring the Council should adopt a new policy and no longer vote on matters about which they knew little or nothing.

The vote was 10-0 to delay — after wasting most of an hour on a tragicomedy of procedural machinations.

This is the nation’s highest paid, perked and staffed City Council yet it rarely has all 15 members present and votes for city budgets, costly early retirement packages, giveaways to developers and billboard companies and DWP rates hikes without a clue about what they are doing.

To understand how important SB 1168, here’s some documents for you to read:

Fact Sheet (Important Facts to Remember when Considering SB 1168.doc)
Fact/Lies (FactsComparisonSB1168.pdf)
Cedillo Report (2010-06-15 SB 1168 _Cedillo_ Grand Jury Authority – Asm.pdf)
SB 1168 Suport Motion (MotionInSupportOf_SB_1168_BABCNC.doc)
Who to Write (Contact Info ASSEMBLY MEMBERS & LA City Council.doc)

Antonio Rests His Case: AEG Told Him How to Scam the Ethics Laws

QUESTION May Mayor Hahn use his officeholder account to pay to attend the Academy Awards, GRAMMY Awards, and sporting competitions such as the NBA All-Star Game, and similar events held in the City?

Jimmy Hahn was boring and unimaginative but he wasn’t stupid or an incompetent lawyer and he didn’t think he was anything except the mayor of Los Angeles — not its king.

That’s why he asked the Ethics Commission in 2004 how far his official and ceremonial duties extended and how he should deal with attending major sports and entertainment events.

Here’s the heart of the answer LeAnn Pelham, executive director of the commission, gave him (read full letter hereEthics-Advice.pdf:

“The Mayor acts not only as the City’s chief executive but also as its business ambassador and chief marketer. As such, officeholder account funds may be used for the Mayor to attend the Academy Awards, the GRAMMYs, or the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, subject to the application of the blackout period
Your letter also inquires as to whether Mayor Hahn could use officeholder funds to pay to attend events “similar” to the Academy Awards, GRAMMY Awards, and NBA-All Star Game held in the City of Los Angeles. Without further information as to the specific nature of those events and the role the Mayor would play in attending them, we cannot provide advice to you regarding whether officeholder funds may to used to pay for him to attend such events.”

In other words, pay for the tickets out of the $75,000 you can raise a year for your officerholder account and represent the city at these major events. The blackout period she referred to is the 12 months before an election which means Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa could not use this reading of the law from March 2008 to March 2009 when he was narrowly elected to a second term without a runoff against runner-up Walter Moore.

This is the document the mayor’s lawyer Brian Currey distributed to the news media Friday along with records of 99 event freebies — documents the mainstream media reported shed little new light on the conflicts of interest the mayor had in taking valuable tickets from AEG and others.

The gap between the advice given Hahn by ethics officials about paying for tickets and the propriety of attending major events like the Oscars in his official capacity and taking freebies to just about any event he wanted to attend and bringing friends and family with him was filled by none other than AEG, the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in city subsidies.

AEG lobbyist Chris Modrzejewski asked Villaraigosa to attend the Lakers home opener on Nov. 3, 2005 and recognize the Lakers Youth Foundation in a halftime ceremony, saying in an email exchange with staff:

“For the mayor to accept the tickets he must have an ‘official’ role. For tomorrow it would be to at half time present a certificate to the Lakers organization for their work in the community. He will present it to either [former Lakers star] Magic Johnson or [team executive] Jeanie Buss depending on availability…I’ll get you some language for a cert (certificate).”

Around the same time as that email, David Zahniser of the Times noted: “Villaraigosa supported a plan — ultimately approved by the City Council — to provide at least $246 million in tax breaks for a hotel planned for the AEG development known as L.A. Live. AEG shows up in the mayor’s records as the donor of two tickets for Lakers games. Villaraigosa’s records do not show who paid for the mayor to attend some of the concerts held at AEG facilities, including performances by Shakira, Juanes and Tina Turner.”

Prior to Nov. 3, the mayor’s event log shows he attended only two events: Chivas vs. America soccer game and an Aretha Franklin concert, presenting certificates at both. He participated in the Latin Grammy Awards pre-show the day of the Lakers opener and only one more event in 2005, the UCLA-USC football game. His freeloading gathered steam in 2006 with 24 events listed.

According to the ethics advice letter to Hahn, elected officials are barred from using their officeholder accounts to pay for events and various other things during the 12-month “black-out period” before an election .

“These types of expenditures are prohibited from the officeholder account during the black-out period so that they are not used or perceived to be used to benefit the officeholder’s campaign for re-election to elective City office,” the letter states.

The mayor attended more than 20 events between March 2008 and the March 2009 but since he’s a freeloader he didn’t violate the city ethics law in that regard since he didn’t pay for any of the tickets and didn’t report them.

But by his own admission that he was always in every case acting in an official capacity, he violated the law by promoting himself and his campaign for re-election — not to mention promoting the city as its “business ambassador and chief marketer.”

Maybe we should just forget the whole thing like the mayor suggests on the first page of the 422 pages he released.

“Applicable regulations provide that a ticket or pass received by an elected official is not a ‘gift’ if the official performs an official or ceremonial role or function on behalf of the agency. If the ticket or pass is not a ‘gift,’ it is not reportable and is not subject to gift limitations. Thus,
there was no requirement that the Mayor maintain records about the number, source, or value of the tickets or admissions received.”

His attorney Brian Currey reiterated that view at Friday’s press briefing, according to Rick Orlov in the Daily News.

“It has been the mayor’s practice to engage in official acts while attending these events. He feels, very strongly, it is part of his job to attend the important entertainment industry, cultural events and sporting events in the city of Los Angeles.”

As to all those concerns about conflicts of interest hidden by the mayor’s failure to report his freebies, Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo offers this ends justify the means logic:

“Do you remember what downtown looked like?” Szabo said. “It is part of the mayor’s duty to promote development.”

Maybe we shouldn’t just forget about the whole thing but say, “Thanks, Mr. Mayor, job well done.”

All of this reminds me of the Alabama politician got re-elected after being caught taking bribes and kickbacks by declaring, “Sure I stole but I stole for you.”

Villaraigosa now says he will pay for the tickets or pay fines if the Ethics Commission investigation finds he violated the law. “If it’s determined that the mayor needs to reimburse for guests, then he certainly will do so,” Currey added.

The mayor’s bigger problem is the likelihood District Attorney will more from making an inquiry to conducting a full investigation with subpoenas and a grand jury and look beyond “Ticket-Gate” to meals and fine wines he’s taken as gifts and the links between fund-raising for the mayor’s various political and other campaigns and the mayoral favors bestowed on donors.

If the mayor gets away with this, he will have achieved something historic: Abolished the rule of law with regards to city and state ethics laws meant to prevent political corruption.

For that he would deserve a place the Political Hall of Fame — or it is Shame.

Six More Freebies the Mayor Forgot to Mention

Report Antonio’s abuses of ethics laws in completeThumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for keeper.jpg confidentiality to Bruno, the LA
Watchdog, at
bruno.la.watchdog@gmail.com.

The mayor is releasing documents today intended to show his attendance at sports and entertainments events — 81 of them — without paying for tickets for himself and guests was part of his officials duties.

What’s not clear is whether he will also disclose the hundreds for free meals with expensive wines at luxury restaurants he’s taken in the past five years.

If you have spotted the mayor or know who paid for his pleasures, email bruno.la.watchdog@gmail.com.

Here’s a report today by Eric Longabardi of the Enterprise Report:who found six more previously unreported events the mayor attended and this photo of the mayor at a Lakers-76ers game on March 17, 2009.:
t

THE PERKS OF BEING LOS ANGELES MAYOR ANTONIO
VILLARAIGOSA: THE TICKET CONNECTION; HOW MANY AND HOW MUCH?

By Eric Longabardi, Enterprise Report

Los
Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said yesterday that today his
office will release what it is says is all the information it has about
just how many events the Mayor attended without having to pay for his
tickets since he was elected Mayor in 2005.

antonioweiss.jpg
The Enterprise Report
has uncovered additional events, not
previously disclosed, in which the Mayor was present and attended, based
on a review of publicly available photographic evidence. 

The
mayor’s office so far has released a list of 80 events in which it
claims the Mayor received free tickets to an event.  The records are
sparse and the documentation to determine exactly how many events the
Mayor attended and exactly the number of tickets that were provided and
their value is far from complete.

LA’s Mayor has been involved in a local media
tempest since late last month when it was first
reported
by local Fox TV reporter Johm Schwada that the Mayor had
failed to disclose the value of the tickets he was receiving as “gifts”
to attend LA Laker games. The Mayor has claimed that the tickets and
their value are not required to be disclosed because he was performing
“official duties” at the events.

The tickets range from Los Angeles Laker
courtside seats to L.A Dodger baseball games to the Academy Awards and
everything in between. The Mayor and his guests have been a regular
fixture at sporting events, concerts and other events around Los Angeles
since he took office.  The Mayor’s ticket taking practices are
currently the focus of two different investigations.

The new events not
previously disclosed by the Mayor’s office are:

May 28, 2005 LA
Galaxy v. Chivas USA *was Mayor-Elect at the time

May 12, 2006 LA
Clippers v. Phoenix Suns

Oct 4, 2008 LA Dodgers v. Chicago Cubs

Dec 2, 2009 Grammy Nominee Concert 

June 1 2010  LA Lakers v. Boston Celtics  Game 1 NBA Finals

June 6, 2010 LA
Lakers v. Celtics Game 2 NBA Finals

Cooley Needs to Name a Ticket-Gate Special Prosecutor: Who Better than Walter Moore?

“The state rules require a public official to perform a duty on behalf of [their city]. Merely being a public official is not enough to use this exception.” — Roman Porter,  executive director, Fair Political Practices Commission, told Tibby Rothman, LA Weekly, on Thursday.

With District Attorney Steve Cooley running for California Attorney General, he’s got to look at the political ramifications of going full bore after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for violating the law by not reporting all the gifts of tickets (meals, wine and travel) he’s taken — some clearly from those who stand to profit from the favors he has dispensed.

Will it hurt his chances with Latino voters, hamper his ability to raise campaign funds, cost him the election?
waltermoore.jpg
Politics should not be consideration, nor should Cooley, as his office has indicated, sit back
and wait for the city Ethics Commission to decide on whether Villaraigosa — unlike every other elected official in California — is exempt from city and state ethics laws on reporting gifts because everything he does is ceremonial and part of his official duties.

Based on the Ethics Comission’s track record, the mayor could be out of office and serving on the boards of corporations he’s done favors for by the time a report is issued.
Here’s a suggestion: Why not take the politics out of it and expedite the investigation by appointing a special prosecutor?

Who better for that job than a smart attorney who already has done the legal research and is motivated to get to the bottom of the Ticket-Gate Scandal, namely Walter Moore, the runner-up to Villaraigosa in last year’s mayoral election and the main who filed a formal complaint with the Ethics Commission.

Since early June, Moore has been blogging extensively about Ticket-Gate at his website. He calculated the mayor could face bills of $405,000 for gifts tickets and suggested it was legal for the mayor to accept gifts of Staples Center tickets from AEG because the Municipal Code bans on such gratuities from restricted sources, persons doing business or seeking to do business with the city.

Given the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies AEG has gotten it qualifies under the law as a restricted source.

Recently, he did the legal research for the benefit of the media, public and investigators of the city and state laws on gifts to politicians, noting that Villaraigosa must comply with provisions of both in reporting all income he received to prevent conflicts of interest.

The 1990 city Governmental Ethics Ordinance, he noted, states, “In addition to statements of economic interests filed pursuant to the (state) Political Reform Act of 1974, as amended, high-level filers shall file financial disclosure statements disclosing” various items not required under the state law.  Those items include “[a]ny income (including . . . gifts . . .) regardless of whether the source of income . . . does . . . business in the City of Los Angeles.”

Villaraigosa’s defense for not reporting his gifts comes from a state law provision: “A ticket or pass provided to an official for his or her admission to an event at which the official performs a ceremonial role or function on behalf of the agency is not a gift to the official.”  (Cal. Code Regs. Title 2, Div. 6, § 18944.1.)
 
Moore is unconvinced by the mayor’s spin team that everything he does is in his “official” role as mayor.

“First, Villaraigosa and his staff apparently have no evidence that Villaraigosa actually ‘perform[ed] a ceremonial role or function on behalf of the City,’ within the meaning of the state regulation, at 81 events for which he received tickets,” Moore wrote.

“Second, the mere act of attending a concert, sporting event or stand-up does not constitute performing ‘ceremonial role or function’ under the FPCC regulation.  More is required.”

His research turned up an FPPC opinion letter issued to a City Council Member in Berkeley, explaining why her attending the grand opening of a theater qualified for the “ceremonial role or function” exception

The gist is the Council contributed millions of dollar to open the theater, the council member was introduced at the grand opening and event directors introduced and thanked the Council for its support.

Moore writes: “That is a very far cry indeed from, “You attended Beyonce’s late show.  Wherever you go and whatever you do constitutes official business, because you are special.  ‘Nough said.”

“Villaraigosa needs to prove he attended an event to conduct a ceremony — not that he conducted a ceremony so he could attend an event.  “Here honey, take this nice calligraphy certificate and get lost so Lu and I can see the show.”

Moore notes that city law,unlike the state, doesn’t exempt tickets from being reported if they are worth more than $100

Besides that, city law requires disclosure of all gifts regardless of vallue which is why the mayor’s  most recent disclosure filing included a $15 hat, a $50 clock, $75 worth of tequila, and $150 “event ticket.”

Finally, he points out, Villaraigosa violated city ethics laws by accepting tickets worth more than $100 per year from companies like AEG that are actively involved in seeking permits, subsidies, tax breaks and other concessions from the City. LAMC § 49.5.10.3.  This is a lower dollar limit than state law imposes, namely, $420 per year.  (Cal. Gov. Code §§ 89503(a) ($250 limit) and 89503(f).)

“Bottom line:  Villaraigosa’s acceptance of tickets worth tens of thousands of dollars, and his failure to disclose those tickets on his disclosure forms, constitutes a serious breach of ethics laws,” Moore says. “Don’t be fooled by professional “spinners” who want you to think there’s some loophole that authorizes this type of corruption.  There is not.”

You can read all that and more at waltermooresays.com.

I’m sure Cooley would be squeamish about naming the mayor’s No.1 challenger in last year’s election as a special prosecutor, the man who filed the formal ethics complaint, the man who so clearly has no respect for the way the mayor has ruled the city for the past five years — in his official as well as ceremonial roles.

But that won’t keep Moore from filing friend of the court’s briefs if Cooley actually goes so far as to file charges against Villaraigosa, charges that could go far beyond Ticket-Gate if subpoenas were issued and a grand jury impaneled.

With Moore’s help or on his own, Cooley has the chance to go down in history as the crusading District Attorney who cleaned up LA City Hall or the DA who sat back and let the spin-doctors and manipulators and insiders let the mayor get off with a slap on the wrist.