For background on the following open letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti, first see http://janbtucker.com/blog/2013/08/28/public-records-request-to-la-office-of-finance/
First, excuse the familiarity of this letter’s opening salutation as I would normally address you properly as Honorable Mayor Garcetti, but in the spirit of transparency that I believe that you will instill in your administration of Los Angeles, and because in that same spirit I am issuing this letter openly to the public it is important that readers know up front that I endorsed you in the runoff election and that we have come to know each other over the last year. Likewise I campaigned for you, wrote and published blogs supporting your candidacy, and solicited my friends and supporters to vote for and assist your campaign in any way possible.
As I have recently cc’d you, members of your staff, City Attorney Mike Feuer, and City Controller Ron Galperin a California Public Records Act request directed to the Office of Finance I want to clarify my public policy concerns that may not be obvious or apparent from its text. During endorsement interviews with both you and City Controller Ron Galperin earlier this year I specifically raised issues that arise from the past conduct of the Office of Finance based upon my direct experience as a licensed investigator and consultant to several different small-medium parking lot operators in the Los Angeles area. Based upon a recent meeting I attended (August 27, 2013) in City Hall Room 152b, I have gained some significant new insights into the inner working and thinking within the Office of Finance that you should be aware of in your management of the City of Los Angeles and in the formulation of public policy moving forward in governance.
At the outset it is important that these issues be considered by people at the top of the organization because they are best in a position to “see the forest from the trees.” It is likely that personnel, including management in the Office of Finance, have higher education in such fields as accounting, finance, and business administration, as opposed to public administration and/or political science or some other social science. Therefore the application of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and one of the Impossibility Theorems (concerning the impossibility of certainty since you can’t know the effect of that which you don’t know) is not likely to have ever entered into the self-analysis or internal critiques of how the Office of Finance operates. This initial analysis also makes the supposition that overt corruption is not involved or does not necessarily need to be involved for the questionable behavior to have occurred. That said I do not and can not rule out overt corruption being involved due to what I learned in recent years from a whistle blower within the Office of Finance.
One of my areas of specialization in graduate school was International Relations and “Clientitis” is a terminology primarily used in that field. However there are analogous attitudes amongst regulatory bureaucrats in public administration within the United States and I would expect, in any national, regional or municipal bureaucracy anywhere in the world. As Wikipedia defines it:
Clientitis (also called clientism or localitis) is the tendency of resident in-country staff of an organization to regard the officials and people of the host country as “clients”. This condition can be found in business or government. The term clientitis is somewhat similar to the phrases “gone native” or “going native”.
A hypothetical example of clientitis would be an American Foreign Service Officer (FSO), serving overseas at a U.S. Embassy, who drifts into a mode of routinely and automatically defending the actions of the host country government. In such an example, the officer has come to view the officials and government workers of the host country government as the persons he is serving. Former USUN Ambassador John Bolton has used this term repeatedly to describe the mindset within the culture of the US State Department.
An example from business would be a representative for a company living in another nation, representing that company to the host nation and other institutions in that country. A business representative suffering clientitis would defend the host country government and operating environment as if those were his employers. [For original with citations, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clientitis]
Virtually every profession or industry has its own advocacy organizations, frequently known as “501(c)(6)” non-profits. As explained in IRS regulations:
Reg. 1.501(c)(6)-l defines a business league as an association of persons having a common business interest, whose purpose is to promote the common business interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Its activities are directed to the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business rather than the performance of particular services for individual persons.
I am reasonably well versed in the role of advocacy, both before regulatory boards and legislative bodies. I served an unprecedented seven (7) terms as Chair of the Board of the 501(c)(6) California Association of Licensed Investigators, the world’s largest private detective organization. Prior to me, nobody in the history of the organization was ever elected to more than three terms as either chair or president. As the world’s largest private eye group, we are sought out internationally by regulatory and legislative bodies seeking to begin their own initial regulatory schemes or to improve existing ones.
Regulatory clientitis occurs when the regulatory authorities come to think of the organization of a profession that they regulate as valued customers, as in a business setting, to the exclusion of non-members who are treated differently or less well as individuals. It is of course to the advantage of the professional organization, its officers and directors, and its legislative advocate (lobbyist) to have this occur, but in the theory of government that we practice in America our fundamental constitutional belief in due process of law and equal protection of the law cautions against regulators adopting clientitis as a general practice.
It is intuitively obvious from the statements made at the August 27, 2013 meeting in City Hall 152b that Assistant Director of the Office of Finance Ed Cabrera suffers from a serious case of clientitis. I noted in my August 28, 2013 California Public Records Act (CPRA) request to Cabrera a series of statements he had made and following is my hypothesis for which I have sought corroborating evidence pursuant to the CPRA:
Ed Cabrera’s claims
My hypothesis and/or questions
If it was a legitimate attempt at outreach to the industry as a whole, then why were companies who don’t happen to be clients of lobbyist Gregory J. Spiker not invited?
Cabrera didn’t known many of the people there because they weren’t Spiker’s clients and only showed up because a whistle blower leaked the existence of the meeting to them just a couple of days before. Thanking Spiker for reaching out to those people shows Cabrera’s clueless.
If the meeting really was an effort at outreach why weren’t all registered parking lot operators notified?
If you invite only a registered lobbyist’s clients to a meeting to educate people on their legal obligations and not “each operator registered with the Office of Finance” how can you say with a straight face that your “administration of tax should be fair and consistent across the board?
1. That you told a person at the meeting asking a question “I would prefer that you run them [questions] through Greg”
2. That you stated “After Greg and I discuss it we can come to some agreement”
These comments speak for themselves as examples of pure, unadulterated regulatory clientitis!
Why should companies have to belong to an association to deal with a government regulator? This is not a rhetorical question; it is a serious philosophical one which segues into the next issue…do we live in the United States of America, EEUU, or do we live in the United Mexican States?
Corporatism vs Pluralism
A 2005 College Board Briefing Paper: Mexico by Caroline Beer of the University of Vermont echoed some of my own learning from CSU Northridge where I studied communitarian philosophy—stemming from the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas–as an undergraduate student of Dr. Larry Litwin and Professor Blase Bonpane (I was also later to become Blase’s graduate assistant). I also extensively studied corporatist governance in connection with my term paper on Mexico for a graduate seminar on Authoritarianism conducted by Dr. Kit Machado. Caroline Beer notes the three well-known sectors of the longtime Mexican governing party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional or “PRI:” National Peasant Confederation (Confederación Nacional Campesina—CNC), the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos—CTM) and the middle class or petit bourgeois sector, National Confederation of Popular Organizations (Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Populares-CNOP).
While these groups were within the structure of the ruling party, the PRI, many discussions of communitarian or corporatist politics in Mexico miss a critical point. Even when you are both theoretically and actually outside the ruling party, i.e. by being grande bourgeoisie it does not mean that you are excluded from negotiating with the government, but in a corporatist or communitarian system you must do so through an organization representing your class interests as opposed to your individual interests. In Mexico, there were two major capitalist organizations that the PRI government dealt with, negotiating with those organizations as outsiders. If you attempted to deal with the government as an individual or as a business, de facto you were not going to get the time of day.
The theory behind corporatism, of which there are right, middle, and left varieties (the right wing version being known as “fascism”) is that, as enunciated by Italian fascists:
Fascism’s theory of economic corporatism involved management of sectors of the economy by government or privately controlled organizations (corporations). Each trade union or employer corporation would, theoretically, represent its professional concerns, especially by negotiation of labour contracts and the like. This method, it was theorized, could result in harmony amongst social classes. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporatism]
In general communitarian theories of the role of government, social classes have rights and you exercise your personal rights through your class, whereas in Anglo-American pluralist theories of government, you have individual rights by being a human being that the government must accord you along with your right to associate and your right to refrain from association. The middle of the road manifestation of communitarian philosophy is usually represented by so-called “Christian Democratic” political parties, while left wing communitarianism may be exemplified by the organization of Cuba, even though the governing Communist Party purports to be ostensibly Marxist. That Salvador Allende’s vision for the transformation of Chilean society was so manifestly communitarian (even though ostensibly Marxist), the left wing of the Christian Democrats split off forming the Popular Unitary Action Movement or MAPU (Spanish: Movimiento de Acción Popular Unitario) which became part of the Unidad Popular as part of the coalition that elected Allende president.
Whether communitarian or pluralist doctrine are inferior or superior to one another is a question of values and outcomes. Not every institution in the United States of America (EEUU) is pluralist. The entire theory underlying the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) and the National Labor Relations Board is plainly communitarian in nature, while purportedly protecting the pluralist notion that people have a right not to associate collectively if they so choose.
With that framework from which to analyze the Los Angeles Office of Finance, whether it thinks it is operating this way or not, the Office of Finance has a de facto practice that is corporatist and non-pluralist in nature and both by its deeds and its words operates more like the traditional authoritarian government of Mexico than of the ostensibly pluralist United States of America. “Words may show a man’s wit, actions his meaning.” ― Benjamin Franklin. In the case of Ed Cabrera both his deeds and his words demonstrate that the Office of Finance only goes through a registered lobbyist for a certain set of companies that pay their lobbyist for consultation of any sort on how to regulate the parking industry. The clients of that lobbyist exercise the de facto use of City Hall rooms to hold meetings in that are intended to be private and limited to them and them only. The lobbyist benefits by being legitimized in his appearance of having power by the words of Ed Cabrera referring to that particular lobbyist’s role in the formulation of regulatory and legislative policy and by his access to the use of a City Hall meeting room for his clients. That the Office of Finance fails to inform or include the rest of those whom it regulates sends a signal to the non-clients that if they want something from City Hall and the Office of Finance, they’d better join the association and pay fees to its lobbyist.
By my values, this is wrong.
The Existing de facto Governance Model is Incompetent
If nothing else, the existing practices and procedures promote corruption within the parking industry and within City Hall. This has been going on for decades if not for time immemorial in Los Angeles.
When Tom Bradley was Mayor, a scandal broke out concerning the management of the LAX parking lots in which numerous low level employees, almost all of them Thai immigrants, were arrested and charged with felony embezzlement. I was consulted as defense investigator by two different defense lawyers, Arthur Azdair and Lou Bernstein, neither of whom knew each other but yet both told an identical tale. Their clients insisted that the real culprits were the managers of the company that employed them and that just to get and keep their jobs they had to kick up percentages of the embezzlement take which went all the way up the corporate ladder.
Both Arthur and Lou’s clients offered to roll over in exchange for a plea bargain. The Deputy District Attorneys prosecuting the case refused. Both Arthur and Lou were told point blank by a very pissed off District Attorney Investigator that the District Attorney’s office refusal of any plea deals for these underlings was because if they started the ball rolling and went up the ladder, “it would lead straight into City Hall.”
When Miguel Contreras was a member of the Airport Commission and this same company tried a comeback bid to get back its old contracts at LAX, I provided him with my case file and gave him a list of questions to ask the managers appearing before the commission. The questions I formulated were designed to lead to who in City Hall had been on the take to cover this little fiasco up. When Miguel got to the third question on my list that company abruptly pulled out of the bidding process. I can’t imagine why.
Then there is the little story I’ve written about in the past concerning campaign contributions that coincided with the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against Grant Parking, one of the many parking companies owned by the Ullman family. On March 8, 2006, City Attorney Rockard “Rocky” Delgadillo, the City Attorneys Office and a private law firm retained by the Community Redevelopment Agency file suit against a whole bunch of companies and organizations–including Grant Parking owned by the Ullman family–in an eminent domain case On March 15, 2006, Richard Ullman contributes $5,600 to “Californians for Rocky” — Delgadillo’s campaign committee for his 2006 Primary run for Attorney General On March 16, 2006, two things happen: the lawsuit is dismissed only against Grant Parking and Cathryn Ullman makes an additional $5,600 contribution to Californians for Rocky. Enough said, come to your own conclusions…..
Then there’s Five Star Parking, a company originally formed to take over management of County of Los Angeles owned parking lots which had employed County workers under SEIU contract. The company was formed as a dba of three different competing parking lot companies, amounting to what was arguably a conspiracy in restraint of trade in violation of anti-trust laws. The net result: wages and working conditions went down for the employees over night while parking fees escalated.
At some point Five Star Parking became a suspended corporation, but that did not stop it from operating. Under the tutelage of its law firm, the company transferred its assets as though it had a right to do so as a suspended corporation (which it clearly did not) and started operating first under one fictitious business name statement filed with Los Angeles County and then another. Both of the dba filings factually contradicted each other and both were filed by the same law firm. Did anybody in the City of Los Angeles—which became well aware of these facts during litigation—do anything about this state of affairs? Of course not.
If the Office of Finance and other city regulatory agencies bothered to engage on a periodic basis with all parking lot operators—a practice in effect prior to Antonio Villaraigosa’s administration that was altered for who knows what reason—they might actually hear through the proverbial grapevine what’s actually happening in the industry and be able to fight corruption before it gets out of hand. However, when people are in authority in the City who feel themselves to be unaccountable to anybody, that isn’t a practice that’s likely to be implemented. In one of my investigations, I uncovered extortionate activity by another private investigator and the head of a certain Jewish/Israeli crime family of Hungarian Jewish descent, of which I have publicly written:
In connection with the City of Los Angeles’ prosecution of [two of my clients] J.B. Tucker & Associates sent two (2) letters to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, neither of which he has bothered to respond to (including but not limited to violating the California Public Records Act time deadline). The second letter, dated May 11, 2007, asks Mayor Villaraigosa to explain a campaign contribution he received from a certain very notorious convicted felon (made before the man’s felony conviction). In my letter, I posed the issues as:
“If you know why xxxxxxxx made this contribution, I would like you to explain it. If you don’t but know (or can find out) what persons from your campaign staff might have information regarding this contribution I would like to interview them regarding it.
I am also asking that (1) you disclose to me whether you ever used xxxx’s services for “opposition research,” (2) if you used him for “reverse research,” (i.e., investigating yourself in order to anticipate what a political opponent might find out), (3) whether xxxxxxxxx’s payment was by check or some other instrument that would enable him to ascertain the bank account number in which it was deposited (in the event that you were the target of one of his investigations), and (4) you make yourself available for an interview regarding this matter.”
For some strange reason I never got a response from Antonio….draw your own conclusion.
Workers in Little Boxes
Folk singer Malvena Reynolds wrote and sang in part in her seminal song, Little Boxes, that:
And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
Malvena’s acolyte, Los Angeles Folk singer Joanna Cazden updated the concept in More Little Boxes when she sang that “Andy they’re grey ones and they’re grey ones and they’re grey ones and they’re grey ones and they’re all on Wilshire Blvd and they all look just the same.”
Eric: do you want to preside over an administration of obedient proles who see themselves as cogs in a wheel, sitting in their little cubicles without innovative thoughts and afraid of their managers or do you want to lead an active and engaged workforce that is self-critical and respected by the people it regulates in the public interest?
If City regulatory authorities didn’t have tunnel vision and if they were interested in peering outside their little boxes they might have actually thwarted a case of espionage and treason against the United States simply by doing their job to regulate the parking industry. Some years ago, I detected it in what should have been a routine investigation, contacted the FBI Anti-Terrorist Division which in turn handed me over to Counter-Intelligence for the follow up. More details I cannot go into here, in public, but suffice it to say following September 11, 2001 there was much lip service paid that every single public servant needed to be the eyes and ears on the watch to keep America safe. Some people actually take that seriously. It doesn’t matter whether one is a dog catcher, a mail carrier, or even a parking lot regulatory official; if I can stumble onto a case of espionage and treason just by a routine investigation in the Los Angeles parking lot industry, so can the Office of Finance. If that is, they actually cared to take into consideration all the stakeholders in the industry and not just those represented by a single lobbyist.
This is not some theoretical exercise. It is well known that Al Qaeda has twice planned to take out the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles; and in case you are not personally aware of it, the Al Qaeda linked cell taken down in Spain some years ago were caught with surveillance photos of San Francisco Bay Area bridges and the Los Angeles U.S. Bank Tower. Whether it is the Office of Finance or the investigative staff of the Police Commission, their vigilance might have earlier detected a player in the parking industry engaged in potential terrorist activity before I had to stumble upon it.
On February 26, 1993, the terrorists who detonated the truck bomb in the underground parking lot of the North Wing of the World Trade Center were unable to get the truck parked close enough to a corner of the building, screwing up their logistical plan. What if the parking lot operator was in on that plot (and incidentally, the FBI could have prevented it had they taken one of my former colleagues seriously when he gave them dossiers on five of the people they wound up arresting for the crimes, warning the FBI that they were planning to bomb something).
The City of Los Angeles has a stake in dealing fairly and openly with all of its parking lot operators in the interest of public safety as it does with many other occupations. Allowing the Office of Finance to limit its outreach to a single lobbyist and his clients does not comport with such an important public policy goal.
The Alternative: ParkMaggedon
“Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved….”–Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter 27.
In the modern world, Machiavelli’s advice is well taken by collective classes of people as well as the government and certainly by individuals.
In light of the ordinance that was passed and effectively hidden under the previous Mayoral administration from the entire Los Angeles parking lot industry, with the exception of Ken Spiker & Associates clients’ and with the admitted participation of KSA in the formulative process of the ordinance requiring surety bonds to guarantee the payment of taxes held in trust by parking lot operators, the non-clients of KSA have felt very little love from the City of Los Angeles and may have to resort to exercising their collective power. As Chief Little Turtle of the Miami Indians cautioned, “If our people fight one tribe at a time, they will be cut off like the fingers from a hand. But if we join together, we make a powerful fist.”
Frankly, several of the operators with significant market share in downtown Los Angeles are discussing a action of perfectly legal civil disobedience, i.e., una huelga general, a small business general strike. To bring Los Angeles to a standstill, they do not even need the cooperation of the Los Angeles Parking Association members, KSA’s clients. As far as many non-members are concerned the ordinance was sold to as a bill of goods to the Office of Finance by KSA in the interests of the association’s members and very carefully designed to force smaller operators out of business. As noted, this will not be the first time that governmental authorities in Los Angeles have stood by idly or even collaborated as they did with Five Star Parking’s conspiracy in restraint of trade.
Aside from the fact that calling a general strike is in the financial and political interests of the smaller operators, to many of them it is a matter of dignity. All of the small and medium operators I deal with happen to be immigrants and their workforces are universally immigrants. I cannot actually disagree with the perception they have that what the Office of Finance has done to them by giving favorable treatment to KSA’s clients is in no small way attributable to national origin discrimination and other distinctions of social-subgroups.
One of the simplest tactics to pull off during civil disobedience against the Vietnam War was the “Park-In,” which we might in contemporary terms call a ParkMaggedon. You buy four running vehicles from junk yards. You drive them in tandem on four lanes of a freeway, slowing down and finally stopping in tandem at rush hour. You get out of the vehicles, take the keys, lock the cars and walk away. However, a contemporary ParkMaggedon launched by parking lot operators requires nothing unlawful…..
Imagine what happens if one or two or three companies with say 50-60 parking lots in Downtown Los Angeles shut down for a day. Imagine if that figure goes up to four, five or six companies.
Imagine the traffic jams….the traffic chaos. Imagine lawyers, judges, and litigants trying to get to court. Imagine municipal employees trying to get to work at City Hall. Imagine all the downtown businesses trying to receive their deliveries on time. Imagine chaos.
Please consider this carefully. Parking lot operators who are not members of Los Angeles and/or the California Parking Association are ready and willing and desirous of meeting with you and/or your staff to discuss the immediate and long term problems within the parking industry in an effort to prevent a general strike against the proposed bonding ordinance. Feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience to effectuate such a meeting.
Respectfully yours, Jan B. Tucker