Public Funds Flow to Private Attorneys in Billboard Company Lawsuit

Regency Outdoor Advertising billboard on Robertson Blvd.

Almost $700,000 in Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds has been paid to private law firms defending the agency and city of Los Angeles against a lawsuit a West Hollywood billboard company filed more than ten years ago over the CRA’s denial of permits for two new billboards.

Brought by Regency Outdoor Advertising in 1999, the lawsuit sought $10 million in damages for the denial of permits in redevelopment zones in Hollywood and the Exposition Park area.  The lawsuit dragged through various hearings and settlement talks until 2008, when a judge dismissed the company’s claims for damages, but awarded it $14,000 in costs incurred in applying for the denied permits.

That decision was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month ruled that Regency can continue to pursue its claim for damages.  Currently, both the city and Regency have agreed to mediation of that claim, although Regency wants a private mediator, and the city is seeking to have a federal judge appointed to that role.

According to city records, a total of $661,581 has been paid to three different law firms to defend the CRA and city.  Those firms and amounts paid are:

-Law Firm of Kathryn Reimann   $377,700
-Fox & Sohagi   $224,500
-Meyers Nave   $59,381

The case is now being handled by the L.A. City Attorney’s office, consistent with City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s policy of limiting the amount of legal work the city contracts out to private law firms.  The CRA funds expended on the case came from property taxes generated by CRA development projects.

Dennis Hathaway

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