Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Federal Investigators May REALLY Be Investigating Regarding L.A. Unified School Board

First of all the Federal government and FBI does not jump in over a $30,000 payment. So when you hear that two former LAUSD boardmembers (Huizar/Tokofsky) are being investigated by the Feds...you know it AIN'T about that....ALTOGETHER. It's the first pitch of the game. The tip of the iceberg. Your starter for.

And before we continue you, Zuma Dogg has heard what many others have heard: That the FBI is speaking with people from UTLA! And LA Daily Blog sources tell ZD not to be shocked if he sees a political consultant type go down in this. Remember Ben Austin didn't get on the ballot for LAUSD school board and UTLA's homeboy Steve Zimmer won the seat? Steve was the teacher from Marshall High School and longtime UTLA union member. UTLA was no fan of Ben Austin.

We all know Ben hired, or thought he hired Susan Burnside & Associates to help him with the signature gathering. (If you keep reading you will see Burnside claims a renegade staffer took on Austin's campaign while she was away and completely un-acoountable on her honeymoon, that I'm sure was very far away from it all.

BUT, Ben wasn't the only candidate to speak with Burnside during that LAUSD school board campaign. David Tokofsky recommended to one of the other candidates to hire Burnside's firm. The grassroots candidate DID check into using Burnside's services, but was too expensive; but Ben Austin was able to hire services that he at least THOUGHT were of a Burnside associate.

And we know Austin filed a complaint over the matter.

So based on what I am thinking...here are some things I find noteworthy in helping to connect all the dots. In other words...Oh no, I was just about to hire Susan Burnside & ASSociates to help me with my CD2 City Council campaign...BUT I THINK IT WOULD BE TOO RISKY TO ASSUME THEY WILL BE AVAILABLE:

Investigators found that Huizar had improperly used a fundraising committee to pay for research on former school board member David Tokofsky.

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission is scheduled to vote today on whether to issue nearly $15,000 in fines against Councilman Jose Huizar, after investigators determined that he improperly used a fundraising committee to conduct political research on former school board member David Tokofsky.

Huizar has already created two legal defense funds, which allow him to collect private contributions to pay the fines.

xxx

Hmmm....looks like a slick move by UTLA. Urteaga works for longtime UTLA consultant Sue Burnside, who was in charge of signature gathering according to Ben Austin as reported in Capitol Weekly.

So instead of collecting valid signatures for her new client, Austin, she sabotages him to help UTLA, who is supporting another candidate.

And now Burnside is ducking calls from Austin, according to Capitol Weekly.

December 09, 2008 3:03 PM

Austin failure 'not my fault'

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Political consultant Sue Burnside is denying any involvement in the failure of school board candidate Ben Austin in qualifying for the March 3 ballot.
Burnside sent out a note to her clients and others, saying she was not involved in the campaign. Here are excerpts"

" It has taken me several days, since my return to L.A. on Monday morning, to fully collect the facts related to Ben Austin's campaign for L.A. School Board.

The fact is Ben Austin is not my client. Burnside & Associates is not and has never been under contract to him or his Campaign. I have never met Mr. Austin.

I did not circulate or supervise Ben Austin's petition drive; I was on my honeymoon in South America.

An independent contractor misrepresented himself - without my knowledge or approval - as an employee of Burnside & Associates when he agreed to collect the signatures for Mr. Austin.

I am deeply pained that during my absence from the office this unfortunate situation occurred. I would like to express my sincere regret that his signature collection fell short of the requisite number and Mr. Austin did not qualify for the ballot.

It has taken me 20 years to build my firm and reputation; I have always taken great pride in the meticulous and strategic work I have done for our clients. Had I been in the office as usual, this simply would not have occurred."

In an e-mail, Austin said he had been billed by Burnside's firm, which may have had "renegade staff within her office taking on side projects without her knowledge."

United Food & Commercial Workers Union Expenditures | OpenSecrets

VOTER IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM, $30000. ADVERTISING NOVELTY CO. INC. $26351. LSG STRATEGIES, $25995 ... KAINE FOR GOVERNOR, $15000. SUSAN BURNSIDE DBA, $15000 .[both Susan and Voter Improvement contributed. NO BIGGIE, but was looking for something with both their names together.]

10/05:
Or better yet, having the unions fund Sue Burnside's field operation while walking with Huizar literature.(anonymous blog comment)

LA Times (Feb 2005): The campaigns use various tools to come up with phone numbers and addresses of would-be supporters. Public and private polls define the demographics of a candidate's likely supporters.

Lists of voters supplied by companies such as Political Data narrow the scope of people to call by identifying those with a history of casting ballots in city elections. Using surname dictionaries, the firms can distinguish many voters by ethnic group. Census data can further narrow the field.

"If you don't know who your voters are, you're kind of blaring your information out in the dark," Hertzberg field director Sue Burnside said. "We're knocking on the specific door of a specific voter that our campaign -- and maybe solely our campaign -- wants to talk to."

Burnside declined to identify any voter groups on her target lists. Operatives at rival campaigns share her reluctance to divulge details on field operations. Hahn campaign advisor Kam Kuwata declined even to say where volunteers were making calls for the mayor's reelection effort.

Payments of $30,000 each to former L.A. Unified Board of Education members David Tokofsky and Jose Huizar, now an L.A. city councilman, are the focus of the federal probe.
By Howard Blume, Scott Glover and David Zahniser
August 6, 2009
Federal investigators are examining whether a labor-affiliated nonprofit improperly funneled consulting fees to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar and former Board of Education member David Tokofsky, according to sources close to the probe.

The inquiry is looking into payments of about $30,000 each to Huizar and Tokofsky by Voter Improvement Program Inc., a nonprofit headed by former local labor leader Miguel Contreras, who died in 2005. Investigators want to determine if Contreras was, in effect, using the nonprofit as a slush fund to reward allies, said the sources, who declined to be named because the investigation is ongoing and confidential.

The probe apparently extends beyond the two officials whose names have come to light.

The fees to Huizar and Tokofsky were paid in 2003 and 2004 -- when both were on the Los Angeles Board of Education, sources said.

As part of the inquiry, a federal grand jury summoned current school board President Monica Garcia to testify, but she has not agreed to appear. Garcia, considered a witness rather than a suspect, could agree instead to an interview with prosecutors under a promise of limited immunity, a source familiar with the probe said.

Garcia served as chief of staff to Huizar during his five years on the school board, from 2001 through 2005. She also worked as his campaign manager during his initial and successful City Council bid in 2005.

Federal authorities declined comment.

Garcia is traveling in Mexico and could not be reached. She has retained an attorney, who also declined to comment.

Tokofsky, who recently returned from travel abroad, also could not be reached.

Approached in City Council chambers, Huizar would not answer questions. In a statement he said that he "followed all rules and regulations" while on the school board and that he "would be willing to cooperate with any inquiry."

In required disclosure forms, Huizar and Tokofsky listed their work with Voter Improvement. The broader issue is what work they performed and whether that employment relationship was appropriate, sources said.

Elected officials can legally earn outside income, but not from entities related to their official duties. There's an exception for employment with another government entity and for nonprofits. But if officials working under that exemption have a conflict of interest, they must recuse themselves.

Other sources have reported that FBI agents also have been involved. [ZD hears Fibbies interviewing people from UTLA.]

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