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City Controller Candidate Paul Koretz Racks Up Yet Another Campaign Ethics Violation

The Koretz campaign unethically sent a campaign email using city resources, boasting of Koretz's reputation for reform and accountability.

councilmember paul koretz smiles against a white brick backdrop at a coffee shop
(Image: paulkoretz | Instagram)

CD 5 Councilmember Paul Koretz hasn’t had a great past couple of months.

First there were his fundraising campaign violations, which were uncovered in February. Then two weeks ago Kenneth Mejia, Koretz’s challenger in the upcoming city controller election, received the LA Times’ endorsement. 

This endorsement, in turn, has ruffled feathers at Koretz campaign headquarters —  campaign communications director Parke Skelton has gotten repeatedly ratioed for his bad posts in response to it.

Making matters worse, Team Koretz has also come under scrutiny by constituents outside his district, as the Reseda Neighborhood Council recently called attention to what appear to be more blatant campaign ethics violations.

Jamie York, secretary of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, received an April 8 email blast sent by Koretz’s campaign to the Reseda Neighborhood Council list and recognized that this was a problem.

an email from the Koretz campaign that reads "PAUL KORETZ FOR CITY CONTROLLER - Hi Community Leader, I want to personally reach out to you since you are an integral member of the community. I am running for LA City Controller and hope to earn your support. As you may know, I was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in July 2009 in large parts thanks to the support from Neighborhood Council and HOA members like you. I have been a champion for high quality and efficient city services as a member of the Los Angeles City Budget Committee for 10 years. I also have chaired the Audits and Government Efficiency Committee, and currently chair the Personnel, Audits, & Animal Welfare Committee (the Committee that hears and advances the Controller's audits). I have fought to enact reforms that have saved Los Angeles millions of dollars. I have developed a reputation as an independent budget watchdog who has experience and a thorough understanding of a complex budget in one of the largest cities in the United States. As a member of the LA City Council, I am dedicated to solving our City's long-time homelessness problem, and will use the Office of City Controller to focus on improving the city's approach to homelessness. This begins with an intensive analysis of the programs and processes we use to combat this crisis, prioritizing actions which have been most effective, and streamlining our processes for building homeless and low-income housing."
The email Koretz’s campaign sent out to the entire EmpowerLA neighborhood council mailing list.

“I noticed immediately as this is not the first ethics violation I have reported and I take the separation of government and the political seriously,” York explained via email. “It was however the first campaign email sent to the entire body of our neighborhood council using our city distribution list.” 

According to the spirit of existing campaign regulations, public officials fundamentally shouldn’t be using city resources, in this case City of Los Angeles LISTSERVs accessed via EmpowerLA by Koretz, to campaign for a city office.

York immediately forwarded the Koretz email to the City Ethics Commission along with a message:

This is a violation of 49.5.5 b4 and C. The empowerla distribution lists are entirely city owned and operated. They are the lists used to contact neighborhood council members en masse, but they are maintained by the department of neighborhood empowerment, which is a city resource. Additionally, in no way did our neighborhood council opt into these emails.

York spread the news to colleagues, such as Reseda Neighborhood Council President DJ Frank and Parliamentarian Michelle Gallagher. 

“We’d like the Ethics Commission to take a look at this and investigate it,” said Frank. “Where did they harvest the emails from? It’s not proper. If you’re a government employee, it gives you a leg up on your opponent.” 

The Reseda Neighborhood Council then unanimously passed a Community Impact Statement outlining their concerns.

In speaking with colleagues on other neighborhood councils, we believe it is likely that all neighborhood councils with an email distribution list maintained by the City received this campaign mailing. As there are 99 neighborhood councils, this may mean that 99 different City owned and maintained distribution lists were used in sending this communication.

For those who care about local politics, the issues this type of violation raises transcend party or political lines. “I think it’s a big deal if a candidate gets help from the city. It doesn’t matter who the candidate is. We have to have a fair election,” says Gallagher.  

Neither Koretz’s campaign nor the Ethics Commission have returned requests for comment. 

These complaints have gone unaddressed and will likely remain that way, say members of the Reseda Neighborhood Council. Like so many rules and regulations in LA that are in place, if they are not being properly enforced, they are essentially meaningless. 

Entrenched electeds who put their thumb on the scale only help deflate an already saggy democracy in an uphill election year.

“It’s hard to get people to care about these local elections,” said Gallagher. “It’s very hard to get out the vote, especially when it’s not a presidential election year or a nonpartisan race. They don’t even care about the race, so why would they care about the corruption?”

The irony here is that Koretz boasts of being a champion of reform and accountability — in an email he’s distributing unethically. 

“I have been fighting corruption in City Hall,” the original Paul Koretz campaign email boldly claims. “I am one of the authors of the ban on developer contributions which goes into effect in June, and worked on and seconded the motion to create the Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency.”

David Ryu, a former councilmember who has himself been exposed for ethics violations, co-authored the motion with Koretz to create the Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency. Against the backdrop of the José Huizar scandal, the motion passed in 2020. 

To date, the Los Angeles Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency has held zero meetings.