[EDITORIAL] Why LaBonge’s Shredded Documents Matter

EDITORIALSince the Los Feliz Ledger disclosed that former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge destroyed at least 113 boxes of public records and perhaps up to 200 boxes in the last few months of his final term, as concerned citizens and retired city attorneys, my wife, Stephanie Scher and I, with others, have been looking into this astounding reality.

None of the destruction was legal. And the practice extends beyond LaBonge. Other councilmembers have engaged in non-legal record destruction to an extent currently unknown.

The City Clerk of Los Angeles acknowledges that neither she nor her office has complied with City Administrative Code requirements and the California Public Records Act regarding the public records of elected officials. This means, among other things, that history vanishes, the background of city decisions disappear, information about ongoing problems is lost, the media are deprived of a substantial source of information and law enforcement suffers loss of a vital tool to uncover wrongdoing and corruption.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has not enforced these laws as required by the City Charter. A full investigation into the matter is needed now. Otherwise, Los Angeles City Hall will continue as a den of secrecy for elected officials under the cover of their non-elected subordinates. Standing on the sidelines hoping this will go away is not good, particularly when the subject is secrecy in government. Everyone should wake up. The second largest city in America deserves better.

Michael H. Miller served as a city attorney for several Southern California cities for over 30 years, followed by 10 years as a hearing officer and administrative law judge. He is the author of “The City Attorney and the Rule of Law” in Western Cities Magazine and an award winning essay entitled “The American Idea” published in The Atlantic Monthly

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