ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - It all started on a boondoggle to New York City.  

At the time, a surprisingly young Associate Producer, at barely 25 years old had been included in a collective bargaining trip to help negotiate a new AFTRA contract alongside the big TV networks and Studios.   

AFTRA was the junior sibling of the Screen Actors Guild that represented daytime television and radio actors and news editors as a separate union. The executive producer brought the young associate producer along to be a front line witness / sidekick-consultant during the meeting across the table from the actors.  

The two hotshots were waiting for their flight to New York in the American Airlines terminal at LAX when it occurred to the young hungry producer to ask the American Airlines representative, while proffering a business card, “Sir, I’d be happy to volunteer, if you are having trouble filling the seats up front.”  Smiley emoji. 

The American representative lit up.  He probably needed no further inducement, but as he clicked away, a small bribe was quietly issued.  

The young producer pulled from his carry-on bag a brand new, hot-off-the-press, Santa Barbara Sweatshirt.  Swag.  Swag refers to products that are given away free, typically for promotional purposes, in this case self-promotional. 

You’d have thought the young producer had slipped a 1993 Rolex with diamonds on the numbers by the look on the American reps face, or possibly arranged to quietly deliver a hot tub to his home in Huntington Beach.   

The representative immediately issued a First Class boarding pass to the producer and they exchanged business cards.   

For a solid decade, the ‘we do what we do best’ people delivered free upgrades on request.   

Like a bartender pouring free drinks at an owners’ expense. Like a Mayor or Board of County Supervisors, spending the taxpayer money, here and there, where the need is the greatest.  

Helping the charming people who understand who is doing the clicking and upgrading.  

One agent, who accepted a hot tub, was indicted. Call it the overly friendly skies.   

A little sugar:

After offering to split a 20 pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano for a clueless but lovely twenty-something babe who was working the cheese section at Dean & Deluca in a white apron, I’d attracted the attention of the store manager. 

Dean & Deluca, an upscale grocery store that has since gone out of business, is reminiscent of a modern-day Erewhon, though with less of an emphasis on healthy organic, and more, on if you have to ask…you’re in the wrong shop. 

I’d visited the HQ in Manhattan and as a salesman during high school at the far less glamorous but nicely put together Betty’s Cheese Shop in Westchester County, I’d learned how to score and split a wheel of Parmigiano and more importantly I moved a lot of Camembert, Fontina and Explorateur! 

The manager that day at Dean & Deluca East Hampton, a chap named Neil offered me a job on the spot.  I’d been planning to take a short vacation before resuming my studies, but I needed the money.  

What a great gig, cutting tastes for the fancy people.    

At the end of the very long work day, the workers were encouraged to take the leftover food home.  This was confusing, I thought, as I loaded up what must have been hundreds of dollars of food over the month that I worked there.  

The difference between Betty’s and Dean & Deluca was the difference between summer stock and Broadway. 

Misjudgment of measurement:

It’s so important, where people put their lens. While the Supervisors are going long and deeply into Monkeypox and the status on the COVID-19 and Monkeypox vaccines on Tuesday, they are finding time for a hearing on the Department of Mental Health’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022-23 Published Charges and Non-Medi-Cal Billing Rates, effective July 1, 2022, for the provision of specialty mental health services provided by the Department of Mental Health's directly-operated clinics.  Cool. 

Not that cool:  

Settle for $160,000

This lawsuit arises from alleged injuries the plaintiff sustained in an automobile accident involving a Sheriff's Department employee. 

“The deputy sheriff exited the patrol vehicle and neglected to put the transmission into park, inadvertently leaving it in reverse. As she walked away from the patrol vehicle, the deputy sheriff was alerted by witnesses that the vehicle was rolling backward.  

The patrol vehicle rolled backward approximately fifty to sixty (50-60) feet. The deputy sheriff heard the collision and noticed the passenger side of the patrol vehicle collided with the driver’s side front bumper of the Plaintiff’s parked vehicle (2002, Chevrolet Suburban, black in color). At the time of impact, Plaintiff was kneeling on the driver’s seat of his vehicle, facing the rear, trying to hang a barrier to block the light so he could sleep. A passenger in Plaintiff’s vehicle was seated in the back seat.  

The deputy sheriff checked on the welfare of the Plaintiff and the passenger. The deputy sheriff asked the Plaintiff and the passenger if they needed medical attention. Plaintiff and the passenger advised they were not injured and refused medical treatment. 

On March 10, 2019, the same day of the incident (unknown time), Plaintiff went to the emergency room regarding a complaint of pain due to the traffic collision. Plaintiff got tired of waiting and left the hospital before a medical evaluation. 

Note: There was no report of the passenger going to the hospital to seek medical attention after the traffic collision. Approximately four days later, Plaintiff was seen at a medical center and began treatment for his injuries from the traffic collision. Plaintiff was treated from March 14, 2019, to September 21, 2020. 

A Department root cause of this incident was the deputy sheriff’s failure to set the patrol vehicle transmission into park prior to exiting the patrol vehicle.  Another root cause of this incident was the field sergeant and deputy sheriff failed to call paramedics.  

Plaintiff and passenger could have refused medical treatment directly to the paramedics.

See:  Saying No to the ER 

Settle for $210,000

The deputy sheriff was traveling on the 5 freeway into the morning sun and reached up to adjust the sun visor down to block the sun glare. 

The front of the vehicle (vehicle one) collided with the rear of vehicle two (black, 2020 4-door, Audi), which pushed into the rear of vehicle three (white, 2015, 4-door, Honda). 

The vehicle driven by the deputy was retrofitted to transport multiple inmates. This special customization allowed inmates to be transported while sitting on seats, as well as wheelchairs. The seating area is not equipped with seatbelts. RED FLAG 

The deputy sheriff was inattentive while driving by looking up to put down his sun visor, which caused him to collide with vehicle two.  The deputy sheriff was traveling at an unsafe speed, causing him to be unable to stop prior to colliding with vehicle two.  

And the deputy sheriff failed to stop before colliding with vehicle two, which led to a chain reaction collision.  

The Braun vehicle was not equipped with seatbelts to secure the inmates during transport. 

The Court Services Transportation Bureau is currently in discussions with the Department's Fleet Coordinator regarding seatbelts as an available option when transporting inmates in the back seat. 

Based on an audit, a traffic reduction-risk management plan was developed. 123 preventable collisions occurred during the past five years. 79% of preventable collisions involved fixed objects or parked vehicles during love, speed, parking, or starting maneuvers. 

The most common causal factor was a misjudgment of measurement. 

Settle for $1,600,000

Vanessa Bryant was awarded $16 million in trial over Kobe Bryant crash photos. 

The helicopter was heading from Orange County to Gianna's basketball game at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when heavy fog and low visibility doomed the flight. 

The lawyer for the NBA superstar's widow said she suffered undue emotional stress after she learned county personnel took cellphone pictures of human remains as “souvenirs.” 

“While we disagree with the jury’s findings as to the County’s liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn’t believe the evidence supported the plaintiffs’ request of $75 million for emotional distress,” said Mira Hashmall, a partner at the Miller Barondess law firm who is lead outside counsel for Los Angeles County in the case. 

Proposed Corrective Action Plan:  Vanessa Bryant to donate the $16,000,000 back to Department and pay for seatbelts for PEOPLE being taken to and from court and jail and other attorney feeding grounds like hospitals.  

And let’s get the helicopter company that wasn’t properly equipped.  And is anyone suing the Thousand Oaks, and the Academy?  Pain and suffering.  It’s all about where you put the lens and the legal resources. 

The Department of Bunglers

The county runs a huge law enforcement division that’s been at war with the supervisors for resources and respect.  The Sheriff’s department is beleaguered and neglected with staffing shortages and general chaos/control paramilitary issues.  

This group is already dysfunctional and we’re not giving them the help they need by paying a near-billionaire 16 million dollars and 15 million dollars to the other guy out of the Sheriff’s budget.   

We don’t even have seatbelts in the vehicles that the county uses to transport PEOPLE to and from court and jail. [$210,000] 

Maybe Vanessa Bryant could pay for the seatbelts so when accidents happen PEOPLE don’t get seriously injured? 

Skipper Out

The fact that Skip Miller and the bunglers counsel at Miller Barondess, whose pay is a shameful county secret, were taking over $1 million in paycheck protection money while working closely with old Munger Tolles bff to fully and comprehensively bilk the taxpayers, right through the appalling trial of this case, gets the blood pressure moving upward.  

Sixteen million and fifteen million is a lot of bungling, but what about the attorney fees?   

As we near the end of this tragedy and litigation, I vow to get the records of how much this charade really cost the taxpayers. 

Pyrrhic Victory for Vanessa:

The phrase originates from a quote from Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose triumph against the Romans in the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE destroyed much of his forces, forcing the end of his campaign.  A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor, that it is tantamount to defeat.  

The fact that none of us have seen the gruesome images from the Kobe crash site is ONE victory that we can all share with Vanessa and her greedy unethical lawyers. It’s the only one that matters. 

Vanessa's claim of being forced to testify is totally disingenuous.  She was attempting to earn $75 million for her trouble that is real and she created the circus necessary to help her win a war that she waged on the advice of her legal counsel.  

The people lose that war and some respect for Vanessa Bryant.   

RIP Kobe and this horrible litigation. 

(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)