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Study Surfaces That Could Aid Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Case Against City

 

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By Jorge Casuso

Editor's note: A previous version of this article said plaintiff's attorney Kevin Shenkman believes the report is protected by attorney client privileges. He believes it is not.

August 13, 2018 -- Lawyers for the plaintiffs in a voting rights lawsuit against the City are trying to obtain a report they contend shows a pattern of polarized voting in Santa Monica.

The report commissioned by the City for its defense in the lawsuit filed by Latino Activists from the Pico Neighborhood surfaced during a deposition Thursday with Councilmember Tony Vazquez.

Plaintiff's attorney Kevin Shenkman said the report, which the City had made no mention of, will show the Council knew polarized voting had taken place when it chose to embark on the costly defense.

The report, which was presented to the Council during closed session, is not protected by attorney-client privileges, Shenkman said.

Council members also discussed the report outside closed session, he said.

Following is a transcript of Thursday's deposition of Vazquez that shows plaintiff attorney Rex Parris attempting to obtain information about the report.

The City's attorney Kahn L. Scolnick, of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, repeatedly objected to Parris' line of questioning.

PARRIS: Now, the study that the attorneys did have done or the study that you talked about in executive session on polarized voting, was that commissioned by the City staff or was it actually from Gibson Dunn?

SCOLNICK: Lacks foundation.

VAZQUEZ: You know, I'm not sure.

PARRIS: Were you ever actually given a copy of the report?

SCOLNICK: Lacks foundation.

VAZQUEZ: You know, I don't remember ever seeing the actual full document, yeah.

PARRIS: Do you know who actually conducted the survey?

SCOLNICK: Vague and ambiguous.

PARRIS: For the study.

SCOLNICK: Vague and ambiguous. Lacks foundation.

VAZQUEZ: Yeah, I'm going to -- I would be guessing on the names. It might have been written out or disclosed, but it doesn't stick right now who the -- who actually did it.

PARRIS: Did the people who did the study make a report directly to the Council?

SCOLNICK: Lacks foundation.

VAZQUEZ: Not that I recall, no.

(After embarking on a different line of questioning Parris returns to the report.)

PARRIS: After closed session, you had discussions with fellow council members about the studies that were done to see whether or not the city is polarized, and those discussions have taken place in the last three years, haven't they?

VAZQUEZ: I don't know if I would characterize it in the terms you're using as polarized voting, but discussions about elections, yeah.

PARRIS: And the studies that the City conducted right?

VAZQUEZ: Yes, I guess that would be true.

PARRIS: And those studies that the City had engaged people to do indicated that we had a point, right?

SCOLNICK: Vague and ambiguous.

(After a different line of questioning, the plaintiff's attorney tries again.)

PARRIS: So in the discussions that you've had with council members and City staff, what were the results of the surveys they did to see if there was polarized voting in the last three years?

SCOLNICK:· Again, object to the extent he's talking about closed session meetings.

VAZQUEZ: I think it was mostly in closed session, to be honest with you.

PARRIS: Well, you told me there were also discussions outside of closed session?

VAZQUEZ: But I couldn't give you exact numbers. That's what I'm saying.

PARRIS: But there were some discussions; right?

VAZQUEZ: But it wasn't about polarized voting.

PARRIS: What was it about?

VAZQUEZ: Just if there's a need to have district elections.

PARRIS: But that was done by the means of a survey with a demographer, wasn't it?

VAZQUEZ: Not that I could recall outside of closed session.

(After a brief discussion about whether Vazquez can refuse to answer about a testifying expert's report, the plaintiff's return to the report.)

PARRIS: Mr. Vazquez, the survey that was done that was discussed in executive session, did you take that into consideration when making any determination as to whether or not you should switch or not switch to district voting?

SCOLNICK:· Lacks foundation.· Vague and ambiguous.

VAZQUEZ: No. It didn't really have any influence on me.

PARRIS: Why not?

VAZQUEZ: Because I think I told you earlier. I said I don't believe district election gets us to the goal of having more Latino representation than we have now. Like I said, I think it actually hurts us in Santa Monica.

PARRIS: Okay. And that was regardless of what the report said?

VAZQUEZ: Yes.

 


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