Special Report: Why Did L.A. Condom Meeting Go Unchecked?
LOS ANGELES — City officials now say that the March 2 meeting involving the Adult Film Industry Working Group, which has been charged to craft rules in the implementation of an ordinance to regulate porn shoots in city limits, was legally publicized and that the public could have attended it.
The meeting, however, had no members of the public in attendance, which would work in line with a City Attorney's spokesman statement to XBIZ two weeks ago that that the meeting was closed to the public.
What transpired at the meeting will be a mystery for the time being.
Minutes of the March 2 meeting won't be available to the public until approved at the next — and last — discussion within the group, according to Los Angeles City analyst Eva Bitar.
To make things even more twisted, the city now admits an audio tape recording of the meeting doesn't exist.
"As to the availability of a tape recording copy, we experienced a glitch with the operation of the recorder and consequently the tape is blank," Bitar told industry attorney Michael Fattorosi and XBIZ.
Fattorosi had originally requested the agenda, minutes and any recordings from the meeting in a series of letters sent to various City Council members, the City Attorney's office and Bitar directly in his efforts to research the law for an article he is authoring for XBIZ.
The March 2 meeting, held on the 12th floor of City Hall East, was attended by 11 officials from a number of city and county agencies, according to a sign-in sheet obtained by Fattorosi and XBIZ.
The City Attorney's office says that it complied with rules alerting the general public 72 hours prior to the meeting, saying that an agenda was "physically posted on the first floor of City Hall South."
Only board and commission meetings including a councilperson are required to be posted online, the office says. As a result, the Adult Film Industry Working Group would be exempt from rules making online postings of meetings mandatory.
The 80-word agenda, which was produced last week by the City Attorney's office after numerous attempts by Fattorosi and XBIZ in obtaining it, includes simplistic subject headers, such as "discussion of the motion and ordinance," "discussion of ordinance implementation" and "next steps," without further description.
City fire, police and its personnel departments were slated to offer discussion. So were Film LA, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Cal/OSHA and Cal/OSHA's Standards Board.
After receiving the sign-in sheet, Fattorosi sent an email to all 11 working group attendees requesting an interview. To date, not a single request for interview has been granted.
"I find it rather difficult to believe that the city had a recorder malfunction and cannot produce the audio tape from the March 2 meeting," Fattorosi told XBIZ. "I also find it interesting that none of the attendees want to speak directly about what was discussed at the meeting. It is as though they are completely stone walling the industry."
The meeting was attended by the following governmental officials, all who have declined to discuss what transpired at the March 2 hearing:
- Three representatives from Film LA, the private, nonprofit 501(c)4 organization that coordinates and processes permits for on-location productions. Representatives in attendance included its president, Paul Audley, as well as its vice president, Todd Lindgren, and Donna Washington, the group's vice president of permit operations.
- LAPD Commanding Officer Mike Williams, who leads the police force's Special Operations detail, which typically focuses on counter-terrorism, gangs and incidences using its SWAT and mounted units.
- Officer Manuel Romeral, another representative from the LAPD.
- Kimberly Miera, counsel from the City Attorney's office.
- William Parker, an inspector for the Los Angeles City Fire Department.
- Los Angeles County Assistant Counsel Andrea Ross, who was involved in an appellate state decision involving the county and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). In that ruling, the 2nd Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court decision that said public health officials don’t need to require porn industry performers to wear condoms to protect against the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
- Arn Ross of the Los Angeles City Personnel Department.
- Mario J. Perez, director of the Office of AIDS Programs and Policy for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
- Kian Kaeni, senior legislative deputy for Councilman Paul Koretz's office. Kaeni, according to a Koretz spokesman, was not part of the working group; instead, he attended to collect information for Koretz.
Los Angeles City Ordinance No. 181989, called the "Safer Sex in the Adult Industry Act," started to grow roots last summer when two top leaders of the AHF, Michael Weinstein and Brian Chase, apparently met with a pair of city councilmen, Eric Garcetti and Paul Koretz, to explore implementation of such an ordinance, according to information supplied to XBIZ.
Also apparently in attendance were a number of other officials, including Miera from the City Attorney's office and Audley from Film LA, as well as an aide from Councilman Bill Rosendahl's office and two officers from the LAPD's film unit.
A spokesman from Rosendahl's office said he couldn't detail discussion of the July meeting, saying that it "was a meeting with the City Attorney and considered 'work product.'"
The "work-product" doctrine in civil procedure protects materials developed for confidential strategy but, according to Fattorosi, "the attorney 'work product' doctrine would not attach to a informal meeting of local government with a special interest group."
"Actually, the Public Records Act requires all government agencies in California to make the records the government generates in its work available for public inspection," he said. "Even if it were considered attorney work product the council must edit the documents to protect the confidential material, while making any nonconfidential information available to the public."
The "Safer Sex" ordinance currently isn't being enforced in the city, but by the middle of next month the ordinance likely will be put in effect, dramatically changing the wheels of porn production in the region. The ordinance was passed by City Council in January while a ballot-initiative effort by the AHF was in full swing; councilmembers mostly decided for the ordinance after weighing legal and ballot-initiative costs.
Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, also known as Porn Valley, counts more than 100 adult film studios, 800 performers and about 3,000 closely working in the industry — and many studios have threatened to leave the region and contemplate moves to other states, including Arizona, Nevada, Oregon and Florida.
Surprisingly, not even the adult entertainment industry trade group, the Free Speech Coalition, had knowledge of the March 2 meeting, despite having fluid dialogue with city leaders.
"We have been speaking with the City Attorney's office as well as the City Administrative office and several council offices," Diane Duke, the executive director for the FSC, told XBIZ. "We didn't know about the meeting but we will be there when the next meeting takes place."
The next and final meeting of the Adult Film Industry Working Group hasn't yet been announced, but it is likely it would take place by the end of April, Bitar said.
"The meeting is open to the public and the notice will be posted on the bulletin board on the 2nd floor of City Hall East 72 hours prior to the meeting," Bitar said. "As a further courtesy, I will also post it on the city's calendar."
Fattorosi said he plans on attending the next meeting and urges all members of the industry to turn out for the meeting as they did for the June 2011 Cal/OSHA meeting in Los Angeles.
"While it appears this process is over and condoms are now the law, the industry still needs to stand up and fight against the influence peddling tactics used by AHF and Weinstein in getting this law approved," Fattorosi said. "There must be accountability in our elected officials."
City Council plans either to approve or defer the group's findings when they take up a final vote on the ordinance's implementation on May 7.