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The Sixth Supervisor

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Scissors would make a nice holiday gift for an elected official in Los Angeles.  

The candidates who won their elections can use them for all the ribbon cutting on good works.  And then, following the brief honeymoon, they can use them again to cut all the red tape.  

The ones who lost can.. cut loose.  Or paper.  

Pablo Picasso enjoyed that and the Cut Paper Exhibit at the old Hammer Museum closes at the end of the month, in time for the March 2023 premiere of the renovated Hammer on Wilshire.   

Apparently, it took 20 years to renovate the place which I’m happy to report remains FREE for good!  

For benchmarking, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park was greenlit in 2017 and is currently slated to open in 2025. That was originally in 2021 but the pandemic slowed things down.  No word, despite repeated inquiries, if Lucas understands how the only narrative that fits here in Los Angeles is FREE for good.  

Like the California Science Center.   

It’s easy to wonder how it is that the Lucas Museum is going to wind up taking less than half the time of the Hammer.  The Metro work might be part of that.  

But make no mistake, when the City and the County of Los Angeles put their minds together an all-hands-on-deck basis, there is simply nothing they can’t do and corrupt.  

I’ll never forget the March 2018 groundbreaking with George Lucas and Mayor Eric Garcetti.  

At the time the public attended meetings and the officials popped in and out haphazardly.  One of the very stately Supervisors appeared one Tuesday to be missing in action during a critical landfill hearing in the 5th Supervisorial district.  

When the supervisor from the 2nd stately district returned to the hearing with his driver, he accosted me and suggested I'd disrupted the meeting and was intimidating the county workers by asking where (tf) he had been.  

We agreed to disagree.   

A public record act request for the Supervisor's calendar borne out what I had suspected, that Mr. Ridley-Thomas had been playing hooky at the George Lucas and Melody Hobson Museum of Narrative art.   

You can view a clip of the event on Youtube and hear George Lucas lathering up a whole raft of elected officials who cut mucho red tape for the Lucas Museum. And the impoverished Angelenos!   

Herb Wesson and Curren D. Price of the new ninth attended and when Mr. Lucas thanked, Mark Ridley-Scott, the look on Price's’ face was… priceless.  

Should the museum be FREE for good, like the Hammer Museum? 

And why isn't the Museum of Natural History Museum Free as well?    

 

Waive the privilege:

Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted in 2021 in connection with securing lucrative contracts for USC in exchange for a scholarship for his son. He has pleaded not guilty, and his trial is scheduled for March. 

His case has prompted an investigation into county contracts.  After many questions were raised, the county unveiled a website this month asking those with information about alleged graft, bribery, waste, and fraud to come forward and share.  

Nobody loves poking around county contracts more than I do and I don’t mind speaking out about it.  

It was an exciting development that the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP (“Covington”) as part of an engagement for the County of Los Angeles (collectively with Covington, “we”, “us”, and “our”)… has agreed to get cracking collecting information from anyone else interested in sharing confidentially via an online form.  

The information, per the website’s Privacy statement, will be used, retained, and shared in connection with a review of Los Angeles County’s service provider contracts and contracting policies and procedures.  

Q: Huh? Be more specific, please. 

A:  As contemplated under Covington’s engagement with Los Angeles County, including laws, and relevant professional standards. Where appropriate, this includes sharing the information we collect with law enforcement and other public authorities.  

Q: Where appropriate? Who decides and how much are they charging to do this?  If Hilda Solis favored a particular developer or another in a Chinatown deal…say,  would the lawyers the board is hiring ever think it was a good idea to go deeper?  

A: Sir, we’ll take your comments under advisement.  Thank you.  

Q: I bet you will. I’ll submit some good ones, like why did American Golf Corporation get a sweetheart deal on county golf contracts the week before the new Mayor paraded over like the Sixth Supervisor, looking for big open places where people could live.    

The $71 million dollar tee shot by the Englander Knabe & Allen boys landed on the very first day that  Janice Hahn agreed to “unlimited” public comment.   

Anyway, the Covington investigation is aimed at restoring trust and transparency in the awarding of government contracts, the county has refused to release basic information about its dealings with either firm. 

A spokesperson for Kathryn Barger told the Times, “the county designates fee agreements with outside counsel as “privileged,” in part because disclosing the price would make it more difficult for the county to work with other firms. 

I think what she meant, is, like with Skip Miller’s remuneration, that the county treats like a state secret, "if we told you how much, you would storm the Hall of Administration and sack us all.”  

As a chap who has substantial experience reviewing county legal billings, following a visit to the California Supreme Court, where the justices were very kind and reversed a lower court opinion on which the county had relied in blocking disclosure of legal bills that I sought in 2013, I'm on it.    

I’ve always believed that the public should have access to invoice information, to give citizens tools they need to evaluate the true cost of aggressive litigation, and have informed conversations with the public agencies who decide which law firm to hire and what constraints they should place on those firms or with other members of the public.  

According to a press release from the CEO’s office, county counsel chose the law firm, and “The outside investigators now plan to review a sampling of the contracts the county entered into during Ridley-Thomas’ tenure on board.  

Q: What kind of sampling? 

The Los Angeles Times says they’ve sifted through over 20,000 documents…and now underway is an in-depth phase II review of contracts determined to warrant additional scrutiny.   

The second-level procedures will include a review of relevant electronic data (including internal County emails) and additional witness interviews.  

Phase III will focus on synthesizing the firm’s findings and making recommendations for the Board’s consideration. 

Phase III is known as the 'cooking of the books' phase.  This is why the county won’t share the rates of the lawyers from Covington. 

Covington & Burling LLP is an international law firm founded in 1919. The firm has more than 1,200 lawyers with 13 offices worldwide.  

For benchmarking, in 2021, Eric Holder who is a partner at Covington & Burling, and his crew were hired by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to investigate the campus' sexual misconduct responses in the wake of a high-profile harassment lawsuit filed against the school and an anesthesiology resident who became widely known as the “TikTok Doc” for viral dance videos performed in hospital scrubs.  Certainly, "yuck" is an appropriate refrain.  

Mr. Holder et al jumped in after the 200-strong Black Employees Resource Group alleged a toxic workplace culture and accused the university’s administration of enabling racism.  

The Oregonian got the memorandum of understanding through a public record act request and the former attorney general and his white glove firm for the world’s elite included a discount of 10 percent on its normal rates to conduct a thorough investigation into ‘Discrimination, Retaliation, and Racism.'  

Pricey. The OHSU called it a “significant investment.” 

Here's a public record from another jurisdiction with just 3000 students enrolled where Eric Holder collected over $2295/hour to reflavorize a bad situation. 

The county board should waive the privilege to allow for real public scrutiny. 

Approved & Released: 

From: RODRIGO A. CASTRO-SILVA County Counsel,  [email protected] 

Dear Mr. Preven:  

This letter is in response to your February 8, 2022 e-mail, requesting copies of records pursuant to the California Public Records Act ("CPRA"), California Government Code sections 6250-6276.48.1  Specifically, you requested the following:  

Please provide the agreement or letter or mou [sic] pertaining to the Covington & Burling work with the county and the October 19, 2021 motion by Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger about contracting fraud.  

After undertaking a search and review of records, the County of Los Angeles ("County") has located documents responsive to your request. However, the County has determined that those records are exempt from disclosure and are protected by numerous privileges/doctrines under California law, as explained below. 

  1. Records exempt or prohibited from disclosure by State law.    
  1. Records where the facts of the particular case dictate that the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.  

ANGELA PARK

DAWYN R. HARRISON

RODRIGO A. CASTRO-SILVA County Counsel

  

From: ERIC PREVEN 

Date: February 18, 2022

To: Dan Shallman, [email protected],  Carolyn Kubota, [email protected],  Louis "Skip" Miller, [email protected] 

cc: everyone 

Dear Kubota and Shallman + Skip,   

By way of introduction, I am Eric Preven, a county resident. The work that you are embarking on examining our county contracting processes is not the type of work that should be done secretly or behind a veil of privilege.   

As you know, Eric Holder, who we all adore, revealed his hourly rate in the traditional Covington and Burling letter of agreement dated March 30 to the Oregon Health & Science University. We’ll accept something similar.  

It’s not that we want to impede your work, rather we want to fully understand what you are planning to do, and at what price.  

The willingness of clients to share terms is expected.  

Let’s move ahead after you explain to The County Counsel that sharing the letter of agreement is something... you enjoy!   

Looking forward to understanding exactly what you’ll be doing, per Skip, who does not share his invoices.   

Best,   

Eric Preven  

 

From: ERIC PREVEN 

Date: February 18, 2022

To: Hilda Solis [email protected], Holly Mitchell [email protected], Sheila Kuehl [email protected],  Janice Hahn [email protected],  Kathryn Barger [email protected]  

I suggest releasing the Covington and Burlington letter. 

 

(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)