March 24th, 2013
Dear Mr. Loesing,
It was touching news that your recent opinion piece in the Acorn labeled our publication as “acerbic and anti-city.” Such bold statements. Let’s test your opinion with a review of reporting performance this past election:
• ListenCalabasas! reported David Shapiro’s misrepresentation on his application for City Council as not having a potential conflict of interest to report, when court records indicate that Mr. Shapiro was in fact the attorney of record for then Mayor Bozajian in Mr. Bozajian’s lawsuit against his employer, the County of Los Angeles. ListenCalabasas! posted online both Mr. Shapiro’s application and the lawsuit against Los Angeles County filed by Mr. Shapiro, whose name prominently appears on the 1st page.
The Acorn reported that Mr. Shapiro’s misrepresentation was a non-issue, and published a statement from Mr. Bozajian claiming that there was no conflict of interest. Were we to be surprised with this statement? After all, Mr. Bozajian was also covering for himself. In terms of reporting, Mr. Bozajian’s opinion does not change the fact of their bad conduct, nor does it excuse the Acorn for burying the improper actions of these two Council members. Notably, the Acorn did not provide any references for the public to review to allow its readers to form their own opinion.
• ListenCalabasas! dug deeper into the story, only to find that this wasn’t Mr. Shapiro’s first time misrepresenting himself in an application for a civic role. In 2001, he also misrepresented himself in his application for temporary judgeship, which got him into a host of trouble with the California Bar. He escaped by claiming his secretary incorrectly filled out the form, and that he didn’t review it as he was under duress. Mr. Bozajian went on record at the time to back up his friend. We think patterns of bad behavior are important for Calabasas voters to know. All of the court documents that disclose these actions were posted online by ListenCalabasas! so that readers could review on their own and form their own opinions.
The Acorn? Not one word.
• ListenCalabasas!, in January of this year, reported that Mr. Bozajian told the court that he had no money to hire an attorney for his case against the County of Los Angeles, and that Mr. Shapiro took the case on contingency. We posted a link to the court documents where these statements were recorded. Mr Bozajian told the Acorn that Mr. Shapiro was no longer on the case (we have yet to see a court document that acknowledges this), and that “nothing was done in exchange for the appointment.” Interestingly, the Acorn published Mr. Bozajian’s explanatory statement prior to his testimony in court, where he raised reasonable doubt. Mr. Bozajian has yet to explain the disparity between not having money to hire an attorney and what his terms were to retire Mr. Shapiro from a case which he originally accepted on the basis of contingency, all of which coincided with Mr. Bozajian’s nomination of Mr. Shapiro to the City Council. The lack of transparency of the professional relationship between these two members of the City Council is an issue we feel worthy of voters to be aware of.
The Acorn? You guessed it, not one word.
• We made numerous other contributions towards a more informed citizenry. It was ListenCalabasas! that reported it was indeed the City of Calabasas that made the decision to disqualify Liat Samouhi from the race. All that the County did was provide the City with voter registration data, leaving full discretion to the City. The Acorn made no investigation, and simply provided cover for the City by means of pointing blame to the County. It was ListenCalabasas! that reviewed recent City expenditures to uncover that $867,000 was spent on legal fees over the past two years, a significant portion of which can be attributed to litigation against seniors over alleged building code violations. It was ListenCalabasas! that reviewed 9 years of City of Calabasas financial statements to report an increase in City expenditures of over 300% since 2004. A complete and downloadable spreadsheet was provided to our readers so they could evaluate on their own. The Acorn again made no investigation, simply telling its readers that the increase in costs was for services expected of the City. Your publication gave absolutely no backup to indicate why it thinks the cost of City operations today are worth a 300% increase over the cost of City operations in 2004.
We also need to discuss your label that this publication is “anti-city.” Allow us to share our view. With apologies for our language: we are anti-bullshit. If that means “anti-city” to you, then that’s something we can agree on.
The time is long overdue for Calabasas government to be fully transparent, and not covered up by local press. The Acorn, Mr. Loesing, would have us believe we live in Disneyland. We have cronies in government who cover up for each other. The City spends money in ways that do not benefit the bulk of the City’s citizens and businesses. No city is perfect, but no city is beyond critique, either. If you don’t like what we say in our publication, then may we suggest that you do a better job with yours.
With best regards,
All of the court documents referenced above can be reviewed at http://tinyurl.com/david-shapiro-calabasas. Please see the appropriate article for additional backup details.
March 4th, 2013
We’ve seen (and reported on) some bizarre things in Calabasas politics. Here’s a new one for you. Calabasas households received one of two mailings today from a PAC (Political Action Committee) called Calabasas Leadership Committee, whose registered address is the law offices of Gaines & Stacy LLC, of which Calabasas Councilperson Fred Gaines is a partner. One mailer was received by Republican households, another by Democratic households. The mailer sent to the Republicans says “Stop the Democratic Party and Big Union take over of Calabasas City Hall.” A big statement coming from Democrat Fred Gaines. Someone should tell Mr. Gaines that the nasty union people around Calabasas are members of the Writers Guild and the Directors Guild, people that we’re rather fond of. The mailer goes on to say “Don’t Vote For Jody Thomas.” Which is odd, as Ms. Thomas is the only candidate that’s shown interest in cutting the City’s oversized budget. Perhaps someone should stop Mr. Gaines, who seems to have lost a screw along the way.
We received the email below today from the campaign manager for City Council candidate Jody Thomas. We think it’s worthy of posting verbatim.
From: Jody Thomas for City Council
Subject: Election Update- Please read before you vote
Date: March 4, 2013
One thing the Thomas Campaign is extremely proud of is that we have always told the truth and leveled with the residents of Calabasas. The same can’t be said of our opponents.
Today, Calabasas Democrats and Republicans received two mailers, separately, from the “independent” PAC run by Fred Gaines.
In one mailer, sent to Democratic households, he recommends “Calabasas Democrats” vote for his cronies Mary Sue Maurer and appointee David J. Shapiro. Voters should be aware, the LA County Democratic Party endorsed only Jody Thomas in this election, mostly due to David J. Shapiro’s long history of violations and misconduct. Senator Pavley and the LA County Firefighters endorsed Jody as well.
Fred also sent out another mailer today, this one to Republican voters, attacking Jody for being a Democrat! Fred Gaines attacked Jody Thomas for being a member in good standing of his own party. The same party he told to vote for their fellow Democrats.
There is an expression for this: Fred Gaines is talking out of both sides of his mouth. Fred is telling Dems to vote for his chosen candidates and telling Republicans to fear the Democratic Party.
In the old days, Fred could get away with these political shenanigans, but with today’s technology, his hypocrisy can be exposed in real time so voters can know the truth.
When informed of these mailers, Jody Thomas said,
“I have always been transparent that I am a Democrat, but my message of good governance, smaller local government and transparency appeals to Republicans just as well as Democrats. This is a non partisan position and I will represent ALL residents. If you visit my website at www.JodyThomasforCouncil.com you will see that my ideas of restoring checks and balances is very appealing to my Republican friends and neighbors.”
When you vote tomorrow, please remember the integrity that Jody Thomas has shown on the campaign trail. Please remember these misleading mailers and the forces behind them.
Please remember, that if not for Jody, Calabasas residents would not have a choice in this election.
Brian Ross Adams
[original email Paid for by Jody H. Thomas for City Council: ID# 1354055]
If you’re tired of cronies running the City, we suggest casting your vote for Calabasas City Council candidate Jody Thomas. Your ballot will say you can vote for up to three candidates, but consider voting for only one. It’s a perfectly legal way to stick the finger to the cronies. Jody supporters say Vote ONLY for JODY on March 5.
March 1st, 2013
David Shapiro must have a lot on his mind. He forgot to check the box on his application for appointment to the City Council that says he had a “current obligation and responsibilities that could be construed as a conflict of interest.” At the time, Mr Shapiro was attorney for then Mayor James Bozajian. Both are now running for election to the City Council as part of an incumbent slate. Acting on his application, Mr. Bozajian nominated Mr. Shapiro in the Council’s ballot process for his appointment to City Council. We covered this memorable event in detail in an earlier article.
It seems Mr. Shapiro had a similar incident of having a lot on his mind in 2001 when filling out a Temporary Judge Application for the Temporary Judge Program of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. The application asked “As an attorney, have you ever been suspended, disbarred, or had your license suspended or revoked; or have you even been reprimanded, censored, or otherwise disciplined, or are any charges, formal or informal, presently pending against you?” His written response was “NO”, overlooking the fact that he was placed on probation for 2 years by the California State Bar 3 years prior, followed by the Bar’s administrative action of suspending his license to practice law a few months later for failing to pay his dues.
When it comes to Calabasas reality entertainment, we think Mr. Shapiro is doing a fantastic job at showing up the Kardashians.
For the inquisitive, Mr. Shapiro’s California Bar record is summarized online by the State Bar of California at http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/118325.
Learning of Mr. Shapiro’s misadventures as a Temporary Judge, we took a deeper dive into his past, and find that the “overlooked” case brought against him the by California Bar in 1998 reads like an overwrought novel. The website summary barely gives a clue, citing the status as “Discipline, probation; no actual suspension.” But an examination of court documents reveals that Mr. Shapiro was charged with 56 violations of either the Bar’s Business and Professions Code or its Rules of Professional Conduct. In spite of his numerous errors brought forth by the Bar, the likable Mr. Shapiro escaped with only probation. The lengthy and detailed charges can be viewed online by clicking this link. Stunningly, the piece de resistance is that he forgot to pay his Bar dues a few months later, leading to a 6-month suspension from practicing law in 1998.
In 2004, the State Bar, not happy with Mr. Shapiro’s oversight on his 2001 judgeship application, charged him with “committing an act of moral turpitude, dishonesty or corruption.” Mr. Shapiro’s plea was that his assistant filled out the form and he was too distracted to read it. Once again, the judge bought his story, and the likable Mr. Shapiro scored.
Calabasas voters: Does his story have a familiar ring to it?
But this is not the end of Mr. Shapiro’s tale with State Bar Court. In 2004, when his case went to trial, it was none other than Mr. Bozajian who stood up as a mitigating witness for Mr. Shapiro at his hearing. The court document listing Mr. Bozajian’s name as a mitigating witness can be viewed by clicking this link. Not only did Mr. Bozajian stand up for his friend in Bar Court, but he declared himself to the Court as “Deputy District Attorney and Mayor of Calabasas.”
It’s very touching when public officials use their elected positions to help their friends.
The full litany of court documents that pertain to Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Bozajian are now online courtesy of Google Drive, available to the public by clicking this link.
There is more to report about Mr. Shapiro’s oversights, however. The non-profit organization that he wears on his sleeve, Rock Life, turns out to have failed to file for non-profit status. An anonymous email was recently received (by this publication and presumably by others) pointing out the fact, following which the operators of Rock Life took quick and proper action to re-file their corporation as a non-profit. You’ll see a notice to this effect on their website. Mr. Shapiro, apparently, was too busy making promotional videos of himself with Mr. Rock to bother offering Mr. Rock proper legal advice. Had the well-meaning operators of Rock Life relied only on Mr. Shapiro, the IRS would have had something to say about it.
The more we learn about Mr. Shapiro and his friend, Mr. Bozajian, the less there is to like. Indeed, there is a lot to not like about each of the incumbents running for election. But there is only one candidate running against three incumbents, and there are three seats to be filled.
What to do? We have a suggestion: vote for only one candidate. Your ballot will tell you that you can vote for up to three candidates, but it’s perfectly legal to vote for only one. Your one vote will count against the others, and will help send a message to the City that we’ve had enough of this nonsense.
You knew this was coming: here’s the part where we show bias. We suggest you say “NO” to the cronies, and vote “YES” for Calabasas City Council candidate Jody Thomas. Your ballot will say you can vote for up to three, but we suggest you vote for only one candidate. It’s a clever and perfectly legal way to leverage your vote into a statement: Vote ONLY for JODY on March 5.
February 7th, 2013
An interesting comment seen by this publication is that it appears there aren’t any big issues to be addressed by this election. To be fair, we agree that the candidates have not done enough to spell out the real issues. Leave aside those that we’ve identified with certain incumbents in the present race. There are more substantive issues to address that need to be spelled out.
The underlying problem with Calabasas City government has not changed in seven years. Calabasas government has tripled in size over that time, while it’s services have not. Whether one agrees or not with the City owning and operating its own Library (we think there are benefits to the community), the Calabasas Library represents around 30 full-time-equivalent City employees. What the candidates have NOT explained is what the other 220 City employees do.
Studying the City’s financial reports dating back to the fiscal year ending 2004, the City of Calabasas in 2004 had 80 employees. Do you recall complaints about City services in 2004? We don’t. But since 2004, the City payroll has grown to 250 equivalent full-time employees. That’s over 300% growth, the bulk of it occurring over a period of a few years. Most people, this publication included, call this for what it is: BLOAT. And Mr. Bozajian and Ms. Maurer, please stop telling us the excessive size of our City is necessary to support the Library and the Tennis and Swim Center, because it isn’t.
To picture this in another way, the City of Calabasas is now the 5th largest employer in Calabasas, based on data reported in the City’s own annual reports. 10 years ago, the City didn’t even rate as one of the top 15 employers.
You can see the tremendous growth in payroll reflected in City expenditures in the graph below. This graph is compiled from actual General Fund expenditures reported by the City in its annual Financial Reports from 2004 up through 2012. We took the fruit of our labor and put it in an online, downloadable spreadsheet for our readers to evaluate on their own.
City of Calabasas Expenditures for Fiscal Years ending 2004-2012
The chart only shows current expenditures. It does not tell us our future obligations. The City of Calabasas is committed to pensions and health insurance that have no equivalent in current expenditures. We’re a young city, and we will one day learn that we have entitlement issues, following in the footsteps of our State and Federal governments.
Bloat is easy to manifest when revenue is high and there are no checks on spending. That pretty much sums up Calabasas. We’re lucky as a city to have a healthy revenue stream. But we should use our good fortune for causes other than feeding our bloated City Hall.
This is what this election is about. Indeed, this issue was also raised in our last election. What’s clear is that our incumbents running for election aren’t addressing this issue at all. Perhaps they’re too busy thinking ahead in their political careers, since, as we’re now seeing in the actions of one Council member, Mr. Gaines, Calabasas is turning into a launch pad for those who want to run for State office. Or perhaps our incumbents don’t know how to read a financial report. Or perhaps our incumbents simply don’t care. Whatever, it’s clear that City Hall plays hard to keep the status quo. And the chart above should indicate why. The bigger the organization, the more powerful it is. And we have a power hungry team running Calabasas.
Let’s not forget that we also have two incumbents running who have overseen this tremendous growth in spending. When they defend the City’s giant-size count of employees, they’re defending their own lousy performance in allowing this to take place.
The question is whether you, as a concerned Calabasas voter, will vote to keep the status quo, or vote for change. The real shame of this election is that there’s only one candidate running in opposition to our chummy incumbents. Your ballot will tell you can vote for up to three people for City Council. Three will be elected. But perhaps it’s time to vote for just one candidate, and show the others what you really think.
February 5th, 2013
The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.
from California Code Section 54950 (The Brown Act)
The silence of Calabasas City Council members David Shapiro and James Bozajian silence has been deafening. Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Bozajian failed to disclose that Mr. Shapiro was employed by Mr. Bozajian as his attorney when Bozajian nominated and voted to appoint Shapiro to the Council. As public servants, it is not their right to decide among themselves whether or not to disclose their professional relationship. The Brown Act says it is their duty as public servants to duly inform the public they serve.
Mr. Bozajian’s defense is his claim to have relieved Mr. Shapiro of his responsibilities as attorney after he was appointed to Council. But that explanation is not as nice and neat as Mr. Bozajian would have us believe. It certainly does not absolve Mr. Bozajian of his duty to disclose their relationship upfront. His error in judgment is all the more egregious as he was Mayor of Calabasas at the time. Nor does the potential of a future change in their relationship allow Mr. Shapiro the right to misrepresent the reality of his situation on his application form, which we disclosed in an earlier article.
In a judgment issued last week denying dismissal of Mr. Bozajian’s lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles, several items were revealed about the relationship between him and Mr. Shapiro. Mr. Bozajian’s case was first filed in 2009. He lost outside financial support for his attorney in early 2011, and not having the ability to pay an attorney out of his own pocket, he advocated on his own behalf for a short time. Some time later, Mr. Bozajian decided to drop his complaint, due to his workload and inexperience with civil cases. But then Mr. Shapiro appeared on the scene, and agreed to re-file and litigate the case on behalf of Mr. Bozajian on a contingency basis. Mr. Shapiro re-filed the complaint in court on January 24, 2012, one week after being sworn in as a member of the City Council.
Mr. Bozajian says that Mr. Shapiro is no longer his attorney. But that raises the question as to under what arrangement was Mr. Shapiro relieved of his role? Since Mr. Shapiro accepted Mr. Bozajian’s case on a contingency basis, and put in substantial work to prepare and file the case, it’s highly unlikely that he would walk away without some form of remuneration. We also know that Mr. Bozajian explained to the court that he had no money to hire an attorney. From the manner in which this was handled, those dots can be connected in an unfavorable way. If this is so, then the conflict of interest only grows in magnitude.
It appears that we’re not alone in our observation that the relationship of Mr. Bozajian and Mr. Shapiro deserves the acronym B-S. ListenCalabasas! has learned of a website and video devoted to the cause. (See the link below.) Fascinatingly, the video says that Mr. Shapiro didn’t vote in the last Calabasas election, raising even more questions about why this man is on the Council.
click for ShapirosConflict.com
January 31st, 2013
A study of public records from the City of Calabasas reveals that the City spent $867,000 in legal expenses over the 2011-2012 period. This is far beyond what the City budgeted, and an unnecessary expense generated by a management that’s out-of-control. The actual expenditures are not easy to find, as they’re tucked away in various accounts. But the names of the attorneys are in plain view for those willing to take time to look. To make it easy for our readers, we took the time to pull the relevant figures into a spreadsheet, which you can view online by clicking this link.
Sample of 2011-2012 City of Calabasas Legal Expenditures
The fees largely divide up among former City Attorney Michael Colantuono and the firm Dapeer, Rosenblit and Litvak. Besides Mr. Colantuono’s usual duties as City Attorney, functioning as a legal resource and having a presence at City Council meetings, both the City Attorney and Dapeer, Rosenblit, and Litvak were engaged in significant litigation against Calabasas senior citizens, often in cases where the City is attempting to drive long-time senior residents from their homes. Several of these cases are still in progress.
City Attorney Colantuono’s fees over the 2-year period: $433,000.
Dapeer, Rosenblit and Litvak fees over the 2-year period: $387,000.
Considering the nature of services that a less litigative city would need, most people consider these figures to be over-the-top. If you’re the defendant, these numbers represent the scale of costs you have to undertake to fight back. That’s where this entire “litigation against seniors” business becomes hideous.
What is the City Council doing about it? It appears our current incumbents running for election have been too busy singing each others praises to do anything other than spew the usual token gestures. What’s needed is real reform of City management. Real reform of a bloated bureaucracy that continues to drain the City’s reserves. Real reform of a culture that’s too quick to say “sue me,” rather than engage in meaningful dialog to resolve community issues.
But there is hope. Once upon a time, things were different in the land of affluent pumpkins, where the City’s CFO reported directly to the Council, as it was meant to be. Section 2.24.040(B) of the City’s Municipal Code wisely establishes City Council as the primary authority over the CFO’s office. Only the City Council can re-assign, and remove, reporting authority with regard to the CFO. Somewhere along the way, presumably for reasons that made sense at the time, the CFO was re-assigned to report to the City Manager. But things are different today. Without this oversight, the Calabasas City Council is powerless to exert any control of significance over City management. It’s time for City Council to claim its reins, and take charge. But with a full complement of cronies running for office in the current election, will anyone have the sense to stand up and pledge real reform?
January 23rd, 2013
Calabasas cronyism took a new height in 2012 with the private appointment of David Shapiro to the public office of City Council, filling a seat vacated when former Councilmember Jonathon Wolfson stepped down. There was no shortage of citizens eager to fill the void: 22 applicants filed to fill Mr. Wolfson’s former seat. If that seemed daunting for a new election, then the alternative and appropriate step to take would have been to select the next-in-line from the last public election, held only 9 months earlier. Either option would have led to a new Councilmember rightfully elected by citizens.
But the cronies on the City Council had a different idea. Circumventing the voice of the public, the Council picked someone of its own choosing. In a circuitous process, held during public meeting on January 18, 2012, in which then Mayor Bozajian entered Mr. David Shapiro’s name, it was Mr. Shapiro who was elevated to the seat by a vote of 3 to 1 of the then 4-member City Council. The arduous proceedings can be viewed by clicking this link. (The selection process begins at 04:33:51.)
A year later, as Mr. Shapiro legitimately runs for office in the upcoming March 5 election, the unspoken facts are coming to light. It turns out that Mr. Shapiro was then, and continues to serve, as Mr. Bozajian’s private attorney, a fact not publicly disclosed to the citizens of Calabasas by either person. Indeed, Mr. Shapiro is Mr. Bozajian’s attorney in a very public lawsuit, filed by Mr. Shapiro in a dispute between Mr. Bozajian and his fellow district attorneys in the County of Los Angeles, one week after his appointment to City Council. The last page of the filing is shown below. The full text of the filing can be read by clicking this link.
Last page of the Bozajian vs County of Los Angeles lawsuit, signed by Shapiro
The lawsuit was also summarized online by Courthouse News Service on Thursday, January 26, 2012. Of special note is the last paragraph: “Bozajian seeks a protective injunction and punitive damages for constitutional violations. He is represented by David Shapiro.”
The egregious oversight wasn’t simply a senior moment for Mr. Bozajian. He chose to softly refer to his lawsuit in the May 24, 2012 edition of the Acorn, when stating his personal opinion against Ms. Jackie Lacey, who later that year was elected as Los Angeles County’s first black District Attorney. Notably, Mr. Bozajian gave his lawsuit a little plug, referring to it as “…other related cases…” when citing the litigation against Ms. Lacey. The full quote is “The litigation of this and other related cases has, along with accompanying judgments against the district attorney’s office, drained valuable public resources from the county at a time when we can ill afford it.” As a side note, it is lovely to hear that Mr. Bozajian is concerned about litigation that drains public resources, but it seems odd that he failed to mention that he is one of the people draining them.
Two serious mistakes were made by Mr. Bozajian. First, in his role of public servant, he nominated Mr. Shapiro, his personal attorney, as Councilmember, in the selection process conducted the evening of January 18, 2012. He did not disclose their professional relationship. Second, having made that mistake, he should have recused himself from voting for his nominee, particularly when it became apparent that Mr. Shapiro had support from two other council members and stood to be selected. Had Mr. Bozajian recused himself from voting, then no candidate would have had a majority vote on the Council, as Councilmember Ms. Martin refused to vote for anyone but Mr. Bob Sibilia, a past mayor of Calabasas, and the candidate next-in-line from the prior election. Either the other Councilmembers would have been swayed by Ms. Martin, or a new election would have been called, or the Council would have started its process over to narrow in on a different nominee. Mr. Shapiro would not have been selected that evening.
Mr. Bozajian’s failure to disclose facts do not come to light at a favorable time for him. He, too, is running for office in the March 5 election. If re-elected, it would be his 5th term in office, paving the way for Mr. Bozajian to become a 20-year veteran of the Calabasas City Council. He is not a supporter of the Calabasas Right To Vote initiative, nor the Calabasas Term Limits initiative (are we surprised?). But more to the point, and quite disappointingly, Mr. Bozajian demonstrated arrogance towards the citizens of Calabasas in favor of the convenience of surrounding himself with another crony on the City Council. Mr. Bozajian, need we remind you that you are a publicly elected official. The citizens of Calabasas expect you to be forthright about conflicts of interest when such things occur. We not only deserve your apology, but if you were honorable, you’d step down.
Sadly, the same arrogance towards Calabasas citizens can be said of Mr. Shapiro. When asked if he has any “current obligations and responsibilities that could be construed as a conflict of interest” on his application for office, Mr. Shapiro checked “no,” even though he clearly met the litmus test. Mr. Shapiro has a conflict of interest of such magnitude that it does not require magnification to understand. When it comes to applying for public office, particularly for a position as important as City Council, there’s no excuse for hiding the truth. Please do the honorable thing, Mr. Shapiro: step down from office, and resign from the race.
January 18th, 2013
Liat Samouhi at Calabasas Event
Who would have thought that the City of Calabasas would display bias against a citizen of the community?
Calabasas government has no fear when it comes to borderline behavior. The City’s many abuses of power is a regular topic among the illuminati, and a reason for being for this publication. The City has no concept of friendly engagement with citizens, preferring lawsuits to dialog. Numerous citizens can attest to the litigation posed against them.
But why stop there? After all, a City government this out-of-control can only retain its power by keeping watchdog citizens out-of-sight. Liat Samouhi is one watchdog recently targeted. This mother-of-two became one of Calabasas’ most passionate activists when the City authorized a cell tower next to her home, with no opportunity for citizen review. At her own expense, Ms. Samouhi hired an expert in the field to report to the City Council, refuting many of the supposed “facts” that the City fabricated to justify it’s actions. That the City fought this case at all is enough to raise suspicion as to whose side it’s really on. Ms. Samouhi also was an advocate for citizen choice when it came to converting to smart power meters. Her drive led to the City Council’s decision to send a letter in support of citizen choice to the California Public Utilities Commission and the utility companies serving Calabasas, a letter which then Councilperson Mary Sue Maurer opposed.
In the June 13, 2012 City Council meeting, Ms. Maurer, now Mayor, voiced strong opposition to the nomination of Ms. Samouhi for the City of Calabasas Environmental Commission. Keep in mind that the Environmental Commission is only an advisory group, whose major responsibility is to conduct an annual children’s drawing contest to foster environmental awareness. Highlighting Ms. Maurer’s words, the appointment of Ms. Samouhi “…can slow the wheel of progress…” and would establish “…a foothold in Calabasas for polarization…” Just who was the polarizing person in this debate, and whose wheel would be slowed, anyway?
You can hear it for yourself by clicking on the video below, or by going to the
Calabasas City web site. (If viewing the proceedings on the City’s web site, the relevant discussion begins at 29min 17sec.)
Mayor Mary Sue Mauer Speaks Out Against Liat Samouhi
Unfortunately, Mayor Maurer’s outburst in June was only the tip of the iceberg. Ms. Samouhi endeavored to run for Council in the upcoming March 5, 2013 City Council election, but was stopped in her tracks when 8 of the 27 signatures on her nomination form were invalidated, leaving her with only 19 of the required 20 signatures. (City instructions only permit a maximum of 30 signatures.) The County of Los Angeles was blamed as the entity responsible for invalidating the voters.
But on further investigation, it has been learned that the County does not engage in a decisive process of voter validation. The County simply reports the most recent voter registration credentials of each supporter. “Validity” of a voter in a local election is a matter of discretion for the local jurisdiction — in this case, the City of Calabasas. City Clerk Maricela Hernandez tried to cover tracks in her letter to the Acorn, explaining the process and pointing to the County. But read her carefully chosen words, and you’ll see that even Ms. Hernandez can’t hide the fact that the City has the final say.
So what formula did the City use to invalidate Ms. Samouhi’s nomination? Was it similar to that employed in past elections? Or was a rule prejudicially applied to keep Ms. Samouhi out of the race? At whose bidding was this rule applied? There is no disputing the fact that at least three of the signatories invalidated by the City are residents of the City of Calabasas and were registered to vote in the City of Calabasas.
The remedy? The City prescribes court action. It’s the kind of action that the City of Calabasas loves to hide behind, knowing full well that the expensive process of undergoing court action will cause the vast majority of people to cool their heels. Ms. Samouhi is not one to be so easily intimated, having already taken the City to court on more than one environmental issue. But the five-figure expense of fighting the City would only subtract from her ability to finance her campaign, and so Ms. Samouhi chose to not fight this case and bowed out of the election.
You, the reader, have been presented with two significant events. Both events were displays of extreme bias against Ms. Samouhi, a mom-activist whose passionate drive for environmental causes has been a breath of fresh air in Calabasas. We leave it to you to ponder if this is mere coincidence, or if it’s collusion? Regardless, we think you’ll agree this is another indicator that it’s time to bring change to Calabasas’ crony-driven over-the-top government.
September 28th, 2012
Two measures will be placed on ballot next year for Calabasas residents: Calabasas Right To Vote and Calabasas Term Limits, both proposed by Old Topanga Homeowner’s Association President Jodie Thomas. Prior to her most recent effort, Ms. Thomas served this community through her substantial efforts in fighting the City of Calabasas’ misguided septic tank inspection program.
You can learn more about the latest initiatives at these sites:
Calabasas Right To Vote
Calabasas Term Limits
Right To Vote is in reaction to the City Council’s recent action to replace the Council seat vacated by Jonathan Wolfson with crony David Shapiro, and inspired by a similar measure recently passed in nearby Thousand Oaks. Right To Vote says that if a Council seat is vacated, then an election will be held to fill it.
Term Limits would limit Council member terms to 8 years in office, requiring those who served before to sit out a full 4 year term before running for re-election. A similar initiative was passed in Malibu in 2000.
Both initiatives target the severe cronyism that plagues the City of Calabasas. Three Council members – Councilmen Bozajian, Gaines, and Shapiro – share alma maters for law school. Councilman Bozajian has been on the Council for 16 years, and Councilwoman Maurer for 8. During their tenure, the City has engaged in expensive legal fights with certain City residents, removing some from their homes, all nasty actions that can only be explained by the City’s greed for new development. Most Council members have closer relationships with City of Calabasas management than with their constituents, which is what allows this nonsense to continue. Cozy relationships suit City of Calabasas management just fine, who drain the City’s substantial reserves through deficit budgets. Far more money is wasted by City staff than any election could incur. Sooner or later these people will retire at our expense before the you-know-what hits the fan. Understandably, former City Attorney Michael Colantuono decided it was time to leave while the going was good, having purview over the City’s over-wrought lawsuits against its citizens.
All of the blah-blah aside, these initiatives can only bring about good. One-tenth of the population typically turns out for an election, and to no surprise, incumbents tend to win. Only by insuring that voter-elected officials serve on the City Council, and through term limits for elected officials, will we be able to set the stage for honest City government.
Not everyone agrees. Notably, the Acorn’s editor
, often criticized for having cozy relationship with City management, went on record against the Right To Vote and Term Limits initiatives. A reader pointed out that the Acorn, in a front page article
, went as far to say that Shapiro is running for re-election…overlooking the fact that he was never elected in the first place!
City management’s greatest license to do whatever it wants is that the majority of Calabasas residents simply don’t care. And ideally, they shouldn’t have to. But in the real world, greed runs rampant, and California cities have been no exception. The only means we have to check corruption is citizen involvement. And that requires fresh faces voted by Calabasas citizens, not cronies hand-picked by those already in office. Thank you, Ms. Thomas, for placing the Right To Vote and Term Limit measures on the ballot.
January 16th, 2012
The City of Calabasas has struck again, this time against homeowner Robert Hahn, in the Old Topanga area. The City used an alleged septic tank violation to inspect the entire property of a resident in gestapo fashion for code violations. (See the article in the LA Times.) It then applied the information learned through legal action against the homeowner. The fact that the City can’t prove a septic tank violation hasn’t stopped it from its heinous activities.
There isn’t a home in Calabasas that, under scrutiny, would stand up to the City’s lethal building code. Simply replacing a light switch without a permit is a violation. Following the aggressive manner that characterized earlier actions of this kind, the City hired litigator Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak, LLP, to file a 270+ page injunction that gives Mr. Hahn 30 days to vacate his property. No contact was made beforehand with Mr. Hahn to discuss a more socially responsible approach towards resolving violations. According to City documents, the only way Mr. Hahn will be able to return to his property is to tear down the structures that exist, and to rebuild. Mr. Hahn is not financially able to properly defend himself in court, let alone counter-sue the City.
To prepare and file a document of this magnitude, and to gain the personal services of Mr. Rosenblit in inspecting the property, would have cost the City in the range of $30,000 to $50,000. What a waste. If Mr. Hahn’s property is such a danger to the residents of Calabasas, think of the ways that money could have been put to work in a more responsible manner.
This is not good news. This action demonstrates how little Mr. Bozajian has accomplished in his term as mayor. And it highlights that City Manager Mr. Coroalles, along with cohorts Ms. Tamuri and Mr. Cohen, continue to engage in class warfare, treating the non-millionaire sector of Calabasas with contempt. The City discriminates by taking strong measures only against those who can least afford to defend themselves and/or counter-sue the City. Let’s see the City take similar measures against a homeowner in the Oaks. Surely, it can find a DIY light switch to litigate over.
Calabasas City Manager Mr. Coroalles should be ashamed of himself. In addition to his poor judgement in the application of City legal resources, he continues to spend twice as much as the City receives in revenues. It’s time to replace Mr. Coroalles and his pals with a city manager that is socially responsible and can balance a budget. With the salaries that we pay, Calabasas can afford much better talent.