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L.A. Councilman Ryu Releases Documents Marked For Destruction By Predecessor

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We've got our eyes on the "LaBonge Stationary" box. (Courtesy Councilman David Ryu's office)
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L.A. City Councilman David Ryu made 35 recently discovered boxes of documents originally marked for shredding from his predecessor, the affable Tom LaBonge, available to the public on Friday. Ryu was alerted to the documents by the L.A. City Attorney's office, which found the boxes while searching for documents pertaining to an ongoing lawsuit from land use attorney Robert Silverstein, according to the Daily News.

Apparently, the boxes contain lots of old budget papers and travel receipts, along with city planning information, and reports according to the L.A. Times. Based on the picture, it also looks like there is a critically important box filled with "LaBonge Stationary." While the boxes were marked for shredding upon LaBonge’s exit, it seems these particular 35 boxes were misplaced, and temporarily lost by the city. LaBonge's office originally sent 113 boxes for destruction last June.

Several letters from the public have also been discovered, pointing to public correspondence that would have been permanently lost had the documents gone to the shredder as they were marked. Ryu represents the sprawled Council District 4, which covers land between Sherman Oaks, the Miracle Mile, Koreatown, Hollywood, and the Hollywood Hills. Consequently, letters to LaBonge from people living in lots of central L.A. neighborhoods may have been lost.

"People had been for the last 3, 4, 5, 6 months sending in complaints to the office and thinking that someone was working on those issues," said Jim O’Sullivan, the president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, to KPCC. "It was just all gone."

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Along with lost public correspondence, some campaign finance information from a previous LaBonge campaign was also found. Per the L.A. City Elections rules, city employees are barred from conducting campaign business during their work-hours, or in city offices not immediately available to the public.

Aside from the possible election rule violation—obviously elected officials work on their campaigns during work hours in their offices—the boxes underscore the more concerning question of what city offices are supposed to do during changes of administration?

Los Angeles has no real system for transferring records between outgoing and incoming administrations, whether on a mayoral or council record. Although state law mandates some these records are preserved, city politicians are not bound by any sort of municipal code stipulating what should and shouldn’t be saved.

LaBonge reportedly told the L.A. Times how no one told him to save any of the documents, and that anything “important” would have been stored elsewhere.

Estevan Montemayor, a spokesperson for Ryu, explained how the councilman thinks L.A. needs better rules for preserving city records. When Ryu’s staff began work last year, one of their chief complaints was that they were starting from scratch—the outgoing LaBonge office had left no records behind.