But in the year’s final days, one man stood out from the crowd.
None other than my own Councilman, Dennis Zine, the self-proclaimed “Super Z,” showed the spirit of all that is wrong with the way our city is run.
A retired motorcycle cop drawing more than $300,000 a year in salary, pension and benefits from the city he’s helping to bankrupt, Zine emerged as a rising star of the political spectrum.
He grew a goatee to balance his bald head, took over as the No. 1 substitute presiding officer of the Council and set his sights on becoming City Controller when Wendy Greuel is promoted to mayor in 2013.
He broke promises to protect his constituents from over-sized developments, sought to let the Community Redevelopment Agency seize property and give it to developers anywhere in the city with additional subsidies, shielded the Department of Water and Power from public scrutiny and oversight, backed AEG’s football stadium plan sight unseen..
Indefatigable, the two-faced man of a thousand fiancees never passed up a civic event where he couldn’t force himself onto the stage or saw an elite party he didn’t like.
Here he is in October at the palatial home of Ron Tutor celebrating the mega-contractor’s 70th birthday with his latest girlfriend, Veronica Becerra, lobbyist for Tutor-Perini, Tutor’s construction firm that has the political clout to giet big chunks of most major public works project in the area..
His romantic relationship with Becerra played the key role in making Zine “LA’s Man of the Year.”
“We date,” Becerra told LA Weekly’s Gene Maddaus. “It’s a dating situation. It’s not like we’re
living together… It’s a well-known fact that Dennis Zine dates quite a
few young ladies in downtown Los Angeles. It’s not like it’s an
On Dec. 17, in what would normally have been a routine and unanimous approval of a $271 million contract to design and build a new central air-heating system at LAX, Zine led the charge to try to scuttle the award because Tutor-Perini was disqualified for failing to respond properly to the bidding requirements.
Using phrases such as information that “came to my attention,” “I’ve been informed,” and issues “I’m hearing about” — all showing Becerra fed him Tutor’s complaints about losing the lucrative contract — Zine led the assault on LAX officials, impugning their integrity and competence, to buy two weeks for Tutor to arm twist and throw around political money to get his way as usual.
It was an inglorious moment, a blatant conflict of interest that was not disclosed.
It was exposed, however, four days later by Art Marroquin at the Daily Breeze who couldn’t get Zine to talk about it. All he got was an email exchange with Zine’s chief of Staff, Jimmy Blackman, the mayor’s former deputy and campaign cash bag man who has found a new job on the city payroll with the West Valley Councilman.
“Zine is seeking advice from the City Attorney’s Office on whether he should vote when the contract comes back to the council next month for further consideration,” Blackman told the reporter.
Using the old political gambit of claiming “sure I stole but I stole for you,” he issued a statement on the Councilman’s behalf that said: “I joined my colleagues in wanting to be sure that
process was fair and transparent and that the most qualified bidder was
awarded the contract The decisions that I make as a
councilman are based entirely on what is best for my district and the
taxpayers of Los Angeles.”
Others took a dim view of Zine’s actions.
Kathay Feng of Common Cause found Zine’s lack of transparency about his relationship with Becerra and the influence she and her boss had on him troubling. “That transparency is important for lawmakers and the
public to decide whether any argument being raised is a credible one,”
Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies worried about the “perception of an ethical dilemma. He shouldn’t be participating in a decision that
involves somebody he’s dating, and he certainly shouldn’t be the one
leading the charge on this.”
It wasn’t until Thursday of this week that Zine announced he was recusing himself from engaging in any further discussions or votes on the LAX contract, saying the City Attorney’s advised him that “the law is not entirely clear on
whether or not a legal conflict of interest exists.”
“My hope is that by voluntarily removing myself from this discussion,
it will not distract from the importance of this multi-million-dollar
contract,” he said.
Here’s a man who goes around dating a lobbyist who influences him — and other women who work for him or in City Hall — deceives the public and his colleagues, deflects all responsibility for his actions and drapes himself in the cloth of nobility.
If only he were the only one and not one of many.
Zine’s misconduct is not even the worst that goes on at City Hall, only the most nakedly contemptible.
For that reason he stands out as a symbol of the daily corruption of the city’s political processes and its policies.
Until such conduct is punished by the Ethics Commission and repudiated by colleagues, nothing will change at City Hall.