The LA County Observer

Observations of a LA County Resident

What is the Board thinking?

Written By: raconte - Jul• 23•12

In 2002, the voters of Los Angeles County passed Measure B which set term limits on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, by a whopping 63% — a mandate if there ever was one and yet on Tuesday, July 24th the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are contemplating an ordinance that flies in the face of the term limits that Measure B put in place.

The ordinance is as follows:

  • 16-C. Recommendation as submitted by Supervisor Antonovich: Introduce, waive reading and place on agenda for adoption an ordinance calling for a special election to be held on November 6, 2012, for the purpose of voting upon an amendment to the Los Angeles County Charter which would limit any person elected and qualified for the office of member of the Board of Supervisors to five consecutive terms commencing with a term of office which begins on or after December, 2002. The limitation on terms shall not apply to any unexpired term following a vacancy to which a person is elected or appointed if the remainder of that term is less than one-half of the full term of office. This ordinance also consolidates the special election with the statewide general election to be held the same day. (12-3423)

Motion by Supervisor Antonovich

Ordinance

To fully understand this citizen’s anger, and why every LA County resident should be equally angry, let me remind you that Measure B placed term limits, for the very first time, on our Board of Supervisors.  The passage of Measure B ensured that no member of the Board of Supervisors could serve more than three 4-year consecutive terms.  That’s right no supervisor could serve more than 12 years in one stretch, this was a small blow against the near lock a sitting supervisor had on guaranteed incumbency.

Many may have noticed that the Board has been slowly whittling away at public participation over the past several years.  From meeting twice a week to once a week, then from a full day meeting to a meeting that generally lasts about 4 hours (including all the pomp and pageantry that does little to further the public’s business but does everything to allow the supervisors to hand out numerous and sundry awards, proclamations, certificates and whatnots).  Once a member of the public could speak to any agenda item for up to three minutes that’s right up to three minutes for each item.  Alas not anymore since the Board bundles all items that a member of the public wishes to address into one 3-minute time slot often forcing that same member to speak to an item that might not be heard by the supervisors until much later in the day.  When these cuts of public accessibility by a thousand strokes raised hardly a hue and cry from the media the supervisors felt embolden, no doubt, to try and amend the guts and spirit of Measure B by extending the number of consecutive terms a supervisor can serve from three 4-year terms to five 4-year terms!  So conceivably a supervisor once elected could serve up to twenty years at a stretch.  Under Measure B, Supervisor Antonovich (currently the longest serving supervisor) could serve until 2016, while Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky are termed out in 2014.  However, this new ordinance being considered would conceivably extend those terms until 2024 and 2022 respectfully.

The question is will the citizens and media of LA County let this attempt to thwart their will slide, or will the media shed the light of day on this dastardly deed go unchecked?

Who do the supervisors think they are? The five kings? Only if the public and our media continue to shrug their collective shoulders and yawn whenever the supervisors engage in such shenanigans.

Did the LA County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act (con’t)

Written By: raconte - Jul• 04•12

On June 19th the Board of Supervisors met to “nominate” a temporary replacement for the beleaguered LA County Assessor John Noguez who is currently under investigation by the LA County District Attorney.  Supposedly this discussion and action was taken under item 71 of the posted June 19th agenda, so imagine the surprise of many of the Board watchers to learn through our local papers that no only had they nominated Santos Kreimann as Chief Deputy Assessor, but appointed him as well.

Amazingly when I confronted the Board with the probability that the action they took on June 19th may have violated the Brown Act, I was first informed that no violation occurred because they had announced their action on June 19th.  Today, they tried to back step even further by providing me with a copy of the SOP 06-19 for June 19 that reports the nomination, but no appointment of, Kreimann.  However, this doesn’t explain how two separate newspapers reported that Kreimann had been appointed, not just nominated.  To further support the argument for the Board having appointed not nominated Kreimann was the reporting that Noguez had on June 19th, after the appointment of Kreimann, gone of indefinite paid leave.

To further confuse matters I asked a member of the DA’s staff that was present at today’s (07/03) Board meeting about the action that the Board had taken and learned that this wasn’t the Board’s responsibility – which I guess was to explain why Mr. William T. Fujioka’s very hands and involvement in this whole matter, going so far as to not only recommend Kreimann to the Board, but to call Kreimann at home on a Saturday and “beg” him to take the job.  You doubt this then just read this report from the Los Cerritos Newspaper Group/Hews Media Group.

So was there a Brown Act violation?  I would argue yes.  When did the alleged violation occurred is the question.  Was it on June 19th when the press was informed that Kreimann had been appointed?  Was it as a member of the DA’s office contends when the Board took action on an item not in their purview?  I would argue that it is the Supervisor’s sole responsibility, not Fujioka to nominate and appoint the temporary replacement for an elective office.  Fujioka may act like the sixth supervisor, but he’s neither elected by the people of LA County nor answerable to them since he’s the hired gun of the Board of Supervisors.  Additionally, I’d like to know how many other individuals were considered for this temporary assignment?  Because from all the materials presented it would appear that the Board never considered anyone other than Kreimann, yet another “sole-vendor” contract the favorite tool of the Board.

Did the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors violate the Brown Act?

Written By: raconte - Jun• 24•12

As I picked up my copy of the Pasadena Star News this past Wednesday and read the paper my eye quickly focused on the article reporting that the LA County Board of Supervisors (in closed session) decided to appoint Santos Kreimann (a veteran county employee) as the temporary LA County Assessor while John Noguez went on indefinite paid leave.  Noguez’s leave was prompted by an investigation by the LA County District Attorney about allegations that Noguez had taken money in return for reassessing, usually down, certain individuals’ properties.

To add to the confusion of what was being discussed at the June 19th meeting was the following recommendation from Supervisor Antonovich – “Direct County

Counsel to prepare a resolution and ballot question calling for an advisory vote, to be consolidated with the November General Election, that would ask the voters of Los Angeles County if the California Constitution and the County Charter should be amended to make the Los Angeles County Assessor an appointive instead of an elective office; and if a substantial number of the voters who vote in the advisory election support the amendments, direct the County’s Legislative Advocates in Sacramento to seek a sponsor in the State Legislature to propose a Statewide Constitutional amendment. (Continued from meeting of 5-29-12) (12-2345)”.  This item was postponed for two more weeks and in the meantime the board went into closed session mid-meeting to discuss item CS-5 – “DEPARTMENT HEAD PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS (Government Code Section 54957) Department Head performance evaluations (11-1977)”.

 

Supervisor Yaroslavsky called this closed session discussion shortly after the supervisors handed out their various acknowledgements and awards.  This left the numerous members of the public that had come to address the board twiddling their thumbs for over an hour and a half while the board met in private.  At the end of their closed session they returned to open session but failed to announce any actions taken during their closed session to the members of the public waiting in the boardroom.  They did however have time to hold a press conference (when they found the time to do this who knows) to announce their appointment of Kreimann.

 

I see two issues (well actually three) with the actions taken by the board on June 19th.  First, though the Brown Act does allow the board to hold closed sessions it does so with the following caveats.  First, the description of the item must be written so that a reasonable person can deduce that the item being held for closed session might be of interest to them.  Second, the board must announce any actions taken during said closed sessions.  CS-5 as described leads a reasonable person to believe that department head evaluations/performances are to be discussed, not the appointment of a temporary department head.  And when you through in the fact that Item 7 (an item about the County Assessor position had been postponed for two weeks) one might not have drawn the conclusion that the appointment of a County Assessor was the subject of CS-5.    It’s highly unlikely that anyone reviewing the agenda would’ve had a clue that the temporary appointment of such a critical and key county position was set to be addressed.

In fact I can think of several people who might’ve had something to say about the appointment of Kreimann – of course their opinion would’ve in all likelihood hardly swayed the Supervisors decision since history has taught the members of the public that in nearly all cases the Supervisors have made their minds up long before the publically held meeting.

 

The other possible violation was what I believe was a failure of the board to announce the action taken during closed session.  Yes, I know they held a press conference, but I believe that failed to meet the burden based on the simple fact that they held a mid-meeting closed session, thus they should’ve announced their decision to appoint Kreimann at the opening of the second part of the meeting, after all they’d left the public waiting for over an hour and a half – this was the least they could’ve done and it would had been the respectful thing to do and it would’ve given the opportunity to the public to speak to bring to the board’s attention that they had in all probability violated the Brown Act.

 

So did the Board of Supervisors violate the Brown Act, again?  If the Board of Supervisors has indeed violated the Brown Act will the Los Angeles County District Attorney take any action?  Inquiring minds would like to know?

 

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and their penchant for secrecy

Written By: raconte - Mar• 06•12

Slowly, but surely others in the media are calling attention to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ penchant for secrecy.  You can find an excellent column on this very subject written by Ron Kaye in the February 26th (Sunday) edition of the Pasadena Sun.  You can read his entire column “L.A. County is too big not to fail” and my letter to the editor “Supervisors are detached from constituents” which ran in the March 3rd (Sunday) edition of the Pasadena Sun.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approve millions of dollars for an undetermined number of Letters of Agreements

Written By: raconte - Feb• 23•12

In case you missed it the Board, as is their custom, gave blanket approval to authorize one of their agents (in this case the Director of Health Services Mitch Katz M.D.) to “offer and execute Letters of Agreements (LOA) in an annual estimated amount of $1,000,000 …”  This item (designated as A-4 1115 Waiver LOA) was handled under the Feb. 21st agenda and further clarified under the supplemental agenda (commonly referred to as the green sheet).

After reading the item description I then requested the referenced memo which failed to clarify the most burning question – which was is that 1 million dollars in total for all LOAs?  Or can each individual LOA be issued for an amount up to 1 million dollars.  How many LOAs will be issued — 10, 100, 1000?  Will there be a cap before requiring that this issue return to the Board and thus be available for public scrutiny?

I posed this question to the Board on Tuesday, Supervisor Yaroslavsky looked somewhat confused and concerned – but nonetheless the item was passed with nary a question asked to clarify, what appears to this citizen, patently vague language.

LA County Board of Supervisors sued for Brown Act Violation

Written By: raconte - Feb• 21•12

The LA County Board of Supervisors violated the Brown Act in September 2011 so says the LA County District Attorney.  The LA County DA cited the Board for failing to allow the public to attend a meeting with Gov. Brown that had been called to discuss the county’s new responsibility to deal with felons.  Realignment (AB 109), as it is called, is a landmark shift in how California will lock up, supervise and pay for thousands of criminals and parolees.  Realignment has caused the supervisors great consternation as to how they might sway public opinion on the issues of a possible crime spike and that the state might not provide adequate funding for the shift.  To address these concerns the supervisors placed this issue as closed item on their Sept. 26, 2011 agenda.  Their rationale for this was that this was a discussion of “matters posing a potential threat to the public’s right of access to public services or public facilities to [sic] the impact of AB 109,”

Unfortunately the LA County DA, once again, settled for a simple slap on the wrist when in came to punishment.  Their logic was that the supervisors were unlikely to repeat the same error in judgment — well duh!  Of course the supervisors would be unlikely to repeat the same error they never do until they make the exact same error when it comes to another, different matter.  Just as they did several years back when they were caught making a similar error in judgment when they met in closed session to discuss the closure of the King Drew Medical Center (KDMC) Trauma center, (the only one at the time that was seismically built to the new standards in LA County).  They got the exact same reprimand.  Contrite the supervisors held a dog and pony show to “correct” that violation and promised to do better — well that didn’t happen did it.

So at this afternoon’s meeting the supervisors have called a special closed session A022112Special CS meeting to address a lawsuit filed by Calaware.  You can find the Calaware Petition CalawarePetition2-3-12a, and a copy of the DA reprimand district-attorney-brown-act-response.  You’d have thought that the supervisors if they were truly champions of the Brown Act as they pretend they would work with Calaware to address their violation.  But no this is the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors after all and the money they will use to fight the lawsuit is after all not their money, because the taxpayers are footing this lawsuit.

Its actions such as these that validate the belief that the public has that the supervisors have no respect for the public they are elected to serve.

L.A.’s closed-door supervisors

Written By: raconte - Feb• 21•12

Though I’m pleased that our DA’s office found that the Board of Supervisors had indeed violated the Brown Act in September 2011, however I’m disappointed that they only received a “slap-on” the wrist.  Let’s not forget that the Board was also found to have violated the Brown Act in 2004 when in closed session they voted to close King-Drew Medical Center trauma center.  DA Cooley, at that time, concluded (struck a deal with the Board not to release the tapes in order for him to listen to the tapes) that the Board punishment would only be a “slap-on” the wrist as they were likely not to make the same mistake in the future.

Fast forward a few years and violà another very similar violation.  How many more such violations must the Board make before our DA actually holds them accountable?  He goes after smaller cities with a vengeance, but seems to shrink from holding our Board’s feet to the fire.  I often wonder if his reticence to be as tough on the Board as anything to due with the fact that the Board holds the purse strings to his budget.  Were the violations the exact same each time, no; however they are similar in nature and thus show a consistent pattern of decit and should warrant harsher punishment for each subsequent violation.  Until that happens the Board will continue to push the limits of how much of the public’s business they can conceal under the cloak of the closed session – because they obviously have a flat learning curve.

A post from Supervisor Yaroslavsky

Written By: raconte - Jan• 29•12

On January 24th, Supervisor Yaroslavsky chose to post his response to the various news articles and public comments made regarding to both his now notorious motion and the many news articles published in response to the Board of Supervisor’s attempt to pass Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s motion.  His opening paragraph “For the past several weeks, a lot has been said and written about my proposal to modify the amount of time each member of the public is allotted for comment during our weekly Board of Supervisors meetings” speaks volumes about the depth of his misunderstanding of, in particular, the jest of the Los Angeles Times article (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-supes-comment-20120121,0,492101.story).  And though the LA Times article does at the beginning of their article make the following statement “The weekly meetings of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors tend to drag, with some lasting five hours or more.  And Board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky thinks he knows why — members of the public talk too much.” The LA Times go on to zero in on the “right to manage our time” excuse that Supervisor Yaroslavsky used to defend his motion.

The paper did an admirable job of illustrating just how the Board of Supervisors’ manage their time, spending a great deal of it on non-legislative duties, starting late and ending well before the end of the day – cramming the business of the people into about two hours of a three to four hour meeting.  This analysis of how the Board actually spends its time made Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s motion seem mean-spirited and made its intent appear to be one of stifling the right of the people to address the Board.

Are there a few individuals, approximately two, that seem to take great glee at holding ten or more items?  Yes.  And if Arnold Sachs chooses to hold every item to “annoy” the Supervisors perhaps he does so to lash out at how the Supervisors annoy him and many other members of the public.  The Supervisors have a penchant for leaving the dais, huddle in small groups and talk amongst themselves or others, hold lengthy telephone conversations, and so forth when the public addresses them – most annoying behavior especially when you consider that they start their meetings late (at times 30 minutes or more late), waiting for your name to be called because no one has a clue when their item may be called leaving you held hostage in the Boardroom, and they forbid the public to bring in food while they feed their face in plain view of the public.

Supervisor Yaroslavsky goes on to state that the Board, at this point in time, gives the public two minutes to speak to each of their “held” items and three minutes to address the Board during Public Comments.  This is not quite accurate, what they generally do if you’ve held two or more items that the Board has decided not to address during the meeting they expect you to cover your items in two minutes and if the Chair is feeling magnanimous you may even get three minutes.  Don’t take my word for it just take a look at the December 20, 2011 transcript.  On page 33 you’ll find Supervisor Yaroslavsky calling out the agenda items each member of the public has signed up (or held) after which he states, “EACH OF YOU WILL HAVE THREE MINUTES”.  So much for allowing members of the public two (or three)  minutes to address each item.

Supervisor Yaroslavsky invites us to join him at a Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting and see for ourselves …, because you can’t trust everything you read – which of course applies to his very own post n’est-ce pas?  So, I would encourage you to attend because civic engagement is good for not only your soul, but the “Public” soul as well, I would simply warn you to:

  1. Take public transportation or expect to pay at least $18.00 for parking,
  2. Be prepared to be screened prior to entry, and don’t bring any food or water because only the Supervisors and those behind the dais are given the privilege of eating and drinking in the Boardroom with the only exception being given under ADA rules,
  3. Don’t expect the meeting to begin at the advertised 9:30 A.M. start time, except at 1:30 pm if the Tuesday falls after a holiday and,
  4. If your item is lucky enough to have a designated start time remember that doesn’t mean your item will be called at the stated time — so be prepared to, you guessed it WAIT.

It would appear that for the Board of Supervisors, the public is there at the convenience of the Board and not the other way around — this is a point that has been made crystal clear.

Response to Los Angeles Times article

Written By: raconte - Jan• 26•12

Posted on the Los Angeles Times website:

What a lively discussion this article has generated.  I’d like to respond to the many people who have suggested that we need to have term limits imposed on the Board of Supervisors — which we’ve already done.  In March 2002, we passed Measure B (http://www.smartvoter.org/2002/03/05/ca/la/meas/) by more than 63%.  This measure limited them to 3 consecutive 4-year terms.  However, all the measures, laws and referendums aside — I think the most effective term-limit is when WE THE PEOPLE refuse to re-elect them.  If memory serves Yaroslavsky and Molina are termed out, Antonovich and Knabe can run for another term, and Ridley-Thomas can run up to another 2 terms.  However the good people of the above mentioned incumbents can put the kibosh on this by not voting for ANYONE who’s an incumbent the next time around.  And voilà we’ll have a totally new Board of Supervisors

Update – The Los Angeles media wakes up and reports on the LA County Board’s Attempt to Quash Public Input

Written By: raconte - Jan• 22•12

Well, finally the assorted Los Angeles area newspapers have decided to weigh in on the LA County Board of Supervisors’ attempt to “limit” (I call it quash) public input at the weekly Board of Supervisors’ meetings.  The Los Angeles Daily News reported on Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s motion to “limit” public speech under the pretext of needing to “manage” the Board’s time.   Their article “Proposal to limit public speaking at supervisors’ meetings put under review” was the first salvo by our local media, followed by an op-ed  “Supes should watch nixing free speech” in the Pasadena Star News.

This morning the Los Angeles Times came, albeit a little late to the dance, with a rather insightfully reported article providing readers with a snapshot of what a Board of Supervisor is like.  Their article “L.A. County supervisor moves to restrict speakers at board meetings” did a pretty good job at debunking Supervisor Yaroslavsky’s excuse that “oh my, we have to do this to help us better manage our time”.  As of the writing of this post the LA Times article had garnered 106 comments.

You might ask yourself “why is this important” – the simple answer is because if they succeed in quashing our right to address our input during Board meetings then we give permission to them and every other body of elected officials to whittle away our right to address and seek redress from those we elect.  Remember at a recent Board Meeting Molina labeled those members of the Public that address the Board on far too many items (as defined by the Supervisors) as people who speak gibberish and has ordered that a list of these “offending” people be drawn up and given to her.

I sent in letters to the editor to the Daily News DN BOS Time Management  and Pasadena Star News PSN Board of Supes1 .