Putting weaklings without courage like Greuel or Garcetti into the mayor’s office is a problem, a big problem.
Putting a two-faced scoundrel like Zine in the controller’s office as the public’s watchdog when he’s nothing but a yapping Chihuahua is a joke.
But even worse is the near certainty that you the electorate, lapdog to the rich and powerful, will elect a criminal suspect as this second-rate city’s chief prosecutor and law enforcement officer. It is no laughing matter.
Back in the days when he was a City Council member, Feuer made the radical leftist Jackie Goldberg look a Republican and showed so little respect for the law and public policy despite his Harvard law education that he thought it was smarter to pay millions of dollars a year to people injured in trip-and-fall accidents on the city’s crumbling sidewalks than to repair them.
Somehow he fumbled the 2001 City Attorney election, losing to Rocky Delgadillo but found a new calling as a state Assembly member where he supported the spending sprees that have jeopardized California’s future, and backed gutting the California Environmental Quality Act for the benefit of AEG’s now deceased Farmer’s Field project and to squelch community concerns about transit projects in L.A.
His crowning achievement was authoring AB109 to empty the prisons of supposedly non-violent, non-sexual, non-serious offenders without effective monitoring or support – a radical reform of the criminal justice system that has allowed the freed felons to engage in murder, mayhem and rape across the state.
But none of those acts are criminal – just disdainful of the public interest.
No, the crime of Mike Feuer is this:
City Ethics Ordinance, Section 49.7.28.C, “Requests for Matching Funds Payments,”“A candidate who makes a request for matching funds payment and knows or should know that the request is false…is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall return all matching funds received as a result of the request. If the candidate holds or is elected to office, the false request constitutes a violation of official duties and, if it is deemed appropriate by a court under Charter Section 207 (C), shall be removed from office.” — City Ethics Ordinance, Section 49.7.28.C, “Requests for Matching Funds Payments,”
What Feuer did was conspire with his political consultant John Shallman to make a mockery of public financing of political campaigns.
Under the terms of their deal, Shallman — who is desperate for cash since he faces huge tax liens and debts after being robbed blind in the Kinde Durkee scandal – agreed to take $1 as payment starting in February 2012 through March 5 of this year with a $50,000 bonus if Feuer won outright in the primary. At least that’s what they claimed when questions started being asked.
The value of Shallman’s services over those 13 months was between $200,000 and $300,000 but Feuer did not report it as in-kind contributions at “fair market value” as state law requires, a deceit that allowed him to stay just under the spending limit to qualify for $300,000 in public matching funds for the primary and even more than that in the runoff.
Feuer has shown his legal skills are not all that great in changing his story and double-talking his way around this problem.
He claimed he got “verbal” non-binding approval from someone in the City Ethics staff for a scheme that somewhat parallels the crimes Councilman Martin Ludlow committed in winning election in 2005 before being forced out a year later as he faced felony charges in both state and federal court.
Because Shallman didn’t report his in-kind contributions and now has a contract of a sort with Feuer (for $15,000 a month since their finagling was exposed), they potentially both face felony conspiracy charges, not just misdemeanors – not that anyone in an official capacity has shown any interest in doing anything about this.
The see-no-evil Ethics Commission took a pass on responding to formal complaints about the Feuer scheme. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich in the runoff against Feuer on Tuesday had to recuse himself, leaving it to District Attorney Jackie Lacey who responded by announcing she was endorsing Feuer for City Attorney — not investigating him for criminality.
That left enforcement of the law to private citizen and long-time community activist Laura Lake.
A little known provision of the City Charter allows for the public to act as a “private attorney general,” which the Ethics Commission says provides for “an additional layer of oversight, public involvement and accountability” and allows private citizens to enforce the City’s ethics laws if the city fails to do so in a timely fashion, usually meaning 40 days.
Here are key provisions of the city ethics rules in the Charter:
(2) Civil Enforcement.
(A) Any person who intentionally or negligently violates any provision of this section shall be liable in a civil action brought by the City Attorney or by a person residing within the City. Where no specific civil penalty is provided, a person may be liable for an amount up to two thousand dollars ($2,000) for each violation.
(B) Any person who intentionally or negligently makes or receives a contribution, or makes expenditure, in violation of any provision of this section shall be liable in a civil action brought by the City Attorney or by a person residing within the City for an amount up to three times the amount of the unlawful contribution or expenditure.
Injunction. The City Attorney on behalf of the people of the City of Los Angeles or any person residing in the City of Los Angeles may sue for injunctive relief to enjoin violations or to compel compliance with the provisions of this section. The Court may award a plaintiff or defendant who prevails his or her costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney’s fees; provided, however, that no such award may be granted against the City of Los Angeles.
On Jan. 18, Lake filed a formal ethics complaint. Six weeks later, Shallman claimed in an LA Times interview he was being paid only $1 with a bonus to be determined later.
On March 20, Lake received a letter from the Ethics Commission stating there are no records showing written advice or opinions about Feuer’s contract with Shallman.
A week later, she filed a lawsuit, alleging Feuer violated the law. The next day Feuer announced he was “voluntarily” changing his contract with Shallman because he’s such a great consultant – not because of Lake’s lawsuit.
In subsequent days, Feuer’s story kept changing.
One day, he said he “didn’t think it was necessary” to get the ethics staff’s verbal approval in writing despite clear language in the law that informal advice is not binding. Another day he claimed there was the $50,000 bonus provision in the original contract.
What really matters is that city ethics laws were created to provide a level playing field for candidates and to provide full transparency for campaigns in the city.
For too long, the Ethics Commission has handed down little more than slap-on-the-wrist punishments for violations. If Feuer gets away with this, public financing of campaigns will be dead and ethics laws will be decimated.
Even when Ludlow was forced out of office and prosecuted, he got off with probation and was celebrated as a hero by many of the most powerful and influential people in the city who raised funds for his legal defense.
In Feuer’s case, the best hope is that voters will somehow wake up from their dream world and reject this self-styled advocate of clean and honest elections and supporter of a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign contributions.
If he wins as expected, he will have made a mockery of democracy and provided a fitting end to the pretense of the rule of law, not men.
Someday maybe Mike Feuer will be seen as the living embodiment of the triumph of the tyranny of the majority.
In the meantime, L.A. deserves to have a crook as their chief law enforcement officer, doesn’t it?