Ex-city official who was illegally lobbying was also being paid $18K a month by city

Michael LoGrande admitted he violated the city’s “revolving door” policy last week, landing him the biggest fine ever levied against city employee

Aug.August 21, 2019 12:00 PM
Michael LoGrande and, from top, Robert Herscu, Nick Jones and Zach Vella (Credit: Urban Land Institute, Wikipedia Commons, Getty Images, The Real Deal)
Michael LoGrande and, from top, Robert Herscu, Nick Jones and Zach Vella (Credit: Urban Land Institute, Wikipedia Commons, Getty Images, The Real Deal)

As the case surrounding Michael LoGrande, a former city employee who has admitted to illegally lobbying the city, gets a whole lot murkier, it’s also now roped in some of Los Angeles’ most active developers.

Documents show the former Los Angeles planning department chief was also being paid $18,000 per month in consulting fees by the city during the time he was violating city ethics laws, the Los Angeles Times reported. He also worked closely with developers HQ Development, Vella Group and VE Equities, all of which had major projects that they were trying to get off the ground during his tenure.

A report by the Ethics Commission found that LoGrande had committed four violations in early 2016, which is the same time he secured a consulting contract with the city. The three-month consulting gig, ending April 2016, was touted as a way for LoGrande to properly wrap up his work before his replacement came in.

While consulting the city, LoGrande helped expedite a conversion project HQ Development was working on in Hollywood. HQ, led by Australian businessman Robert Herscu, has many adaptive reuse projects scattered around the city.

LoGrande also unsuccessfully tried to help an unidentified hotel developer avoid zoning changes in Hollywood, as well as to reduce fees for a project in Woodland Hills.

Once his contract ended, LoGrande legally lobbied the city on behalf of Soho House & Co., Vella Group and VE Equities. Email documents show LoGrande was also communicating with people involved with their projects in late 2015, while he was still running the planning department. It’s unclear whether there was foul play involved.

Vella Group and VE Equities were working on a project in the Arts District at the time. The New York-based firm has become an active investor in the city, and recently paid $51 million for a 200,000-square-foot office campus in El Segundo.

Last week, LoGrande admitted to repeatedly breaking the “revolving door” law, which prohibits officials from lobbying elected leaders or decision-makers during the first 12 months following their departure. He agreed to pay a $281,250 fine — the largest fine ever levied against a current or former city employee. [LAT] — Natalie Hoberman

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