For the last couple of days, local media has been buzzing with reports about files from former City Council Member Tom La Bonge’s office, which were removed from the office before current Council Member David Ryu took over after his election last spring. According to a story in the Larchmont Ledger a few days ago, some of those files, eagerly sought by the new CD4 staff, have now been found.
In a phone call with the Buzz yesterday evening (Wednesday, January 27), current CD4 Communications Director Estevan Montemayor confirmed that 35 boxes of files from La Bonge’s office were located by the City Attorney’s office (while investigating a land use case) at Piper Technical Center, a downtown facility where city files can be archived or sent out for destruction. Montemayor also confirmed that the City Attorney’s office has returned the boxes to the current CD4 staff, who are now examining the contents.
According to Montemayor, Ryu’s staff was surprised to find that most records from La Bonge’s term in office had been removed before the new staff moved in last July. Since then, he said, the office has been forced to start over from scratch, trying to reconstruct the history of specific issues, especially land use cases and the allocation and distribution of La Bonge’s discretionary funds.
Montemayor said Ryu’s staff notified the City Clerk and City Attorney’s offices several months ago that they were looking for information about these matters, but no records existed. On January 23, however, the City Attorney’s office notified Ryu’s staff that 35 boxes of La Bonge’s files had been located at Piper Technical Center and transferred to the City Attorney’s office. Montemayor said Michael Dungas, from the City Attorney’s office, also told Ryu’s staff that the boxes would be returned to them as soon as possible…and Montemayor confirmed that CD 4 received them yesterday afternoon.
According to Montemayor, the contents of the boxes are still unknown, and they were marked “burn” — which in city parlance is an instruction to send them to South Bay Records, a secure shredding service the city contracts with for document destruction (by shredding, not actual burning).
Montemayor said Ryu’s staff will be looking through the boxes over the next few days, removing any personnel or personal information, and will then – possibly next week – schedule time for media representatives and constituents to come in and examine the files, if they wish.
Montemayor acknowledged that there is one person – Ryu’s Chief of Planning and Land Use, Renee Weitzer – who was also La Bonge’s Chief of Planning and does have extensive knowledge of many issues handled by the previous administration. But he said that because Ms. Weitzer retired from La Bonge’s staff on May 2 of last year, and the boxes were apparently sent to Piper Technical Center during the last week of June, she was not on staff when the old office was closed and the missing files removed. Montemayor said he could not yet confirm whether any more La Bonge files, beyond the 35 boxes received yesterday, have been either found or verified destroyed.