Councilman Mike Bonin Reponds to Emails Request from Palisades News

The Dec. 8 edition of the Palisades News includes a false and sensationalistic story claiming that my office has refused to release emails that your newspaper requested, regarding the Design Review Board and the Palisades Village project.

As you very well know, the emails in question have been available for pick-up at my City Hall office since September 2, 2016. My staff subsequently attempted to present them to a representative of the Palisades News, but your representative refused to accept them.

Since the Palisades News seems intent on continuing to suggest my office is withholding the information you requested, we are posting the information online for any member of the public to review for themselves. All 318 pages are available at: http://bit.ly/2iYnJSG.

If you review the documents, you will see that emails contain, as you requested, the “from,”“to,”“cc,”“bcc,”“subject,”“date sent” and “time sent” fields.

There are additional emails, from the office of the City Attorney to members of the DRB, subject to attorney-client privilege, which I am not authorized to release. If you would like to review those emails, I suggest you request them from members of the DRB.

Regards,
Mike Bonin
Councilmember, 11th District

Editor’s note: The News made a California Public Records Act (Gov. Code, section 6253.9) to Beatrice Pacheco, Chief Clerk of City Planning/Auto Records on July 15.

We asked for all writings prior to the cancelled DRB March 2, 2016 meeting, and that all writings created in an electronic format be provided in the native format they were created in and should include emails, text messages, instant messages via web or cellular phone-based messaging systems.

The News also requested that all evidence-preservation measures be taken immediately to protect the integrity of and preserve  all responsive writings.

A governmental entity is required to respond within 10 days, according to the CPRA.

On August 2, 2016, the News received one electronic transmission dated March 1 from Deputy Director of Planning Lisa Webber (who is directly under Director of City Planning Vincent P. Bertoni) to City Plan- ners Debbie Lawrence, Michelle Levy, Faisal Roble, Tricia Keane and Lakisha Hull.

The subject: “Pacific Palisades DRB-URGENT!”

“Again . . . for planning staff . . . don’t do a thing until we receive specific instructions from council office . . . conversations are still underway. Just hold tight for now.”

An earlier thread included a Monday, February 29, 5:58 p.m. message from Trisha Keane: “Also, please don’t send out any notices about the meeting until we all talk so that we are all on the same page before we start communicating publicly.”

The emails Bonin has posted are after four members of the DRB had been recused and the March 2 meeting cancelled. We specifically asked for transmissions prior to the recusals, because this action by the City Attorney’s Office enabled Caruso Affiliated to proceed directly to City Planning with its plans for the Palisades Village development, without final scrutiny by the DRB.

Among the released emails is a March 3 note from Chris Spitz, former president of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, who suggested to the Councilman’s office how the DRB recusal could be explained. “In an effort to be helpful. . . .” An earlier email to her from Bonin’s office about the DRB recusal was missing.

The majority of the 313 pages released by the Councilman’s office are inquiries from residents, with few replies shown. There are many emails from the Palisades News requesting clarification.

Michael Soneff, a member of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, wrote Bonin’s office on March 3: “This was a HUGE mistake. The DRB is commonly viewed as the voice of the Palisades on development issues, and the members are good people committed to being fair and honest.”

DRB member Donna Vaccarino’s dismissal is explained by Keene in a May 11 email to Vaccarino, saying they received the following correspondence. “On January 10, at the Palisades Farmers Market and in my presence, Donna Vaccarino openly discussed the Village Project with the Councilmember, telling Mike that he should not support the project and giving him her reasons why it should not be supported.”

By return email to Keene, Vaccarino calls the accusation “bluntly untrue.”

The News still waits to see the electronic emails prior to the dismissal.

 

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