Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017 – 1:33 PM
By Victoria Talbot
Former City of Beverly Hills Real Estate and Property Manager Brenda Lavender was arrested Monday, charged with felony Misappropriation of Public Funds (California Penal Code 424 (a) and a felony violation of California Penal Code118 (a), Perjury by Declaration.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney added a further felony charge of embezzlement, California Penal Code 504 and 514.
The arrest came following a lengthy investigation that began in December 2015 when Lavender was terminated following the discovery that she had failed to collect more than $800,000 in rent from a city tenant by then – Deputy City Manager/ Director of Capital Assets David Lightner.
Lightner worked for the City for 32 years before he retired, following his involvement in the unlawful removal of 196 trees from arsenic-contaminated soil on Lots 12 & 13.
The matter was immediately turned over to the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Lavender was arrested without incident Monday and held pending $50,000 bail. She will be arraigned at the Criminal Courts Building in Downtown LA on Sept. 5.
Sources say that the unpaid rent was associated with a defunct Beverly Hills jazz dinner club, H.O.M.E., which took over the old Camden House site in 2012. The establishment closed in 2015 after losing its liquor license, and reopened with new owners. It finally closed for good in April 2016.
During her six years of employment with Beverly Hills, Lavender was responsible for the City’s 280,000 square feet of commercial property, including the collection of monthly lease payments. She is charged with not collecting funds from 2012-2015 from the tenant, and intentionally failing to report the unpaid rent to the City.
It is unclear what her relationship with the tenant was or why she did not collect rent, but the aggregated unpaid lease payments, penalties and fees exceeded $800,000, according to City Attorney Larry Wiener.
The charge of Perjury by Declaration stems from a failure to report information on her 2015 Statements of Economic Interests – Form 700. In addition to the unpaid rent, Lavender did not report a $15,000 loan from another tenant, which she received while she was employed by the City.
The Courier has reported that disgraced ex-police chief Dave Snowden failed to report tens of thousands of dollars he received as a “consultant” from EBI, the firm hired to provide campus security for BHUSD, on his Form 700.
At press time, it was unclear if the embezzlement charges stemmed from the same incidents or were part of another incident.
Since the incident, the City has reorganized its property management operation and split the responsibilities among three City departments to provide more oversight. Administrative Services collects rents; Policy and Management oversees leasing of properties and Public Works manages tenant relations.
The City is in the process of hiring an internal auditor to monitor all the City’s departments.