Vets In Yet Another War with the Good Ole Boys … a Legal Shootout for the West LA VA Campus
- 08 Nov 2013
- Written by Katharine Russ
RUSS REPORT-In the case of Valentini v Shinseki, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero gave UCLA and the Brentwood School a “Hail Mary” pass when he prematurely allowed their Motions into the Appeal process, without any contingency, before the Department of Veterans Affairs had decided whether it would appeal Otero’s ruling.
On September 26, nearly a month after Otero made his ruling, UCLA sought to intervene asking for an order to vacate the judgment under Rule 59(e), or in the alternative, to appeal from the judgment. The Brentwood School joined UCLA in that motion.
UCLA’s Motion declared, “The claim that led to the invalidation of UCLA's contract (Plaintiffs' Sixth Cause of Action) was not alleged in the original complaint; it was alleged for the first time in the First Amended Complaint filed in August 2011. UCLA was not aware that the complaint had been amended to challenge the DVA's statutory authority to enter into the Stadium Sharing Agreement until August 30, 2013, after the Court's decision.”
But Kevin Reed, Vice Chancellor, Legal Affairs at the University of California did in fact obtain a copy of the original Complaint and expressed that “Jackie Robinson Stadium is critically important to UCLA. Even the hint of losing our facility could damage a nationally ranked team.” Instead, UCLA and the Brentwood School sat on the sidelines during the 2½ year legal battle and did nothing. As Vice Chancellor of Legal Affairs, Reed did know or should have known that complaints are frequently amended within the courts. Rather, their Motion suggested the Plaintiff should have joined them or sought to join them as necessary parties in the litigation.
Gary Blasi, Professor of Law at UCLA and legal counsel for (veteran) plaintiffs in this suit, said, “The rules for intervention and the rules for intervening solely for the purposes of appeal are different so the primary reason the Courts allow people to intervene for purposes of appeal is so they can challenge the judges decision but they had no right to intervene in the first place. UCLA clearly knew about the case. The Judge found that they did have notice. The rule is not that they actually knew but that they were put on notice. It’s called Constructive notice.”
On August 29, 2013, Otero ruled against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) saying they misused land at the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Administration (WLAVA) through the improper use of Enhanced Use Leases (EUL) and Enhanced Sharing Agreements (ESA). Otero declined to order tenants to vacate the land.
Otero was succinct in his decision. "The general rule is that when an administrative agency has abused its discretion or exceeded its statutory authority, a court should remand the matter to the agency for further consideration. However, "when the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous it must be given effect." Otero made reference to the use of “space” noting that companies occupying space at the WLAVA were not using that space for “health related” reasons that would benefit veterans.
Two weeks after the ruling, Congressman Henry Waxman implored Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veteran Affairs at the DVA, to accept Otero’s decision and decline to appeal the case. Waxman urged Shinseki to take this opportunity to work to strengthen programs that directly serve veterans at the WLAVA.
A hearing scheduled for October 21, 2013, to argue their Motions was cancelled and the Judge ruled without argument and sent notice to Plaintiffs and Defendants.
ACLU Attorney, Mark Rosenbaum said, “The judge’s ruling specifically denied the motions by UCLA and Brentwood school to intervene in the litigation for purposes of revisiting his decision to invalidate the agreements between the VA and these entities for purposes of permitting the baseball complex and private school campus remain on the WLAVA property. But he did permit them to intervene in the appeal, but only because the VA had not yet made known its intent whether to appeal.”
Otero gave the DVA six months to file an appeal and a month after his final ruling, allowed UCLA and Brentwood School the right to appeal based on the fact that the VA had not yet even given notice to the Court of its intent to appeal.
On the heels of the motions filed by UCLA and Brentwood School, the DVA did announce its intention to appeal the case on October 25, 2013, making the choice to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting veterans rather than helping them.
The premise of the lawsuit was to help homeless veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and those with mental illnesses who might never be integrated back into society by providing permanent housing and continued care.
In a prepared statement on June 7, 2011, Rosenbaum said, “This spacious campus now housing empty buildings and rental car parking lots could be made suitable for these veterans in less than the five or so months it took to plan and invade Iraq. If they can house Enterprise rent a car, they can house homeless veterans.”
From a laymen’s point of view, any consideration on the part of the DVA to abandon an appeal as suggested by Waxman would not now happen because the DVA clearly has the interests of UCLA, rather than homeless veterans at heart.
While Waxman may have sent a few letters to the DVA, on behalf of veterans, his failure to engage Congress to monitor the DVA’s use of these leases for decades lends credence to veteran’s complaints of political favoritism. Otero pointed to the limited scope of the leases enacted by Congress under 38 USC §8153 that Waxman certainly would have known about.
Robert Rosebrock, President of the Old Veterans Guard has fought with hundreds of members from Veteran’s Service organizations (VSO) for years to curb these illicit dealings at the WLAVA. UCLA and the Brentwood school had operated on the WLAVA campus for many years based on improper leases that Otero ordered unauthorized by law and therefore void.
Rosebrock pointed out that “Congress never challenged these ill-gotten leases because the VA/ UCLA stadium is in Representative Henry Waxman's Congressional District and he attended college at UCLA, earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1961 and a J.D. degree from UCLA's law school in 1964.
Richard C. Blum is a Regent of the U.C. Board where until May 2009, he served as the Chairman of that Board. His term as a U.C. Regent expires on March 1, 2014. Blum is a billionaire financier, speculator, real estate executive and the husband ofU.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. This illegal real estate deal was signed by the University of California Board of Regents on behalf of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).”
UCLA pays a paltry sum of $5,000 per month to lease the 10-acre parcel in Brentwood valued in the billions of dollars.
The WLA VA entered a 20-year agreement in 2001 with the Brentwood School to lease 21 acres for an athletic complex that houses soccer and football fields, running tracks, tennis courts, swimming pools, baseball diamonds, lockers, and parking lots. The area is padlocked from the VA side and is off limits to veterans.
Many Hollywood elitists and their children have attended the Brentwood School, formerly the Brentwood Military School. Politicians still look to Hollywood to support and finance their political endeavors.
The school pays the VA $300 thousand per year for the 27 acre tract of VA land.
Waxman, Feinstein and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky still fan the “flames of favoritism” by continuing to add their support to another illegal lessee, the Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC) that leases 16 acres for a public Park/Rose Garden at the WLAVA.
Waxman and Feinstein turned a “blind eye” to the VPC’s no bid, rent free enhanced sharing agreement in Aug. 2007, just two months after Feinstein’s added language to the FY 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill that passed in June 2007 specifically prohibiting the VA from entering into these types of agreements.
Blasi could not have said it better when he interjected, “This (lawsuit) was one of the more shameful things I have encountered in 42 years of practice.”
(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter. She is a regular contributor to CityWatch and works with the United States Justice Foundation in defense of Veterans. Katharine Russ can be reached at: Katharine.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vol 11 Issue 90
Pub: Nov 8, 2013