Viewpoint: Mike Feuer Asked about Palisades Design Review Board Emails

At the Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting on June 22, City Attorney Mike Feuer spoke for about 25 minutes on his personal views of social justice before taking questions on graffiti, an illegal sign case, ex parte communications, homeless who are mentally ill and whether the city needs to comply with the California Public Records Act.

The question regarding the Public Records Act was asked by Sue Pascoe, the Palisades News editor.

In July 2016, the News asked for emails concerning the dismissal of three Pacific Palisades Design Review Board (DRB) members because they attended a public meeting involving the Caruso project, and the subsequent dismissal of a fourth person, supposedly for ex parte communications.

The hauling is almost complete so that the construction of the underground parking can begin. Photo: Bart Bartholomew

The hauling is almost complete so that the construction of the underground parking can begin.
Photo: Bart Bartholomew

The City Attorney’s action sidelined the DRB and meant that Caruso’s Palisades Village project would not be subject to local overview, but would rather go directly to the City Planning Department and Councilman Bonin’s office.

The News wants to be clear: This is not about Caruso, whom we admire immensely; this is about Bonin. Did he or did he not orchestrate the removal of DRB members at the end of February, days before the vital DRB hearing, for his own benefit?

The News, despite repeated attempts, did not receive electronic emails within 10 days, the time limit generally given by law.

In December 2016, probably in anticipation of the upcoming election in March, Bonin’s office released 300 pages of emails, but they were dated after the dismissal, not prior, as the News had requested. Many of the emails were transcripts of public meetings and did not relate to the request.

With the help of the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s legal team, the News once again sent a request in February 2017, including the names of Mike Bonin and his planning director, Trisha Keane.

The News contacted the city’s IT person in March and asked how the search was going. Kuljeet Arora responded, “Your search was completed and the results were forwarded to Council District 11 (CD11), contact name Tricia Keane for review of the records. After the review process is completed, CD11 will forward the results to you. In this email, I am copying Tricia Keane.”

The News contacted Rob Wilcox, the director of community engagement in Mike Feuer’s office, and he responded in an April email.

“The City Attorney assists both ITA and the responsible department in reviewing and processing the request. We advise the responsible department on the application of any exemptions under the CPRA and on the general requirements of the act. Your request is being processed pursuant to this normal process.”

Since it has been almost a year since the News initially filed for the records that are supposed to be open to the public, we asked Feuer on June 22, “Does the city have to follow the California Public Records Act?”

“My office provides special advice to everybody in the city family,” he said, and added that although his office provides advice, they can’t direct an office how to respond. But added, “The city has to comply with the act.”

“You’re a lawyer for us, too, right?” the News asked Feuer.

Although Feuer is elected by Los Angeles residents, he pointed out that according to the City Charter he is the lawyer for the city, and Councilman Bonin is his client.

The News went to the City Charter, Sec. 271. Powers and Duties, where it says that the powers and duties of the city attorney shall be as follows:

  • The City Attorney shall represent the city in all legal proceedings against the City. The City Attorney shall initiate appropriate legal proceedings on behalf of the City.
  • The City Attorney shall be the legal advisor to the City, and to all City boards, departments, officers and entities. The City Attorney shall give advice or opinion in writing when requested to do so by any City officer or board.
  • The City Attorney shall prosecute on behalf of the people all criminal cases and related proceedings arising from violation of the provisions of the Charter and City ordinances, and all misdemeanor offenses arising from violation of the laws of the state occurring in the City.

Under Feuer’s last duty (c), it says that the City Attorney shall prosecute on behalf of the people “all misdemeanor offenses arising from violation of the laws of the state occurring in the City.”

If it isn’t up to the City Attorney to see that Councilman Bonin follows state laws, whose responsibility is it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *