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Corruption and Cronyism Surround the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs

 

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By Brian Hews

Thursday June 12, 2014, 3:30 pm

It is the dirty little secret that everyone knows about in Brentwood.

The 388-acre property in West Los Angeles/Brentwood was intended to be hallowed ground to honor, protect and rehabilitate untold thousands of military Veterans.

John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker deeded the land to the State of California for the “express use of Vets” in 1888.

However, the Veterans have been abandoned literally on the side of the road along Sunset Boulevard in West Los Angeles fighting a new war that has become heated and volatile.

An investigation by HMG-CN has revealed that cronyism and corruption have filtered up to the highest levels in local, state, and even the federal government, all at the expense of mentally disabled and homeless Veterans in Los Angeles.

Powerful real estate developers and unresponsive government bureaucrats are now strong allies against an army of outspoken critics, almost all of them former military Veterans, who line the streets around the property each weekend, donning protest signs and wearing trademark American military greens.

Welcome to the new normal for thousands of Veterans in Los Angeles as they wage a battle with controversial officials deep within the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration (WLAVA).

Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper has spent countless hours researching records, emails, and other critical documents that outline how political leaders are resorting to the implantation and execution of illegal lease agreements with commercial organizations on its property in Brentwood to keep Veterans out of what is rightfully theirs.

It is a web of some of the most powerful people in the country who are catering to the “Brentwood Elite” in a decades-old effort to keep Veterans “out of Brentwood,” in what one Veteran says is the “biggest land fraud scheme in U.S. history.”

Local and regional media, weekly and daily newspapers, along with LA County Supervisors have ignored the problem for years, not wanting to anger the Brentwood Elite and face the political wrath of the uber-wealthy who reside there.

The only time the politicians got involved with the property was during election years, after which they resorted back to catering to the elite.

Those involved include former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, California Senator Dianne Feinstein and her billionaire husband Richard Blum, Congressman Henry Waxman, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, LA County Supervisorial Candidate Bobby Shriver, WLAVA Director Donna M. Beiter and the powerful Brentwood Veterans Park Conservancy.

Sources tell HMG-CN that others are also ignoring the Veteran’s plight, including KFI’s John Kobylt of the John and Ken radio show and Bill Handel who is heard daily on the same station.

The intricate case centers on the 388-acre WLAVA property, which was deeded to the government in 1888 “to be used exclusively by homeless and disabled Veterans.”

Under the deed, anything done on the land should directly benefit Veterans and Veteran’s health, period. Anything else is illegal and a “breach of fiduciary duty.”

But in 2001, WLAVA began leasing land to commercial organizations. These organizations put the donated land to uses that had absolutely nothing to do with providing health benefits to Veterans, a breach of fiduciary duty and an affront to Los Angeles Veterans.

The ACLU finally got wind of this and filed a lawsuit to fight the leases and remove the companies. District Judge John Otero agreed in 2013 that the land, under the 1888 deed, is to be used exclusively by Veterans, and adjudicated the leases in Federal Court as “unauthorized by law and therefore void.”

Otero then entered a Federal Judgment against the Defendants, now-former Secretary of the VA Shinseki and Beiter.

Shockingly, Shinseki and Bieter appealed the judgment using the full force and power of the United States and the Department of Justice. One ACLU lawyer called the appeal “morally and legally indefensible.”

Newly appointed VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is the de-facto party in the lawsuit now, and is allowing the appeal to continue.

And incredibly, some of the companies with leases on the property are riding the coattails of Shinseki/Gibson and fighting the ruling while the media, newspapers, and politicians sit on the sideline and ignore the saga as a matter of political and monetary convenience.

But that is the way it has been since 2001; politicians act to defend the Brentwood Elite and Los Angeles media disregards the story for fear of monetary retribution.

Brentwood Elite Legislation By Feinstein Paves the Way to Lock Out Veterans

In 2006 President Bush wanted to sell the WLAVA land for over $4 billion, which would have directly benefitted Veterans.

Feinstein and Waxman sprung into action and passed legislation preventing the sale or lease of the land. But WLAVA continued to broker agreements, shamelessly calling the agreements “sharing not leasing.”

Enter the Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC), which now operates a 16-acre park on the property, and is an outgrowth of the Brentwood Homeowners Association, boasting some of the wealthiest and politically active people in the state.

Most are major supporters of Feinstein, Waxman, Yaroslavsky, and a host of Brentwood councilmembers.

In 2007 when then-VA Secretary R. James Nicholson placed a one-year termination clause to the VPC 16-acre park lease, Sen. Feinstein wrote a letter on U.S. Senate letterhead on behalf of the VPC asking for the removal of the clause.

See letter click here.Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 3.22.46 PM

Three months later, lightning speed for any similar government action, Nicholson removed the termination clause and signed a 30-year rent-free “sharing agreement” with the VPC basically giving the VPC a $1 billion property free as a “public park.”

This free public park “gift” rendered the land unavailable for Veterans and VA development, some accusing the VPC of striking the deal to keep Veterans out of Brentwood.

Feinstein, Waxman and Yaroslavsky turned a blind eye and allowed the agreement to be approved.

Incredibly, the park is now padlocked and does not allow Veterans to enter while the WLAVA rents the land out for $1,000 per plate fundraisers. Most of the park is in complete disrepair, with the exception of the $1 million fence built by the VPC to enhance the entrance appeal into Brentwood.

Drivers around the park often see homeless Veterans sleeping outside its gates.

 

Annenberg Foundation Slams WLAVA Leases

In late 2011, the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, wrote a position paper on the 1888 deed and WLAVA property.

The Annenberg Foundation has been a leader with a proven commitment to Veterans for over half a century.

The paper addressed the breach of trust and the violation of the fiduciary duty of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to WLAVA.

Metabolic Studio said, “the restrictions imposed under the 1888 Deed created a charitable trust [and the VA must only use] the donated land as a home for Veterans. The VA holds the donated land as a trustee and the VA is not permitted to divert the use of the land.”

See paper click here.

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Earlier in the year, the Annenberg Foundation contributed $1 million to the VPC to build a rose garden at the park.

After learning that the land was exclusively deeded to Veterans, the Annenberg Foundation wrote the VPC telling them to keep the million dollars but to remove their name and make the donation anonymous.

 

Richard C. Blum and UCLA Veterans.com

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Richard C. Blum was involved with the UC Regents when the UCLA lease was signed. UCLA pays $5,000 per month for 10 acres of prime Brentwood land that is, by rights, to be used only by Veterans.

UCLA, which maintains the Jackie Robinson Stadium for their baseball team, signed a lease in 2001 and pays a paltry $5,000 per month in rent for the 10-acre facility.

Richard C. Blum has been both a Chairman and a Regent of the U.C. Board since the late 1990’s. Blum is a billionaire real estate executive and the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein. He knew the value of the land and knew of the deed of 1888, yet the stadium lease was signed during Blum’s tenure.

The influence of Waxman was again called into question by many Veterans as Waxman attended UCLA, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a J.D. degree from UCLA’s law school.

UCLA operates “UCLA Veterans.com,” with a website that boasts, “UCLA has been serving Veterans for nearly 70 years, since the end of World War II.” There are over 20 departments within the organization to assist Veterans, yet the organization somehow chooses to ignore what is going on right across the 405 freeway.

In further blatant disregard and admittedly callous use of words in regards to homeless Veterans in Los Angeles, attorney George F. Soneff with the Los Angeles based law firm Manatt, Phelps, and Phillips representing UCLA wrote, “The Otero judgment (voiding the lease of the stadium) would render UCLA’s championship winning team homeless.”

 

Brentwood Elite and the Brentwood Private School

Sitting just north of the Jackie Robinson Stadium is the elite Brentwood Private School. Reportedly costing $30,000 per year in tuition, the school claims some of the wealthiest parents and alumni in the nation. Most children of the Brentwood Elite attend Brentwood School.

The school occupies 27 acres of the property, its rental payments a miniscule $25,000 per month or $300,000 annually. A comparable annual rental in the area would run into the tens of millions of dollars.

In 2001, using its “new enhanced leasing (sharing) agreement with the WLAVA,” as a selling tool, the school undertook a capital campaign to remodel the campus and added $2 million to the school’s endowment fund.

In 2005 the school built a new Student Learning Center, and in 2008 the school finished the Caruso Watt Aquatics Center.

Shockingly, the entire 27 acres is padlocked and off limit to Veterans and the $2 million sits in the endowment fund, not one dime of the money spent to help Veterans.

 

Bobby Shriver and KFI Radio

In his run for LA County Supervisor, Bobby Shriver proclaims himself as a savior for the Veterans, claiming he has “helped Veterans in Los Angeles for his entire career.”

But sources tell HMG-CN that Shriver is very involved with the Brentwood Private School, ignoring the plight of the Veterans in Los Angeles.

Sources also tell HMG-CN that John Kobylt of the John and Ken show on KFI, along with Bill Handel who has a morning show on KFI, are very involved with the school.

Conveniently, neither Kobylt nor Handle has talked on-air about the deed issue or the leasing agreemnts on the WLAVA property.

 

20th Century FOX’s ‘Friend’ at the WLAVA Gives Them a Break

20th Century Fox (FOX) has a lease with the WLAVA to store its sets and use the land for location shoots, shutting Veterans out of another 10 acres of land on the property. As one lawyer put it, “and the lease usage has what to do with helping Veterans?”

On August 27, 2007, a FOX location manager sent a letter out entitled “We have a friend at the VA,” boasting the “great site rental agreement” we have with the WLAVA and how it “will substantially cut our production costs.”

See memo click here.

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FOX seizes every opportunity to investigate and report on any VA allegation that has surfaced.

That is, with the exception of what has been going on at the WLAVA property for the past decade.

FOX is one of Waxman’s biggest supporters.

 

WLAVA Executive Director Donna M. Bieter and the Governor’s Mansion

WLAVA Exec Dir. Donna Beiter lives rent free in the Governor's Mansion on the VA property.

WLAVA Exec Dir. Donna Beiter lives rent free in the Governor’s Mansion on the VA property. She has allowed the leasing agreements for several years.

 

WLAVA Executive Director Donna M. Beiter recently testified in front of Congress saying, “GLA has implemented new innovative strategies in the area of eliminating Veterans’ homelessness (in Los Angeles). We continue to target the most chronically homeless Veterans with a focus on getting the most vulnerable Veterans off the streets and into permanent housing.”

Beiter failed to mention that she lives rent-free on a perfectly manicured 22-acre “Governor’s Mansion” on the WLAVA property earning over $250,000 per year and in direct in sight of homeless Veterans sleeping on the street in front of the Veterans Park Conservancy’s Park.

She also failed to mention she was party to the ongoing lawsuit that allowed the DOJ to appeal the 2013 ruling by Otero.

It was revealed this past week that the VA hospital she oversees has the longest wait time in California, 56 days, to see a Veteran patient.

LA County Supervisors Drag Feet

On January 8, 2014, the LA County Veteran Affairs Committee was briefed on Judge Otero’s 2013 ruling voiding the leases. The VAC unanimously agreed with Otero’s ruling and sent a letter to current LA County Board of Supervisor Chair Don Knabe on March 14,2014 calling on Knabe to write a letter of support for the ruling to the Department of Justice.

See letter click here.

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To date, no letter has been sent to the Department of Justice by the Supervisors.

And the onslaught on the judgment voiding the leases-and the veterans-continues.

 

Shameless Appeal by UCLA and Brentwood

After the August 2013 ruling to void the leases, UCLA filed it is Motion on September 23 and Brentwood followed suit October 3, 2013. The court ruled on the Motions October 21, 2013.

In their arguments, UCLA and Brentwood abandoned the other organizations with leases at the WLAVA, describing how their agreements “provide health-care benefits to veterans.”

The court was quick to point out that allowing veterans to occasionally play on the Jackie Robinson field does not substantiate the claim of providing health-care benefits to Veterans.

Otero was angry at the motion that Brentwood School helps Veterans since no Veterans are allowed on the property.

Otero was then compelled to allow a motion for the “limited purpose of appealing,” that is, removing the case from Otero’s court and taking it to a higher court.

The limited purpose of appealing “is allowed even after a final judgment… where it is necessary to preserve some right which cannot otherwise be protected.”

UCLA and Brentwood filed the appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth District one week later, with the earliest court date expected to be August of this year.

 

Appeal Could Take Years…

ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum told HMG-CN, “the case will be heard by a three judge panel by August at the earliest. It could then be heard “En Banc,” by the entire eleven judges which could take months, and could even get up to the US Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, homeless, disabled and mentally ill men and women who fought for the United States of America sit and wait for closure, some sleeping right outside the park created for them and in the shadow of the WLAVA Executive Director’s 22-acre Governor’s Mansion.

One veteran said, “to treat veterans like this is tragic. For no one to act and fight to have the lawsuit dismissed is a travesty and slap in the face to all Veterans. This is the biggest human and land fraud scandal in the history of the United States and no one is doing anything about it.”

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