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By Brian Hews
A Los Angeles Times reporter, who started at the LAT only two months ago, is, according to Los Angeles city and county officials, making “frivolous, burdensome and large” public records requests that are costing taxpayers thousands of dollars.
One high-ranking Los Angles County official told HMG-CN that recently hired LAT reporter Adam Elmahrek, “is requesting documents that are way overboard, some of them do not make any sense, and it is costing the county thousands.”
“Public records requests are fine, but one has to balance the need for a request against a fishing expedition at the expense of the hardworking taxpayers.”
Elmahrek, who came from the Voice Of OC, reportedly burdened Orange County with the same type of requests.
Several City Council members told HMG-CN that Elmahrek had requested the Statement of Economic Interest Form 700’s from their respective cities.
HMG-CN called a City Clerk to confirm the request and the Clerk commented, “Yes I heard about that, he has asked every City in the state for 700’s.
The official cited an online document circulated between all City Clerks that confirmed the request.
HMG-CN inquired into several area cities, Cerritos, Artesia, Hawaiian Gardens, Norwalk, and Commerce, and confirmed that Elmahrek had requested the 700’s from every City Clerk.
Elected and appointed officials are required to file a 700 form semi-annually with their respective City Clerks. The forms show property owned and any gifts, dinners, etc. received by the official.
The 700’s were created to spot conflict of interests between the official and the gift giver.
City Clerk departments, who are often understaffed, spend many hours redacting personal information on the 700’s before submitting the documents to reporters such as Elmahrek.
It is highly unusual to ask for every city in the state, usually a reporter will ask for one or two cities based on a tip he/she received.
One City Clerk commented, “Elmahrek apparently thinks someone in the tiny town of Bass Lake, population 527, might be doing something sneaky and if he catches that person, he will advance his career in journalism, it’s ridiculous.”
Requesting records from county government, as in the case of Elmahrek’s L.A. City and County requests, can be much more costly to taxpayers.
The previously mentioned high-ranking official told HMG-CN, “His requests are generating huge amounts of hours spent by attorneys representing the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.”
“Staff must search the database for the documents responsive to Elmahrek’s request, then the attorneys must examine each page looking for personal information to redact, at $175 per hour, the costs can become quite high.”
Meanwhile, many are apprehensive of what Elmahrek might do with the information he obtains from his records requests given the articles he published with his previous employer, the Voice of OC.
Art Pedroza, Editor of the New Santa Ana Blog-started in 2009-told HMG-CN, “I was happy to see that Adam Elmahrek was leaving Orange County. I found that he lacked objectivity as a reporter while he was at the Voice of OC. He seemed to be pursuing personal vendettas, not just reporting the news.”
Evidence of Pedroza’s statement can be found in many online articles.
One article Elmahrek published concerned the Orange County District Attorney’s investigation into Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido’s property swap.
O.C. District Attorney’s chief spokeswoman Susan Kang Schroeder blasted Elmahrek after publishing the story.
She issued a press release that accused Elmahrek of “unethical and inaccurate” reporting.
Elmahrek claimed, and published, that Schroeder gave him the following quote, “We will be filing charges when the investigation is done, and I can’t say when that will be. The investigation will be done when it is done.”
After the article was published, Schroeder called Elmahrek and accused him of misquoting her.
In a follow-up article, Elmahrek’s editor apologized saying, “in the interest of fairness, we decided that it would be appropriate to update the story to reflect Schroeder’s belief that she was misquoted and to clearly state that the DA’s office has not made a decision regarding whether to charge Pulido.”
The Anaheim Blog was even stronger in condemning Elmahrek.
In 2014 the blog wrote, “reporter Adam Elmahrek has a definite agenda that colors his decisions about what stories to cover and how those stories are slanted. Some in Anaheim politics are subjected to intense and often unfair scrutiny [by Elmahrek], the actions of others are ignored, and context is often lacking.”
Elmahrek has been accused of fabricating evidence to write a story.
The Anaheim Blog wrote, “In 2012 Elmahrek wrote a story about an e-mail he hadn’t seen, and impugned the integrity of two prominent public servants with sterling reputations. Elmahrek all but accused them of defrauding the federal government, but has yet to provide any evidence.”
In another article, Elmahrek wrote about how the Santa Ana City Council scheduled a vote May 7 to strike down one of the strictest campaign finance laws in Orange County.
Elmahrek’s then added, “apparently to help Councilwoman Michele Martinez in her race for the state Assembly. ”
Elmahrek cited a donation Martinez made “in violation of the law,” but did not report about two other council members that made the same donation.
Martinez was running against union-backed candidate Julio Perez.
Perez was funded by the same union that funds the Voice of OC, Elmahrek’s employer at the time.
Elmahrek later on in the article oddly quoted Shirley Grindle, the leading campaign finance watchdog in Orange County.
Grindle told Elmahrek the law should be struck down.
Now, evidence shows that Elmahrek, in working for the Los Angeles Times, is letting the status of the job cloud his duties as a reporter.
Just this week, HMG-CN learned that Elmahrek, during his fact finding related to the ABC School Board investigation, an investigation that was dropped today by the Los Angeles District Attorney, made offensive remarks to ABC School Board members while conducting interviews.
The high-ranking official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Elmahrek “admonished and was very rude to all Board Members.”
Elmahrek’s anger came after the Board members referred him to the ABCUSD attorney for comment.
One Board member actually hung up on Elmahrek, “he was very rude and condescending.”
“Typical,” Pedroza said, “I expect that sort of behavior from a blogger – not from a supposedly reputable journalist, he just lacks objectivity and class as a reporter. Many of Elmahrek’s posts veered into tabloid territory.”
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