Venice Stakeholders File Lawsuit Against Mayor Villaraigosa

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From the Venice Stakeholders Association:

Venice Stakeholders Files Lawsuit Against Mayor Villaraigosa to Obtain Public Records Related to Alleged Dirty Tricks by Mayoral Staffer

Petition

(Venice, CA/2-17-11) The Venice Stakeholders Association today filed a lawsuit under the California Public Records Act to obtain records which the VSA believes support claims on the website Yo!Venice! that the Mayor’s Associate Director of Transportation, Jim Bickhart, repeatedly posted hostile and hateful comments on the website under a pseudonym in an effort to discredit Venice Stakeholders and others who support overnight restricted parking in Venice.

“The Mayor’s Office is withholding documents in violation of the Public Records Act that we believe confirm that Bickhart is the agent provocateur who smeared our organization,” VSA president Ryavec said. “We also believe the withheld documents will show that Bickhart was misusing City time, a City office, and a City email account to further his personal campaign against overnight restricted parking and anyone who disagreed with him.”

The VSA previously received documents that included numerous email messages apparently transmitted from Mr. Bickhart’s City of Los Angeles email account and using his official City email address, in which he variously requested detailed information from City departments on OPDs; scheduled meetings with City employees on City time to generate opposition to the OPDs; drafted a letter to City officials opposing the OPDs; and discussed the status of settlement negotiations between City representatives and Coastal Commission staff concerning the pending litigation between the parties. The emails also indicated that Mr. Bickhart used City time for in-person meetings and perhaps telephone calls to advance his personal objective of defeating the OPDs.

None of these activities fall within Bickhart’s job description in the Mayor’s Office, which includes transportation issues at LAX and the Zoo.

Ryavec pointed out, ”At the same time Councilman Rosendahl’s staff, the City Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Engineering and the Department of Transportation were all trying to win Coastal Commission approval for the OPDs, Bickhart was using City time and equipment to defeat the City’s efforts.”

“It is pretty bizarre and suggests the Mayor is not properly supervising his staff,” Ryavec said. “None of these activities should have been performed on City time, using City resources.”

“Bickhart should be appropriately reprimanded for this behavior and he should be required to re-pay the City for the hours he used for his personal campaign,” the Venice leader said.

The suit alleges that none of the requested records is exempt from disclosure under an express provision of the CPRA, or under any other statutory or case authority.

John Henning, counsel for the VSA, said, “Under the CPRA, the public has a right to be informed of the activities of senior members of the Mayor’s office staff using City position and resources to oppose the official position of the City.”

Attachment: Petition of Venice Stakeholders Association v. Antonio Villaraigosa