CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz hasn’t had a great past couple of months.
First there were his fundraising campaign violations, which were uncovered in February. Then two weeks ago Kenneth Mejia, Koretz’s challenger in the upcoming city controller election, received the LA Times’ endorsement.
This endorsement, in turn, has ruffled feathers at Koretz campaign headquarters — campaign communications director Parke Skelton has gotten repeatedly ratioed for his bad posts in response to it.
Making matters worse, Team Koretz has also come under scrutiny by constituents outside his district, as the Reseda Neighborhood Council recently called attention to what appear to be more blatant campaign ethics violations.
Jamie York, secretary of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, received an April 8 email blast sent by Koretz’s campaign to the Reseda Neighborhood Council list and recognized that this was a problem.
“I noticed immediately as this is not the first ethics violation I have reported and I take the separation of government and the political seriously,” York explained via email. “It was however the first campaign email sent to the entire body of our neighborhood council using our city distribution list.”
According to the spirit of existing campaign regulations, public officials fundamentally shouldn’t be using city resources, in this case City of Los Angeles LISTSERVs accessed via EmpowerLA by Koretz, to campaign for a city office.
York immediately forwarded the Koretz email to the City Ethics Commission along with a message:
This is a violation of 49.5.5 b4 and C. The empowerla distribution lists are entirely city owned and operated. They are the lists used to contact neighborhood council members en masse, but they are maintained by the department of neighborhood empowerment, which is a city resource. Additionally, in no way did our neighborhood council opt into these emails.
York spread the news to colleagues, such as Reseda Neighborhood Council President DJ Frank and Parliamentarian Michelle Gallagher.
“We’d like the Ethics Commission to take a look at this and investigate it,” said Frank. “Where did they harvest the emails from? It’s not proper. If you’re a government employee, it gives you a leg up on your opponent.”
The Reseda Neighborhood Council then unanimously passed a Community Impact Statement outlining their concerns.
In speaking with colleagues on other neighborhood councils, we believe it is likely that all neighborhood councils with an email distribution list maintained by the City received this campaign mailing. As there are 99 neighborhood councils, this may mean that 99 different City owned and maintained distribution lists were used in sending this communication.
For those who care about local politics, the issues this type of violation raises transcend party or political lines. “I think it’s a big deal if a candidate gets help from the city. It doesn’t matter who the candidate is. We have to have a fair election,” says Gallagher.
Neither Koretz’s campaign nor the Ethics Commission have returned requests for comment.
These complaints have gone unaddressed and will likely remain that way, say members of the Reseda Neighborhood Council. Like so many rules and regulations in LA that are in place, if they are not being properly enforced, they are essentially meaningless.
Entrenched electeds who put their thumb on the scale only help deflate an already saggy democracy in an uphill election year.
“It’s hard to get people to care about these local elections,” said Gallagher. “It’s very hard to get out the vote, especially when it’s not a presidential election year or a nonpartisan race. They don’t even care about the race, so why would they care about the corruption?”
The irony here is that Koretz boasts of being a champion of reform and accountability — in an email he’s distributing unethically.
“I have been fighting corruption in City Hall,” the original Paul Koretz campaign email boldly claims. “I am one of the authors of the ban on developer contributions which goes into effect in June, and worked on and seconded the motion to create the Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency.”
David Ryu, a former councilmember who has himself been exposed for ethics violations, co-authored the motion with Koretz to create the Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency. Against the backdrop of the José Huizar scandal, the motion passed in 2020.
To date, the Los Angeles Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency has held zero meetings.
Knock LA is a journalism project paid for by Ground Game LA. This article was not authorized or paid for by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.