Fri, Jun

LA Taxpayers Kept Away from LA County Litigations


ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - The County Board had 92 items, including two public hearing items, making meaningful input virtually impossible. No problemo.

One item that was identified as: Supporting Affirming Care and Inclusion for LGBTQ+ Youth and Their Families, seemed supportable until you checked the fine print.

The Board of Supervisors who are very passionate about causes, as we all are, decided that one good way to protest a set of admittedly horrible and offensive set of laws in Texas and Florida is to cut off the county faucet to those states.

Never mind, that the county's faucet is not running in those states, we can still block the110,000 employees from spending a county nickel there... unless CEO Fesia Davenport gives the sign-off.

The board had no time for the Annual Litigation Cost Report but did post a perky Annual Risk Management Report, showing modest improvements in workers comp and the like.

These items are intended to be taken together, but on Tuesday, Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva stepped down as county counsel.

Sheila Kuehl, the county's outgoing Redactionista, has nixed making the reports public...unless she wants to.

The Board loves curling up into Mr. Castro-Silva or Skip Miller's lap to invoke the attorney privilege. It's not healthy, but as long as the attorneys, like Acting County Counsel, Dawyn Renae Harrison # 173855, deliver the messages from the litigants to the Board, her clients, that's all we can ask for.

If the Board wants to limit what the public sees regarding Skip Miller's millions and millions, the only thing stopping them...is the public.

The Board also continued a grisly, Department of Children and Family Services based debacle, in which a county employee, Dennis Finn, was subjected to disability discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for blowing the whistle at DCFS. Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. 20STSV10676

The county wants to settle for $1,850,000, which is $1,250,000 less than City of Los Angeles settled the horrible race-based discrimination at LAFD, in the matter of Boyd et al.

There was no corrective action plan... posted with either the county or the city settlements.

I wonder if now is the right time for a massive federal investigation. Another one.

Eric Holder and his trusty Tonto, Nancy Kestenbaum “regularly lead investigations across the United States” and when needed, partner with locally licensed lawyers, like Kubota and Shallman.

Nothing to see, here. Keep moving.

One thing that the firm that houses these powerhouses promise is Brand Protection.

By choosing Eric Holder, at a rate 10 times what a typical DOJ attorney would be able to charge, the county "gets what it pays for."

Wait, we pay for it...
Sir, you're disrupting the meeting.

There is always a way to skip public contracting guidelines for professional services agreements sought by public agencies.
Legal services usually fall under this clause and generally, the jurisdiction itself gets to determine its own process.

Some states build in protections to avoid spending gobs of public money on attorneys. Like in Oregon, the cost in that state of any private counsel being employed by an agency cannot exceed the greater of 200% of the standard hourly rate charged by the attorney general for the same services or a rate established by the attorney general for the specific purpose.

If the amount sought is higher, a public statement is required as to why. Who approved this?

There's a new Counsel in Town:
On Tuesday I got a late-breaking response from the new Acting County Counsel Dawyn Harrison. Exciting, we go way back.

This letter is in response to your January 3 and 4, 2022 emails. Specifically, you requested the following: Please provide copies of the RFP materials and final agreement with the selected 'independent' firm(s) as well as the forensic auditor. And it's not exactly unreasonable to request the name . . . [of] the independent counsel . . . .

On January 21, 2022, we emailed you and notified you that in October 2021, the Board directed an independent investigation and audit of County service contracts between the years 2008 and 2020, including those referenced in the federal indictment.

The Board instructed County Counsel to retain an outside law firm to conduct the investigation, and for the outside law firm to retain a forensic auditor as part of the investigation.

The Board directed that the investigation review "all County service contracts in all supervisorial districts with a significant cumulative monetary value approved by this Board between the years 2008-2020, or such other timeframe that is consistent with best auditing practices" including "the County service contracts referenced in the Federal allegations, and the associated County processes and policies in place."

Covington's team will be led by Carolyn Kubota and Dan Shallman, two highly experienced former federal prosecutors in Los Angeles who work in the firm's extensive investigative practice. As part of their work, Covington has retained the forensic auditing firm FTI Consulting.

As to your request for documents, they are exempt from disclosure and are protected by numerous privileges/doctrines under California law, including Section 6255, which allows a government agency to withhold records if the public interest served by withholding the records clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure. (Gov. Code, § 6255, subd. (a).)

The attorney-client privilege is absolute, according to Harrison, and she let me know that her response will be the county's final response to my CPRA request.

“Engaging Covington and undergoing this process is a significant investment, but we believe that the investigators’ extensive experience and expertise will result in a comprehensive and independent analysis that would otherwise be impossible.”

True, but why should Eric Holder's hourly rate be $2,295 while Nancy Kestenbaum's is $1,445.

It's sexist, and I've raised questions as to whether the County adhered to public contracting laws or used a competitive selection process with a request for proposals and if not, why not.

The firm's experience puts them in a "position to respond quickly, effectively, and conscientiously to these issues when they arise and to strike the right balance between transparency and brand protection for our clients,” according to the firm‘s website.

Can't Skip handle the investigation? And how can we be sure that Shallman is not getting more than Kubota?

Go Ducks:
Covington's rates in a case in Oregon were of great public concern once the contract came out - they always do. Some residents said, it was "a gross waste of public money." A local litigator toi the Oregonian, "we were struck by the $500-an-hour rate charged for Eric Holder’s legal assistants." One resident noted health care dollars were being spent trying to cover up rampant workplace harassment. That's gross." Another said, “One hour of Eric Holder = 10 to 15 people visiting a doctor. One hour of Eric Holder = 32 hotel nights for the homeless."

5250 gravely disabled:
Why is Herb Wesson, defunding the County Board of Supervisors' mental health initiative?

Wesson moved $100,000 away from the therapeutic van program...

The pilot program will embed a team of L.A. County mental health experts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in five L.A. City Fire stations across the County to co-respond or take lead on incoming emergency calls related to, or presumed to involve, an individual experiencing a mental health crisis. The program launched in 2021 and be studied for one year with a focus on sustaining and expanding the program into other cities within L.A. County.

Wesson, would rather plunk the $100,000 into the launch of his Substance Abuse Disorder Counselor Pathway Pilot Program.
No word, as to what that is, or if his sponsor, JUUL, is involved, but given the recent deflavorization (+anti-minty-one) ordinance...

Hey, I wonder if Brotherhood Crusade could find a spot for the $100k?

April 1, 2022
Sisy E Sagastume
Social Impact Director
4301 W. Third Street, Los Angeles CA 90020
Cc: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected];
[email protected]; [email protected]

"We invite you to visit any of our Produce Distribution sites to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables"

Hi, Sisy
As a longtime member of the East Valley YMCA, I would grab a vegetable on my way out after swimming to help feed my family on Wednesdays.

Recently, I received a mysterious phone call from an office of YMCA risk management saying that my membership had been terminated. I asked, "why?"

The man on the line said, the YMCA is not obliged to tell me why or what for. The following day I went to the YMCA, and a woman claiming that she was David Hartmire's wife or girlfriend said that if I returned to the YMCA, I would be trespassing and LAPD would come and arrest me.

I've done nothing wrong; broken no rule or policy, I know that Council President Nury Martinez and CM John Lee and CM Paul Krekorian, and many other CMs have good working relations with the YMCALA.

Quick question: While I figure out how to get invited back to the YMCA, my only demand, is how might it be possible to participate in the fresh fruit & vegetable distributions? And also, I got my booster there, and if I understand it correctly... according to the legal guy, I will be arrested for trespassing, even if I am seeking a 2nd booster.

Please help me. This feels really wrong.


April 4, 2022
YMCA Social Impact Response:

Good Afternoon Mr. Preven,

I am sorry to hear what is happening. Unfortunately, this is beyond my control. Please feel free to reach out to Nevin Stanton-Trehan he is the Y’s SVP of HR/Legal/Risk, he is cc’d on this email as well.

He will be able to answer your questions and concerns as they relate to the YMCA.

Best Regards,
Sisy E Sagastume

April 6, 2022
Dear Alan C. Hostrup, CEO, YMCALA
Cc: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected];
[email protected]; [email protected]

Sir, the public at large will never accept a scenario where you allow bad-faith actors and fabricators, like Mr. Stanton-Trehan to act with vengeful impunity. It is not my fault that Mayor Garcetti's passage to India has been rerouted. It's not my fault that Nury Martinez is mad with power. The Y: stand for youth development, healthy living, not RETALIATION!

None of the many members who are upset about your decisions should face retaliation. What happened to Casey Banks?


Rodrigo Alejandro Castro-Silva #185251 the county counsel who has presided over the lowest period in county legal malfunction, resigned suddenly. Maybe send a nice note.

(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)