Ethics Commission Fines Former L.A. Planning Director More Than $280,000
Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 11:06 am
A former Los Angeles planning director was fined more than $281,000 by the city’s Ethics Commission Tuesday for doing prohibited consulting work for developers shortly after leaving his municipal job.
Michael LoGrande, who was employed by the city for about 16 years and served five years as director of planning, left in 2016 to start his own consulting firm, LoGrande and Company LLC.
The city’s Governmental Ethics Ordinance prohibits people who held “high-level” positions from receiving compensation for work that could influence city action or appear to influence city actions for at least one year after their departure from the city. The restriction is known as a “revolving door” law.
According to Ethics Commission documents, LoGrande did consulting work for a Soho House & Co. project, including direct contact with Planning Department staff, and received $70,000. LoGrande was also involved with a development for which he was paid $30,000, and he was paid thousands of dollars for work on at least two other projects, all of which took place less than a year of him leaving the city.
“The reason why the penalties are so high is because Mr. LoGrande received a lot of money,” Richard Platel, the Ethics Commission director of enforcement, said.
A whistle-blower complaint in August 2016 set off the chain of events that led to the investigation of LoGrande, Platel said.
None of the Planning Department staff who handled LoGrande’s requests were at fault, officials said, and commissioners discussed possibly adding training for planning staff to watch for revolving door violations that could arise.
Officials said LoGrande has no other history of violations with the Ethics Commission.
According to the Ethics Commission, he was given notice about revolving door laws at least twice around the time he resigned from the city, and LoGrande did not contact Ethics Commission officials before doing the consulting work.
Bradley Hertz, the attorney representing LoGrande, told the Los Angeles Times last week that LoGrande was “pleased to have this matter behind him.”
“He looks forward to continuing to work on economic development projects throughout the region,” Hertz said.
LoGrande and Hertz were present at Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak to the board.
The maximum penalty LoGrande could have faced was $357,000, but because he cooperated with the city’s investigation, the Ethics Commission agreed to lower the amount. LoGrande will have to pay the $281,250 in monthly installments of about $23,000.
The fine is the largest penalty imposed on a former city official since 2006, when former City Councilman Martin Ludlow agreed to pay $105,271 from violating campaign finance laws, according to The Times.