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Sat, Jun

When Corruption Confronts Itself

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Say what you will about the dogma of the Catholic Church, but the current Pope Francis has a very cute Italian cum Spanish accent.  

Hearing the Pontiff say last night on 60 Minutes, "Thank you (Maura) for the keeeendness!" could make the crankiest of public speakers smile.  

"Todos!" which the Pope repeated frequently during the two-part interview with Maura O'Donnell of CBS News means "all" in Spanish and  "everything" in Italian but in any language it is an effective way to avoid favoring one over another while loving the the whole flock (under precise rules). All are welcome ... except those removed from chambers by Paul Krekorian and Bob Blumenfield and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, using rules 7 and 12 of the council rules.  

The Pope goes on to describe the "globalization of indifference" as a terrible disease.  Word. 

He reminds us that generally, "People want to live, people forge ahead, but people are fundamentally good!"  Well --  

Still, anyone from the public who disrupts a council meeting will face the full force of the law. 

Swinging For the Fences:

Ohtani realizing that Mr. John Lee Staffter B is an "Ethics" expert.

 

Dave Roberts said Shohei Otanhi “He didn’t homer on his bobblehead day, so he was due to homer on some significant Ohtani day. We’ll take the home run on Shohei Ohtani Day." 

Last week, the most corrupt council in recent memory named May 17, Shohei Otanhi day. Members of the Dodgers front office and manager Dave Roberts were in attendance as the council recognized Ohtani with the honor for his athletic achievements and “historic impact as an Angeleno of Japanese descent.”

 

Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.

 

What a great idea to drag Old Father Boyle of Homeboy Industries down to the council to serve as the opening act following his star turn at the White House last week. FYI It's $4.00 for a 16 oz cup of coffee at Homeboy.  For that price you get 24 oz at 7-11.  

One sharp critic said off the record, "Father Boyle will rot in hell for allowing his good name to be ...molested by these city council criminals." 

That's not nice, but even the May 15 Los Angeles Times Editorial (my birthday) noted: 

"Half a dozen politicians and public officials have been sentenced to prison in corruption cases in the last four years. Two current council members face accusations of ethics violations..." and so on. 

Curren Price attended his first committee in a year, following Krekorian's edict that he and De Leon rejoin the team and get back to work... misleading and bungling.  

On the docket for next week: The City Council has two meetings scheduled on the city budget. On Wednesday, the council is set to receive public comment on the mayor’s spending plan, and the budget committee’s proposed changes to it. The council will take up the budget on Thursday and make any last-minute changes.  

Here, we visit what is known as Violation Thursday.  Michael Feuer, who was replaced by Hydee Feldstein-Soto is a good authority on why the practice of not taking comments on Thursday is wrong, but he's busy these days batting away the stench of his role in the festival of LADWP corruption. 

The statute of limitations is 3 years and has run out, but the State Bar could bring charges. There is or was a Bar investigation.  

Smart Speaker: Well, at least rules 7 and 12 will be vigorously enforced.  As for rule 93 the one about  about all the speakers getting equitable coverage -- not so much.  

Still, blessings a todos.  

Fast Walker Mike:

Mike Feuer learned a ton over the years from the Great Zev Yaroslavsky, who is a Sensei to many local politicians; including, the slayer of Bulgari and ignorer of the rapacious Harvard-Westake, Katy Yaroslavsky (CD5). 

Zev, who famously coined the expression Carmaggedon (tk.) and once at an LA County Board of Supervisors meeting said that he was ready to "let the chips fall where they may" as it related to an investigation conducted by a wide number of private law firms eager to assist the Board with the county's jail violence problem was posted. All pro bono obviously. Todos.   

Smart Speaker: These are not the lawyers who are coming for $3 Billion in liability over the McClaren Hall.... obviously. Do we know that?   Are they barred? 

"Get him out of here." 

Once the report was completed it was presented to the majestic Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence (CCJV) a lofty panel of handpicked experts, including but not limited to,  the Long Beach Sheriff (Jim McDonnell back then) and the good right Cecil "Chip" Murray, pressed into action by a feisty Mark Ridley-Thomas.   

Rev. Murray, who passed away recently was a pillar of the community, was also a quote machine.  He liked the Lord Acton classic, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  

Smart Speaker:  But not the handpicked commissioners.  

Deposing Mike Feuer:

In the following section of the August 13, 2019 deposition of then City Attorney Michael Feuer, he is quizzed about the independent ethics expert that he himself installed. In his response, he repurposes the old Zev chestnut saying let the "chips should fall where they fall." 

Smart Speaker: "Let the chips fall where they may" was a better phrasing. 

Here's the excerpt a link to the full transcript. Fascinating.   

Q.  Sure.  After Mr. Peters -- when Mr. Peters approached you with respect to Judge Berle's instruction to bring matters directly to the attention of the City Attorney Mike Feuer, what did he tell you?        

MR. GEORGE:  And again, same instruction.          

THE WITNESS (Michael Feuer):  I can't recall with specificity because the mere fact that Judge Berle would even raise the possibility of some additional ethics review of how our office handled the billing cases was more than enough to trigger reaction from me.   I -- I don't recall in particular whether it had to do with the fact of the Jones versus PwC Complaint itself, its mere existence, and the fact that the name Jones was attached to the lawsuit filed against the Department of Water and Power or whether it related to the claim of privilege with regard to that document I don't remember.    

But I do know that I was very concerned that Judge Berle, for whom I have a lot of respect, and before whom I have appeared previously, would in any manner question whether any aspect of our office's work was anything other than with full integrity, and I took action thereafter.  

BY MR. THOMASCH:   Q.  What action did you take?      

A.  I retained an independent ethics expert and told her that the chips should fall where they fall and to -- that she should evaluate the conduct of any lawyer acting under my authority with regard to the resolution of the billing cases.      

Q.  And what has she done?      

A.  Well, she's still in the process of performing that analysis.  We had hoped it would be done a long time ago, but because I -- you have continued to notice depositions, including mine, she has, and I agree with this, she has said that she needs to have the product at this point of my deposition before she can complete her analysis, and I respect that.  We've put no constraints on what she can ask for and documents that she'll be reviewing and so ideally shortly after, in the next couple of weeks, I hope, next few weeks, after this deposition the report will be produced.      

Q.  Has she read Mr. Peters' PMQ deposition? 

MR. GEORGE:  Lacks foundation.          

THE WITNESS:  I don't know.  I don't know. 

BY MR. THOMASCH:   Q.  Has she read any of the depositions that were given by any of the single day depositions that were given by Mr. Clark?         

MR. GEORGE:  Lacks foundation.          

THE WITNESS:  I don't know what she's read. I know she has been supplied with hundreds and hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts and court transcripts of hearings and pleadings and other documents.  I don't know what she's actually read because, as you might imagine, since I wanted an independent valuation, I wanted her to conduct herself the way she wants to.  I know what she has requested.  I do not know what she's actually read. 

BY MR. THOMASCH:   Q.  Did she interview you?      

A.  No.      

Q.  Are you aware of whether any witness who has testified in this case so far has indicated that they were interviewed?      

A.  I don't know.  Her role was not prescribed as being one of interviewing.  We don't have subpoena power in my office, nor can we confer it on somebody.  She was -- among other things, I'm sure she is evaluating testimony that was conducted, taken under oath by the deponents in this case, court statements that were made, and officers of the court are prescribed to conduct themselves with integrity in court and state accurately what transpired. So she's relying on sworn statements, statements made in court and other background materials that would inform her judgment.      

Q.  You don't need subpoena power to ensure that someone who is working in your office fully responds to her inquiries, do you? 

MR. GEORGE:  Argumentative. 

THE WITNESS:  That's a question that -- 

BY MR. THOMASCH:   Q.  You just said you don't have subpoena power.      

A.  I did, but that has nothing --         

MR. GEORGE:  You're arguing.          

THE WITNESS:  That's right.  And this is a deposition to which I made myself available voluntarily to get to the bottom of facts of which I'm a percipient witness.  Let's do that. 

BY MR. THOMASCH:    Q.  Are you aware of whether she has interviewed anyone who had any involvement in the defense of the Jones case?  

 MR. GEORGE:  Asked and answered. 

Smart Speaker:  I think we may need to redefine the term, "Independent."  

Thom Peters, Come On Down!

Here is a deposition with Thom Peters from May 1, 2019. 

Q Okay. Between the time of the press question and your meeting with Mr. Feuer, did you take any step to establish an ethical wall or  otherwise screen yourself from any matter within the  office in which the plaintiffs were represented by  the Panish Shea & Boyle firm?  

 A I'm not sure I understand the question, but let me try to answer it. In that time that separated the inquiry from the press and my conversation with the City Attorney where he said I'm not comfortable with that was, to my knowledge, measured in -- in single 16 hours, you know, if that. And as soon as Mike expressed concern about the appearance of this, I said, you know, there is a matter going on right now that I am aware of that he should make sure I have no more conversations on ongoing, is what I'm recalling. And so that was taken to the chief of staff.  

 Q And how was that effectuated? 

A I said, "Leela [Kapur], I have this case that there's a Council Report in. The Council Report is soon to go to the city council. Let me take it out of the normal course of its preparation and give it to you so that you can make sure that you're comfortable with everything that is said in here. Because right now you have not seen this; I've been -- I think -- you know, I was the final reviewer of that -- of that document. So if there's a concern, you need to know."  

 Q Is there any process -- was there at that time any process within the City Attorney's office for you to establish an ethical wall or a screen if you felt that you or any other attorney in the office should not be privy to the City's defense of a given case?  

A Yeah.  

Q And what -- what is that procedure? 

 A The procedure is to make sure that a --that someone who is screened off, for whatever reason, is excluded from all meetings concerning the case, is not copied on any written materials concerning the case, and is -- and Mike was rigorous about this -- Mike Feuer, the City Attorney --  rigorous about this -- make sure that there's no contact with the case by the lawyer that's screened off.  

Q And who would prepare such a -- such a memo?  

A  I didn't say anything about a memo, I don't think.  

Q How would it -- how would everyone learn that a given lawyer was to be screened off?   

A This would be -- it would be communicated at least verbally. Candidly, I've not seen a written protocol on how this was done.  But it was -- it was very rare. Its happened in the related cases, as I think you know,  with Mr. Clark, and if you want to, I can tell you what happened, to my knowledge, with respect to that. 

Q Certainly.   

Clark was receiving an ongoing - as I understand it -- benefit from the Gibson Dunn law firm as a retired partner. Because one could argue that he had an interest in the financial success of the firm, he was screened from the affirmative ratepayer case against PwC, I believe from the time that Gibson Dunn filed a responsive pleading -- which, as I recall, was a pleading challenge; I think it was a demurrer -- and thereafter, for — for all purposes.  

Q And was there a writing that set that forth? Or, again, was that done orally among the City Attorney's office staff? 

A You would have to ask -- you would have to ask Mr. Clark. 

Q You don't recall ever seeing such a writing?

A I don't recall ever seeing such a writing, no, sir. 

Q Were the fees that you received from the Law Office of Anthony M. DeMarco referral fees that related to work you had performed in private practice?  

A The case that resulted in the referral fees were -- was a case that I referred to Mr. DeMarco, I believe, yes, when I was in private practice. 

 Q And with respect to the disclosed payments that you received from the Panish Shea & Boyle firm, were they also referral fees?

 A Yes. 

Q And -- and did the referral fee relate to work that you had done while in private practice? 

A The case that was referred to the Panish Shea & Boyle firm -- which had nothing whatsoever to 1 do with the City, by the way -- was, if I recall correctly, a case that I referred to the firm after I had left private practice.  

 Q And does the City Attorney's office have any rules that regulate the circumstances under which attorneys in the City Attorney's office may or may not receive attorneys' -- referral fees?  

A I don't know what their practice is now. I read in the press the office noting that there had been no rule on the topic at the time of my employ, but that they were under review after my departure, and by now perhaps something new has been -- has been crafted.  I'm unaware of it though 

Not Exactly Local Indifference:

Here’s the October 28, 2019 Letter - a community impact statement - from the Studio City Neighborhood Council (as prepared by Government Affairs committee)  

Addressed to: 

Mack Jenkins 

United States Attorney's Office 

Attn: Public Corruption Section 

Central District of California 

312 North Spring Street Suite 1200

 Los Angeles, California 90012

 

Re: Studio City Neighborhood Council Board Meeting October 18, 2019 Item 12B  

Mr. Jenkins: 

The Studio City Neighborhood Council advises the Los Angeles City government on issues of local concern. Created by City Charter to make government more responsive to local needs, the SCNC is an elected body that is officially recognized by the City of Los Angeles.  

As was reported late last month, City Atty. Michael N. Feuer, moved recently to abandon a high-profile lawsuit against PricewaterhouseCoopers who the city had tried to blame for the massive overbilling debacle at the Department of Water and Power. 

The city’s legal retreat effectively shuts down — at least for now — more scrutiny over its handling of the fallout.  

A spokesman for the city attorney’s office told the LA Times that key witnesses in the city’s case — namely David Wright, former head of the DWP, and Paul Paradis, an attorney who formerly consulted for Feuer’s office — have invoked their 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, impairing the city’s ability to proceed with its lawsuit.  

DWP GM Marty Adams said in a statement that “we are naturally very disappointed by the turn of events that has led to the withdrawal of litigation that was aimed at holding [PricewaterhouseCoopers] accountable for their actions.” The settlement was called a “charade” at an August hearing by the judge who oversaw it.  

“We should not lose sight of the fact that it is the ratepayers — especially low-income families and seniors — who were harmed the most by the clear negligence, improprieties and overcharging that took place, as well as the subsequent fallout,” said Council member Nury Martinez, who oversees a committee focused on the utility. 

 It is our understanding that Attorneys in the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section prosecute impactful cases aimed at preserving the government’s integrity, reforming corrupt behavior, and protecting citizens’ constitutional rights. The Section works in close partnership with the FBI and other investigative agencies to achieve its goals.  

The Board of the Studio City Neighborhood Council voted on October 16, 2019 - 11 ayes, 3 abstentions, to urge your office to initiate a Special Investigation into the recent withdrawal of the payment processing lawsuit, on behalf of ratepayers.  

Sincerely, 

The Board of Studio City Neighborhood Council 

cc:

 

Directamente to the jefe: 

City Attorney 

The Office of Mike Feuer 

Los Angeles City Attorney 

James K. Hahn City Hall East, Suite 800

 Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

Re: Studio City Neighborhood Council Board Meeting October 18, 2019 Item 12C  

Mr. City Attorney: 

It was reported late last month that you moved to abandon the high-profile lawsuit against Price Waterhouse Coopers over the massive billing debacle at the Department of Water and Power. 

The Board of the Studio City Neighborhood Council voted on October 16, 2019 - 10 ayes, 3 abstentions, and 1 no vote to urge you to publish a corrective action plan to regain public confidence and also to seek independent advice as to how to continue or re-file the case on behalf of ratepayers, who deserve both answers and relief.  

Sincerely,  

The Board of Studio City Neighborhood Council 

Cc: Todos

 

City Attorney 

The Office of Mike Feuer 

 

 FBI — Central District of California 

11000 Wilshire Boulevard Suite 1700 

Los Angeles, CA 90024 

 

Xavier Becerra 

Office of the Attorney General 

300 S. Spring Street 

Los Angeles, CA 90013-1230 Mayor 

 

Eric Garcetti 

City of Los Angeles 

200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 

 

Jackie Lacey 

Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office 

211 West Temple Street Suite 

 

Office of City Clerk 

City Council of Los Angeles 

200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions are of Mr. Preven and not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)