A California Public Records Act request on file with the City regarding Brenda Barnette’s proposed “Cat Program” has caused the head of a local feral cat feeders (TNR) group to question why someone would exercise the right to review pertinent government documents. Mark Legassie of L.A. Feeders also issued a warning against “trying to raise trouble and stop this new program.”
A very surprising e-mail on 11/6/2013 from Mark Legassie, the Founder & Chairman of L.A. Feeders, Inc., questioned my reason for utilizing the California Public Information Act to obtain information regarding the proposed Los Angeles “Cat Program,” which I discussed in a recent three-part series on Opposing Views. (www.opposingviews.com)
Here is what Mr. Legassie wrote. I will let readers decide whether they believe this is intended to be threatening or merely a simple inquiry. I am protecting Mr. Legassie’s e-mail address, although it is easily verifiable on the Internet. I have also removed the physical mailing address used on my formal inquiries to public officials, which he chose to place in the email, and the addition of which may have made him believe I would be intimidated:
From: [email protected]
Sent: 11/6/2013 5:04:58 P.M. Pacific Standard Time
Subj: Council File 12-1508
To: P. Daugherty, xxx x xxxxxx xxxx x , LA 900xx
I've seen your request for public records re: the CEQA study for the proposed cat program. Why are you requesting them? If you are trying to raise trouble and stop this new program, you'll be in for a big fight from many animal welfare organizations, including mine. I promise that we'll dig relentlessly and fight tirelessly to discredit your out-of-date views and opinions. We won't stop until your short-lived influence will no longer be a threat to the welfare of animals in this city.
You can either make friends with the animal welfare organizations in this City, or start a fight with us. If you chose the latter, you will lose.
Take your pick -- we hope it's the former.
Founder & Chairman
LA Feeders, Inc.
The request for documents to which he refers were regarding former Mayoral Aide Jim Bickhart and GM Brenda Barnette and the manipulative handling of money for a CEQA report donated by four major donors—Best Friends, Found Animals, ASPCA and a local donor (who also provides spay/neuter services but wished to remain anonymous.)
The $52,000 for the CEQA review was donated by organizations that could realize benefit from a positive report allowing unlimited Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) of feral cats throughout L.A. And the money was placed, without a City Attorney’s written opinion, in the codified Animal Welfare Trust Fund, which strictly prohibits the use of that account for new programs and/or animal/pet sterilization.
The “Cat Program” also proposes to divert millions of dollars from the City Council-established Pet Sterilization Trust Fund restricted for only owned pets (mainly in low-income families) to allow this taxpayer money to be used to spay/neuter feral cats.
TRAP/NEUTER/RELEASE (TNR) IS ALIVE AND WELL IN L.A. WITHOUT GOVERNMENT FUNDING
As indicated below by Mr. Legassie, Trap/Neuter/Release programs are rampant throughout Los Angeles without City funding and seem to prosper well from direct private donations. According to www.LAFeeders.org, L.A. Feeders is a 50l(c)3 organization. On the website, it claims:
“As one of the largest community cat feeding organizations in the world, LA Feeders has a simple goal -- to ensure every neighborhood (stray) cat in Southern California is fed…As of Nov 2011 we have 350 members feeding over 8000 community cats in the Southern California area.”
In a January 31, 2011 post, Mr. Legassie writes that Brenda Barnette was a special guest speaker at a recent LA Feeders' membership meeting.
MR. LEGASSIE IS A FORMER NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL OFFICER
It seems strange that Mr. Legassie would object to public inquiry when, as the former Treasurer of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, he defended himself and wrote about the importance of transparency in government and accounting. In a post on the Highland Park Patch on 12/20/11, entitled, “Letter to the Editor: ASNC Audit Charges are 'Trumped Up;'” Mr. Legassie writes:
“Here are important details to help understand the series of events for the most recent round of items brought up by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) via Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC) President Martha Benedict and Treasurer Judy Knapton...I handled more than $100,000 in public funds, giving more "say so" to the actual ASNC stakeholders than ever before and pretty much flawlessly accounting for it until the last few weeks…“ http://highlandpark-ca.patch.
Mr. Legassie later addressed concerns raised by his posting the following invitation for feeders to vote the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council election:
Message 1 of 1, Oct 7, 2012
To: All LA Feeders members
I need your help this Saturday, 10/13 to protect homeless pets and animal welfare funding in the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council (ASNC). Have your say in Los Angeles government -- homeless pets need your vote this weekend more than ever before. PLEASE RSVP BY EMAILING [email protected] IF YOU CAN MAKE IT TO A POLLING PLACE NEAR MY HOME IN HERMON BETWEEN 10AM-2PM THIS SAT 10/13. Don't worry-- as LA Feeders members you are eligible to vote, and we'll tell you the names ahead of time and exactly how to vote (step-by-step) and where to go.
BONUS: Help LA Feeders this Saturday by voting in our Neighborhood Council elections and you'll automatically be put on the RSVP list for the next food depot on Sat, Oct 13th at 2pm, right after the elections close, and be guaranteed at least 45 pounds of Meow Mix cat kibble (for a $15 suggested donation) and possibly up to 80 lbs. No need to bring bags since it's pre-bagged this time by the company! Don't think your eligible? If you filled out the LA Feeders questionnaire available online and sent it in, then you're eligible.
He, again, responded in the Highland Park Patch:
Pet Food for Votes?
Founder of local non-profit organization accused of bribing constituents for votes
Posted by Mark Legassie, October 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM
“Yesterday my 501(c)3 public charity organization LA Feeders (formerly FAST- Friendly Arroyo Seco Trappers), held it's regular weekly food depot at Ramona Hall. The pet food is distributed at our cost (usually 25 cents on a dollar) to the poor and others that are caring for stray cats, dogs and even guinea pigs… “Last night a friend contacted me and said she heard an accusation at the Ramona polling booth that I was giving out pet food in exchange for votes!..I'd like to state for the record, we were *not* exchanging food for votes.” http://highlandpark-ca.patch.
WHY WOULD MR. LEGASSIE OBJECT TO PUBLIC INFORMATION INQUIRIES?
Why would a former Neighborhood Council official and charity director take issue with someone making an inquiry regarding a funding aspect of a governmental program that proposes to divert City taxpayer/donor pet sterilization money to stray/feral cats and may create the possibility that non-profit entities paying for a CEQA report could potentially benefit?
LOS ANGELES HAS ALREADY BEEN “BULLIED”
Los Angeles Animal Service employees, City officials and many animal activists have endured a long string of bullies, the latest of which was the siege of terrorism by the ADL-LA (Animal Defense League—LA), which included threats, vandalism and harassment and ended with City officials being threatened if they did not confirm the Mayor hiring Brenda Barnette as L.A. Animal Services General Manager.
From his experience as a Neighborhood Council officer, Mr. Legassie should be aware that the City Council must not be influenced by threats and must base its decisions only on what is best for Los Angeles. And, activists—including myself—must not be deterred from making inquiries and expressing opinions.
Let’s hope Mr. Legassie’s e-mail is just poorly stated and easily misunderstood and that his motive in writing was merely to inform me his support of TNR and not really to be a Bully for Brenda Barnette's Cat Program.