Planning commissioner pleads guilty, developer arrested, city approves arrested developer’s hotel plan
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/2/19 – A prominent Beverly Hills real estate developer was arrested by the FBI for bribing public officials and charged by federal prosecutors. The official he is accused of bribing, a County planning commissioner who approves zoning, admitted to taking the bribes.
Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills Courier reports that, “Former Gibraltar Square Office Tower Will Soon Become A Hotel,” passed by a unanimous vote of the Beverly Hills Planning Commission’s five members. This Gibraltar Square developer is same Beverly Hills developer who was arrested by the FBI. By the way, the developer’s plan to build a Target in Los Angeles is, ten years later, a vacant lot. And, a source of recriminations for the Los Angeles City Council.
The U.S. District Attorney says other government officials are implicated in the zoning commissioner bribery. If they are arrested for something, and the Attorney General isn’t saying who is next, the FBI could arrest all five of our planning commissioners. That would be crushing to them and their families. Would make newspaper headlines. And, accomplish nothing.
The problem is the incumbent Beverly Hills City Council that appoints commissioners. City hall has a zoning permits system where a lack of transparency tempts officials to accept improper advances from developers. Keeping a corruptible zoning system enables incumbents to get campaign contributions to stay in office, without risking getting arrested themselves.
Why are developers spending $200,000 for campaigns to keep the incumbents in office? What is there to gain? To get the planning officials appointed they like, officials who will be open to “persuasion” when their zoning permits need approval. In the case of the convicted commissioner, the bribes came to $1 million. Enough money to tempt ordinary people when the risk of getting caught is low.
In taking money from developers, incumbents are tacitly agreeing to look the other way. Politicians who benefit from campaign contributions from such special interests can honestly say later they know nothing about the corruption at city hall. They just get the money. For doing nothing about it.
Deliberately knowing nothing is a politician’s best defense. When corruption is eventually uncovered, ignore it. Or proclaim outrage, urge voters to elect the authoritarian candidate. He or she will promise to put all the crooks in jail! Although not, of course, themselves, the politicians who set up this honeypot.
Do the incumbents know why developers are contributing to their campaign? When asked at the candidate forum hosted at the Beverly Hills High School recently, why developers are aggressively backing them, the incumbents say they don’t know.
That’s the beauty of it. To get the money, they don’t need to know. They get developer money to use to get reelected, and don’t need to know where it came from. All they have to do is nothing, perpetuate an opaque developer permits process that entraps commissioners and elicits campaign contributions from developers.
Want an example of the consequences of a lack financial safeguards? In the news this week is the sad case of the government social worker who stole millions in donations, money that was supposed to go to help those with cystic fibrosis or the deaf.
During her trial, it was noted that it’s easy for anybody working in the government to steal those funds, and with little risk of getting caught. She had been stealing from the government account for the disabled for more than 25 years. Her attorney said that officials made it too easy to steal. It was irresistible.
I’m Robin Rowe, a candidate running for Beverly City Council. I don’t accept contributions from developers or from anyone. I don’t do paid political advertising. I don’t plaster everybody’s yards with “free” yard signs paid for by special interests. I’m #1 on the ballot in the March 3rd, 2020, election. See you there.