Thursday, March 3, 2016
by Scott Zwartz
Mutual Bribery are the best words to describe how the Los Angeles City Council functions. This article will explain how the Mutual Bribery works and how it harmed Los Angeles
Mutual Bribery is the reciprocal agreement among all Los Angeles City Councilmembers that no councilmember will vote against a construction project in another councilmember’s district. “You let me do what I want and I will let you do what you want.”
The term Mutual Bribery highlights the fact that councilmembers are trading votes. Do not go looking for developer X to hand a bundle of greenbacks to city councilmembers to get his projects approved. Los Angeles’s system is more sophisticated than “I’ll Give you $1,000.00 for your vote.” The Mutual Bribery is an automatic full time agreement always operating at Los Angeles City Council. This institutionalization of bribery makes life much easier on developers. A developer only has to sweet talk a single councilmember in order to get unanimous approval of his project. Each time a councilmember defers to a colleague, he is violating the law as that “deferment” is in return for the other councilmembers’ deferment on all development projects in his district.
Penal Code, § 86 says that every city councilmember, who gives his/her official vote in consideration that another member of city council give his/her vote either upon the same or another question, is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years. Penal Code 86
Thus, the short answer to why is “mutual bribery a criminal act” is that because the State Legislature made any type of vote trading a form of criminal bribery As explained below, the Mutual Bribery pact has brought real social, economic and political evils to Los Angeles.
SaveValleyVillage has sued the Los Angeles City Council to stop the Mutual Bribery. SaveValleyVillage v City of LA #BS160608 SaveValleyVillage became involved when Councilmember Krekorian used the Mutual Bribery system to demolish one of Marilyn Monroe’s historic homes in Valley Village rather that allowing the community time to have it moved and preserved for history. As SaveValleyVillage pointed out, without this criminal voting pact at City Council, it is unlikely that Marilyn’s home would have been demolished. Because the Mutual Bribery pact gave Councilmember Krekorian 100% confidence that the City Council would unanimously approve the destruction, there was no reason to follow the law. As Krekorian knew, the destruction unanimously approved without single councilmember’s uttering a word of lament at the loss.
In return for the wanton and needless destruction of Marilyn’s home, SaveValleyVillage has vowed to destroy the corrupt voting system at Los Angeles City Council.
In all California cities, Mutual Bribery is criminal, but it would not be as devastating in other cities as it is in Los Angeles. If a city had 15 councilmen and 11 were at a hearing and 5 voted for a development project and the other 6 did not vote, the project would fail. Five is not a majority of eleven. In most cities, the councilmen would have to get at least a majority of the quorum to approve his project. Councilmen could adhere to the agreement pact to not vote against a project and still defeat bad development projects. If even councilmen did not vote Yes, a bad project would not get a majority approval. That is not how Los Angeles City Council functions.
Los Angeles City Council Rule 48a makes all Non-Votes into Yes Votes. That means that if not a single councilmember votes Yes on a development project, the project is reported as unanimously approved. As far as Zwartz Talk has been able to find, no other California city allows Zero Votes = Unanimous Approval. Council Rule 48a Non Votes = Yes Vote
All Los Angeles City Councilmembers know that by Not Voting on a project, they are in fact Voting Yes.
When Penal Code, § 86 was amended in 2006 to include city councils, the San Francisco City Attorney explained that no form of vote trading would be permitted. On December 1, 2006, Jon Givner, San Francisco Deputy City Attorney, warned the San Francisco Board, “Nonetheless, the mandate of section 86 is clear: members of the Board [council] may not trade votes with each other . . . ” PenalCode 86, 2006-12-1 SanFran memo agt Vote Trading #1
The Los Angeles City Attorney has issued no such advisement to the City Council. At least, Zwartz Talk has been unable to find it, and the City Attorney’s Office reports that there is none. Likewise, The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office looks the other way despite the law’s violation several thousand times since 2006. The United States Attorney for Los Angeles is likewise mum as is the California Attorney General.
Excuses Los Angeles Superior Court Judges
Give To Condone Mutual Bribery
Zwartz Talk cautions up front — no judge has yet used any of these excuses in court. These are only the sentiments of some of the judges. There might be judges who are willing to strike down Mutual Bribery. (Don’t hold your breath. On the other hand, let’s give them a chance to do the right thing.) As we have seen, if the judges have to wait for law enforcement to bring the obvious criminal anti-bribery case, the judges will wait for eternity. Following are the three most common behind the scenes excuses which the public is likely to hear to deny the Mutual Bribery is illegal — but hopefully the judiciary will debunk each false justification.
The three reasons most common reasons that there is nothing wrong with this agreement.
(1) The agreement is not in writing, and thus, it does not exist, and
(2) There is nothing wrong with deferring to another councilmember. According to some judges, “I’ll defer to you if you defer to me” is not an agreement, and
(3) Agreeing not to vote is not the same as giving a vote.
(4) August 8, 2016 Update: The City has come up with a fourth reason. It is above the law and the courts may not interfere in the City’s business
Each rationalization lacks merit for the following reasons:
(1) Agreements do not have to be in writing; they can be oral or they can be implied by behavior. An agreement can be proven by evidence of conduct. 1,000 consecutive unanimous votes is mathematically impossible without an agreement. #OscarsSoWhite was a national scandal involving only 40 nominations over two years. Yet, some superior court judges want to pretend that 1,000 unanimous city council votes over 5 years are all in good faith.
(2) Deferring in return for deferring is the definition of vote trading. So too are softer words like ‘listen to” or ‘heed” other councilmembers admissions. All euphemisms are admissions of participating in an illegal voting process. It does not matter what words Council President Herb Wesson or Councilmember David Ruy use to justify their actions: Mutual Deferment, Mutual Not Voting, Mutual Bribery are all alternate ways of describing to engaging in criminal vote trading.
(3) As explained above, due to City Council Rule 48a, agreeing Not to Vote is an agreement to Vote Yes. Will any councilmember use the excuse that he is ignorant of the City Council rules and that he never noticed that all his Non votes were counted as Yes Votes?
(4) What will a judge do with this assertion that whatever the City does, its actions is beyond the power of the courts to control? The City says that because it is an separate branch of government, the judiciary may not review whether the City follows or breaks the laws.
(1) Mutual Bribery disenfranchises 93% of Angelenos
People were pleased as pink punch when they elected David Ryu as Councilmember for Council District #4. Historically, every City Councilmember or his anointed successor had won election. Carolyn Ramsey, who had been La Bonge’s Chief Staff and who was a nice enough person, was anointed not only by La Bonge but also by the LA Times and Mayor Garcetti. Those endorsements may have been the kiss of death to Ramsey’s candidacy in an district that was feed up with City Hall corruptionism. As a result, outsider David Ryu won the election.
How did David Ryu’s election change the Mutual Bribery system?
Not one iota.
Although David Ryu had told the audience at Los Feliz Improvement Association’s Candidate Forum that he would expose any unlawful voting, Councilmember Ryu’s voting pattern exemplifies Mutual Bribery. He has not cast a single No Vote on any development project since he has joined the City Council.
Between July 1, 2015 and March 2, 2016, Councilmember has voted No only seven (7) times, and none of his No Votes was against a development project in another council district. According the City Clerk, in just the month of September 2015, Councilmember cast more than 500 Yes Votes. Since 500 votes per month is average for a councilmember, that means that for the eight (8) months between July 2015 through February 2016, Councilmember Ryu voted Yes 4,000 times and he votes No only 7 times. None of his seven No Votes was about a construction project in another district. As one can see the Mutual Bribery operates as to more than construction projects in other districts. Councilmember Ryu voted No only .0175% of the time. That means Councilmember Ruy voted Yes 99.98 of the time. Does anyone think that percent Yes Vote means that Councilmember Ryu is exercising his independent discretion? He get over $184,000 per year plus a large staff, yet, he defers to the other councilmembers over 99% of the time. I think Councilmember Ruy owes us a $183,963.20 refund.
By adhering to the Mutual Bribery pact, Councilmember Ryu disenfranchises his constituents. The only development projects on which he has any opinion are the ones in his own district and he supports them 100% of the time. It does not matter whether CD #2, or Cd #13, or CD #10 project is horrible for CD#4 by causing harmful density in a neighboring district. Councilmember Ruy will be silent; he will say nothing to support his own constituents, and he will vote Yes — either by physically pressing his Yes button or more likely by Not Voting.
(2) Mutual Bribery Violates Citizens’ Right to Self-Government
Many do not realize that the Mutual Bribery results in a significant voting rights violation and is actionable under 42 U.S.C 1983 and 18 U.S.C. 242. As soon as a Los Angeles City Councilmember is elected, he/she enters into a mutual voting scam whereby each councilmember agrees to forfeit his/her right to represent his constituents on 93% of the development projects which come before City Council. Because each councilmember agrees to Vote Yes either by actually voting Yes or Not Voting under Council Rule 48a, each councilmember is disenfranchising his own district members. The 93% is arrived at since there are 15 council district and each Councilmember gives up his right and duty as to 14 out of the 15 council districts. [14/15 = 93.3%] Let’s be clear, on 93% of council projects, each councilmember has agreed to not represent his own constituents. On the remaining 7%, he will vote Yes.
Please show me the voters who went to the polls in order to elect someone who would refuse to represent the voters who elected him/her.
(3) Mutual Bribery Destroys All Land Use Planning
Because the Mutual Bribery agreement absolutely guarantees that each and every development project will be unanimously approved, there is no need for any project to follow any law. There is no exception to the vote trading agreement for projects which are clearly illegal. The poster child for an illegal project is the Target Store at Sunset and Western in Hollywood. Everyone knew that it violated the Specific Plan known as SNAP. SNAP said no commercial project could be higher than 35 feet and the Target Store was 74 feet 4 inches. Yet, the city council gave it unanimous approval. Why? Because Councilmember Garcetti wanted the Target Store to be approved.
There can be no General Plan, there can be no Community Plan, there can be no Specific Plan or there can be no zoning laws when any developer can violate any land use law with full confidence that the City Council will unanimously approve his illegal project.
(4) Mutual Bribery has Diverted of Billions of Tax Dollars
When no councilmember may vote No, it is easy to divert billions of tax dollars to the developers. The City, for example, gave $17.4 Million to CIM Group’s project at 5929 Sunset Boulevard, knowing that the Project was illegal. (http://bit.ly/1N1Jx4U May 13, 2014, CityWatch, Big Developer Looking for Another Handout from LA Taxpayers, by Ziggy Kruse) Judge James Chalfant had ordered that the illegal construction voided all the permits including the Occupancy Permits. Did a single Councilmember vote against giving $17.4 Million to CIM Group?
The amount of money which has been funneled into these Projects reach into the billions of dollars over the years. The biggest culprit was the corrupt Community Redevelopment Agency which the State abolished effective February 1, 2012. Nonetheless, no Councilmember may vote No — no matter how much tax money goes into a project; nor may he/she vote No if the developer is relieved of paying developer fees. Not collecting developer fees has the same impact on the City treasury as giving a tax break or giving the developer cash. The developer has more money and the public coffers are depleted.
Because the Mutual Bribery voting pact has diverted so much tax money, the City has lacked the funds to repair streets or water mains. Although the taxpayers have vetoed down the most recent ballot proposal to increase the city taxes, the City Council voted itself a tax hike yesterday (3-2-2016). About 18% of all DWP revenue is passed to the City which then uses various accounting tricks to give money to the developers. Thus, by approving the DWP rate hike, the City raised everyone’s city taxes — and none of that 18% will go to repair water mains. The DWP would had about three times as much money each year if the 18% skim-off to the city had been eliminated. [As this DWP vote is not for a “development project,” Councilmembers Englander and Cedillo actually voted No.]
The diversion of tax dollars to developers is the major reason the City of Los Angeles is doing so poorly. Some of the “City Leaders” became so alarmed at the City’s decline that they formed what was called the 2020 Commission. In 2013, it issued its 2020 Commission Time for Truth It began:
“Los Angeles is barely treading water while the rest of the world is moving forward. We risk falling further behind in adapting to the realities of the 21st century and becoming a City in decline.” A Time For Truth, December 2013 page 1
When it came time to propose a solution, the 2020 Commission defaulted. Written primarily by the downtown mega law firms which represent the major developers, the follow up 2014 report, 2020 Commission A-Time-For-Action, ignored the elephant in the room — City Council’s Mutual Bribery scam. One wonders on what planet Attorney Mickey Kantor had been living when he came out with the original 2020 Commission Time for Truth. Apparently, Attorney Kantor was the only person in town who did not know how the City Council operated.
As a result of the years of the Mutual Bribery, Los Angeles has never been able to get a handle on its Land Use. Not only has the City made a horrible mess of city planing, it is slowly dying. Just as Rome was not built in a day, the Decline and Fall of the Holy Roman Empire did not happen over night. Those who look can see the needless decline which a corrupt City Council brings.
The district most heavily impacted by the Mutual Bribery was the City Council’s proudest advocate of Mutual Bribery, that is Eric Garcetti’s CD #13. He used it to run rough shod over any law that stood in the way of his desire to Manhattanize Hollywood. The result was that between 2001 and 2010, Garcetti had used the Mutual Bribery pact at City Council so often that he literally destroyed his own council district CD #13. So many people were driven out by his land use policies that CD #13 ceased to qualify as a legal city council district. Since hundreds of millions of tax dollars were diverted to Hollywood, all the other 14 council districts were financially harmed. Yet, no a single dissenting vote at City Council. 11/15th of the City’s residents had been closed out of self-government by operation of the Mutual Bribery pact. South Central had to stand by as millions of dollars were sent to Hollywood. Even the Promise Zone money for minority education from Washington DC was diverted to Hollywood developers.
(5) Mutual Bribery Caused L.A.’s Infrastructure Decay
Under the voting pack, no councilmember may vote No on the diversion of public money to a development project in another district and that means the City has lacked the funds to provide adequate City services for a decade. Businessmen do not want to relocate to a City which has a crumbling infrastructure. They know there are two futures: (1) an increasing dysfunctional infrastructure, (2) higher taxes to compensate for years of neglect. http://bit.ly/1cPdZCR March 25, 2015, Zwartz Talk, Power Corrupts; Corruption Destroys – Power and Corruption at Los Angeles City Hall
So what’s to become of the Mutual Bribery pact at City Council? Nothing! It will survive and thrive, as the City declines.
Is anyone so naive as to think that after a decade of turning the other way and collecting campaign donations, that the District Attorney will do anything? Does anyone think that California Attorney General Kamala Harris will risk any campaign donations in her run of the US Senate by doing anything about Mutual Bribery? Illegal vote trading at Los Angeles City Hall is the king of the roost when to comes to corruption. By comparison, Chicago hardly merits an “honorable mention.”
Is anyone so naive not to understand the politics behind U.S. Attorneys? First Tony V was the darling of the Democrat Party until they got a first hand look at him at the 2012 Convention. Now, the Democrats have their new hero, Eric Garcetti, who was the vocal champion of Mutual Bribery while he was City Council President from 2006 to 2012. He got his special speaking spot at the 2016 Democratic Nation Convention which actually allowed him to brag about how great corruptionism has been for Los Angeles.
We know the track record of the L.A. County District Attorney and that Eric Garcetti’s daddy was once the DA. If forced to deal with vast corruption in some tiny town which has a despicable cast of characters, we’ll get show prosecutions. White collar criminals who are Too Important to Prosecute operate with impunity.
The public may rest assured that no law enforcement agency is so politically inept as to tackle a decade long criminal voting conspiracy which has cost the City billions of dollars and is largely responsible for the crumbling of our infrastructure — not to mention the multi-billion pension deficit.
Remember, each violation of Penal Code 86 carries potential sentence of 4 years in prison. Because every councilmember since 2006 has violated Penal Code 86 at least a 1,000 times, we face the ludicrous situation of each one facing a possible 4,000 years at Folsom State Prison.
No law enforcement official has the cojones to put one of them in jail for 4 minutes. It’s a true Pandora’s Box. Either law enforcement continues with its Code of Silence as to every Councilmember or the entire House of Cards eventually comes tumbling down.
The tantalizing question is what will the civil court judge who ends up with The SaveValleyVillage case do? Follow the law? Ha! We should live so long. Other than the naive folks at SaveValleyVillage, who thinks any civil court judge will pave the way for criminal prosecutions of all of Los Angeles City Councilmembers?