ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - One of the permissible "I told you so" moments in life comes when a public official who you've been blowing the whistle on for years finally faces some music. Any music.
"You always say I'm never satisfied, but I don't think that's true" may be a lyric from Olivia Rodrigo's stirring enough for you track (Lyric Video) but it's also how I feel personally about what is most certainly going to be an impending departure for Mark Ridley-Thomas, an occasionally benevolent tyrant.
It's not necessarily a happy time when a longtime co-star faces a federal indictment, but it stirs up feelings.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner:
The smell that has been coming from Carson recently could easily be coming from the way Mark Ridley-Thomas handled the transfer of the County's Victoria Golf Course to the City of Carson and a variety of powerful friends. But you wouldn't know it.
There's a fun story about Mary C. Wickham, now a Blue Ribbon Commissioner over homelessness who took over as County Counsel after MRT and his bff attorney Skip Miller had garroted the prior counsel, Mark Saladino.
When Wickham got a look at this severely problematic signature on a county contract, we were all stunned.
As for Saladino, Skip drew up one heckuva "Letter of Contrition" for him to sign -- and he got to keep his job at Treasure and Tax Collector.
That letter would chill anyone, anywhere from speaking out about anything. Kudos to Miller Barondess.
Put their invoices on the table, Mr. Rodrigo Castro-Silva.
What's your policy?
That's the question MRT raised in his keynote delivered at the Price School a couple years ago. Policy Matters, he argued.
"What is the policy memorandum that you hope to write, to implement to live," he mused.
If one were being charitable, "everyone will be respected" would fit the bill for MRT. Obviously not everyone.
Sheila Kuehl, once put it nicely after a lengthy unauthorized dispute on the record, "That was fun, I never get to argue with anybody."
This is the problem with politicians that stay too long and grow out of touch with the people. Who arrive at a place where destroying criticism is more important than onboarding it. A world where hearing from "Presenters" is prioritized over hearing from people.
Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray was brought aboard the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence by Mark Ridley-Thomas years ago to repeat what Lord Acton had said so many years ago, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
None of us knew it was a cautionary tale. Well, some of us did...
The Victoria Golf Course giveaway will very likely take its rightful place along with Harvard Westlake's heist of Weddington Golf and Tennis on the short list of great local public amenities, handed over to moneyed private interests. Tiger Woods Foundation and USTA to name a few alongside the LA Galaxy. A nice 'private' group.
MRT has always been in good company both looking out for his gang and cracking down on the Sheriffs.
Donald Knabe, his 4th district bunk mate at the County Board of Supervisors for years set the tone by enabling his son Matt Knabe to earn a living... on deals and items that came before him for a vote. Handy Dandy Family Ties chart.
Even the seemingly high-minded Zev Yaroslavsky, one of MRTs legendary frenemies on the board has a daughter in law with a hat in the ring for CD5 where, according to Paul Koretz, who is running for City Controller ..."It's easy to raise $25,000."
It's been a lot of indictments recently but certainly Herbert J. Wesson should not be left out of any cracking down on friends and family allegations. The only difference. Feds.
Family Ties May Mean Favors for L.A. County Supervisor's Son Here we go again...
Eric Preven: The thing that got me a little irked was I learned that one of the supervisor's sons, supervisor Knabe's son Matt Knabe is a lobbyist and he has been taking money from the American Golf Corporation.
Vince Gonzales: Eric Preven is a regular observer at the board of supervisor’s meetings. He recently spent a lot of time researching the contracts obtained by Englander-Knabe clients, especially the county's golf deals.
Eric Preven: And that for me was kind of a red flag as to are we getting the best deal -- the public? You know, this is county land -- public land -- and when they come up for renewal is the only time we get a chance to see how they are doing.
Bob Stern: I have a feeling that when the son calls Don Knabe, that Don takes the phone calls.
Vince Gonzales [to Knabe]: What would you say to people who say they hired Matt because of his access to you?
Don Knabe: I would say, they don't know Matt and they don't know me. If it's not a good deal for the county and it's not a good deal for what we do each and every day here, there is no way that being my son would change my vote. End of conversation.
The Great Abstainer:
We've known for years that MRT does not mind spending County money on questionable stuff...like $2,069 on a chauffeured Lincoln Town Car over a four-day trip to Washington, D.C.
The man has bullied critics nobly and stood side-by-side with Donald Knabe rescuing young women and girls from being trafficked in South Los Angeles, while abstaining on votes that shipped millions in county revenue that would have helped them to Wall Street.
MRT has worked diligently with the Korean American community, generally, and in his full-throated acceptance of contributions from Jamison, who have a shocking number of contracts to rent the county office space.
One masterful ruse, he put a huge self-congratulatory advertisement of himself in the LA Press Club awards program, lording over various 2nd Supervisorial District gems like LACMA while running for city council.
That year 2019, my brother and I and Alleen Brown won awards for exposing hard truths in The Intercept about the mayor, the fire department and an astonishing effort by LA powers-that-be to scapegoat the homeless, yet we could not marshal sufficient acumen or resources to figure out who covered the cost.
The County denied that any county entity bought or paid for the ad.
Smokey & the Bandit:
When one recalls old trucker movies and Jackie Gleason who played Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners one ordinarily thinks of Sheila Kuehl, not Mark Ridley-Thomas, but consider MRT and Sebastian in the roles of Buford and Junior:
Buford T. Justice: [shouting at a trucker that has sheered a door off of Justice's patrol car] I saw that, you sumbitch! You did that on purpose! You're going away till you're gray! I got the evidence!
Buford T. Justice: [speaks to Junior] Put the evidence in the car.
Junior: But Daddy...
Buford T. Justice: Put the *evidence* in the *car*! [shouting to trucker again]
Buford T. Justice: I'm gonna barbeque yo' ass in molasses!
As outlined in a recent article entitled, "Is Sanctimonious Dirtbag too strong" this is not the first time MRT's tried to help his son.
When the public first caught wind -- no pun intended -- of Mark Ridley-Thomas's capacity to put Richard Bruckner of Regional Planning into service, it was during his son Sebastian's first campaign for Assembly district 54. Pre-scandal.
MRT had decided that it would be highly impactful to have a letter arrive at constituents' doors confirming what Sebastian had said about fracking. The "Draft Ltr re Fracking," it was decided, would come from Richard Bruckner, the Director of Regional Planning.
Though it was clearly inappropriate to be deploying public actors into a private Sebastian Ridley-Thomas election moment, that's exactly what happened.
It's a county classic, in which an email chain obtained through the public records act surrounding the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District and the Community Advisory Panel revealed how under MRT’s initiative, a clever but not necessarily ethical or legal use of public resources was deployed.
Richard Bruckner to Karly Katona: "I am on 8th floor if I get a break I will stop in."
The Los Angeles Times swore they were doing the story on the CPRA and what it revealed. Paul Pringle, himself, the éminence grise of MRT attacks, finally wrote to me in May 2015, "The story will soon see the light of day."
Consider a few snippets from that trove of emails to get a flavor:
"I know MRT would appreciate it if we could get this out asap."
"Thank you. Can we make it addressed to Neighbor not Resident? Also, the Supervisor liked the post-it that was on the version yesterday. Can that be added? Karly."
"FYI, we found a vendor for the Baldwin Hills mailing who will meet the Monday deadline, cost $20,000 for black and white. The cost for color was $25,000 but wouldn't be able to meet deadline. Order has been submitted. Thank you for your support."
"How should I code this task on my time sheet? As 3011, or something else? Thank you. Chris."
11/26 FW Baldwin Hills - mailing info: "Is there a specific account to charge this too? The mailing for Baldwin Hills? It's okay if there is not. But just curious. Nick."
The story evolved at the LA Times and never emerged. It's fair to say, I was pressing for the public to be informed regardless of whether the Supervisor or any of his underlings committed a prosecutable crime.
Evidently, most theft of public resources is in the form of unauthorized 'political' work... Scott Walker got in trouble... as you recall.
But somehow the man who could put such an impressive almost Scott Walker-level county malfeasance scheme into effect, was equally capable of sinking the story at the Times.
What's your policy? February 21, 2017
MRT: "You may proceed. Sorry. Ah start his time please. Until he begins to speak as he is afforded an opportunity.
Public: The camera is not on the...
MRT: I'm sorry the time to be heard is now. Please proceed.
Public: Did you change the policy?
MRT: No, we are affording you an opportunity to speak.
Public: Then let me speak, Sir. You're running my time.
MRT: Alright, go right ahead.
Public: It's Eric Preven from the third district... last week enterprise rent a car and Englander Knabe & Allen clients this item was sent to a grand total of two rental car companies one of which is the winner of the bid. That's not cool at all. You should absolutely hold Mr. Sean Rogan's feet to the fire and say get me some electric vehicles, that's what you should say right now.
These guys have made a fortune and will continue to make a fortune because Sean Rogan doesn't believe in RFPs and if he does one he sends an RFP for rental cars out to plumbers for rental cars. And that is not cool. That's not cool at all. That's 48 seconds. And Sir, you are out of line for locking people out of the full minute.
Why all the secrecy?
A trend would have to be made by virtue of a pattern. So let me ask you this question, how many instances can you point to during the last decade where there had been a cancellation of a board meeting.
Richard Bruckner exited the county July 2017 and is shown here with client Watt Companies Inc. on January 9, 2018
I wrote to the DA, "Your office for a second time are dilly dallying while a department head drives a project for MRT and a client who received an exclusive negotiation agreement, less than six months after he ankled his post at the county.
If corruption in broad daylight is allowed to survive, we'll never catch the harder to detect stuff. This must stop. I'm close to sending this to Pringle. The other matter with Bruckner has been in the toaster for 1500 days."
I wrote to John Myers, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bureau Chief, about the assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas resignation. He was "interested but not in a position to devote resources right now to a deeper dive on someone who’s no longer in office. We’ve got our hands full with those who are still serving."
I wrote to the Pulitzer prize winners, "As the [attached] timeline below makes clear, the decision to replace SRT with a Special Election provided California 27 extra days of seated representation. Had Cal. waited for the Regularly scheduled election it would have been 83 days without a rep versus 56 (actual days without a representative in the chair).
In short, taxpayers paid -- $66,666 a day for 27 days!!!!
Be nicer and Good Luck:
Lucas Museum Director Sandra Jackson-Dumont Narrative art, said the museum, “cuts across space and time and really is about visual storytelling through a range of material. It’s photography, it’s painting, it’s sculpture, it’s ephemera from newspapers and magazines, it’s all of those things.” Including Youtubes Check my Youtube Channel -- search MRT or Ridley-Thomas.
June 27, 2017 - Fair Public Hearing item 8 w/ MRT Interrupting
After inquiring where the Supervisor was during a fair public hearing... imagine receiving this...
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Chair: Mr. Preven for the record, we received a number of reports that your conduct, Mr. Preven, in dealing with our staff is not appropriate. Uh... harassing in nature, and this behavior is not acceptable. It's disruptive to our proceedings and it will not be accepted. You will be instructed to direct all of your questions to the chair when you are called up to speak. If you continue to harass and harangue staff... we will do what is deemed appropriate and have you escorted from these premises. In addition to that you seek to stand up in the middle of meetings when you are ready, you are on your cell phone walking around the perimeter of the board room. Today, somehow you are under the mistaken impression that you can do anything that you wish... in this meeting. This is not your playground, Mr. Preven. And we wish to appeal to you to conduct yourself accordingly.
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)