LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks has lost his bid for a new trial on allegations he owed more than $60,000 for automated calls made to potential voters during his failed 2008 campaign for a seat on the county Board of Supervisors.
A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled unanimously Monday that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper acted correctly in August 2011 when she found there was insufficient evidence to overturn Judge John Kronstadt’s finding against the councilman and in favor of Call Center Services.
Kronstadt issued his ruling after a non-jury trial in November 2010. A judgment was entered on the firm’s behalf in June 2011 for $60,425.
Kronstadt found there was a “preponderance of evidence” showing the councilman “knew or should have known” that his campaign committee had hired the company to make thousands of automated calls targeting white, Spanish-speaking and Republican residents on the Westside.
Kronstadt noted that Parks’ own voice could be heard in the calls. Two of Parks’ top aides testified in November that they witnessed the former Los Angeles police chief making the first recording on May 16, 2008. Parks recorded a second call 10 days later, they said.
The aides, Herb Wesson III–son of Councilman Herb Wesson–and Andrew Westall also testified that Parks verbally authorized them to engage Call Center Services, telling them, “make it happen,” “hook it up” and “get these loaded.”
Kronstadt was later named to the federal court bench, and the Parks case was assigned to Scheper.
Parks’ lawyers moved for a new trial, noting that an anonymous call was made to the councilman’s office in January 2011 by an individual later identified as Gabriel Grunspan, who claimed to have known Westall for 14 years.
Grunspan, after reading a newspaper article about the case, “believed that … Westall had perjured himself in testifying at trial,” Parks’ court papers state.
But Scheper said Kronstadt could have been apprised of Grunspan’s claims before Kronstadt finalized his decision. The appellate court justices also were not convinced by the new evidence raised by Grunspan’s assertions.
“Even if the court had believed the declaration, it would not have contradicted the myriad pieces of evidence tending to show Parks knew of the contractual obligation,” Justice Nora Manella wrote in authoring the 24-page opinion. “They include his conduct in twice recording robocalls, his May 11, 2008, email to Wesson and other supporters requesting that robocall scripts be
loaded–confirming his intent to proceed with robocalls–(and) his instruction to Westall to obtain audio files from certain celebrities and politicians for use in robocalls …”
Parks also authorized a $5,000 payment to Call Center Services, Manella wrote.
In short, Manella wrote, the court “had ample basis to find Grunspan’s testimony would not likely have changed the outcome.”
Parks maintained he never authorized his aides to enter into a contract with Call Center Services.
“I never heard of the company until after the primary election and we received an invoice–not a detailed bill of what was done, but an invoice saying we owed money,” Parks said in January.
“Nobody had ever heard of the company, and certainly the people that they dealt with (Wesson and Westall) didn’t have the authority to go into that level of obligation.”