Ties That Bind | Offbeat | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Ties That Bind 

Wednesday, Jul 8 1998
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These are the kinds of relationships the subway was built on.

Neil Papiano, the sort of downtown attorney people describe as "well-connected," counts among his longtime clients both the Nederlander Organization, operator of the Pantages and Greek theaters and one of the largest landowners in Hollywood, and Richard Alatorre, city councilman and former MTA board chairman. Apart from having counsel in common, Nederlander and Alatorre have enjoyed mutually beneficial financial ties.

For instance, in 1993, as the MTA was cranking up to build the Red Line Hollywood extension, Nederlander hired Alatorre’s wife for a $30,000-a-year contract to do "community outreach," according to the councilman’s annual financial-disclosure statements. And around the same time, the MTA decided to site its Hollywood-and-Vine station across the boulevard from the Pantages on a 2.25 acre parcel owned by . . . the Nederlanders. The firm was handsomely compensated for the deal and has since quietly bought up more land around the station. (Papiano says he was unaware of Alatorre’s wife’s contract.)

Papiano, in the meantime, also represented a consortium of contractors under investigation for buying Alatorre’s influence to win a multimillion-dollar deal to build the subway’s Eastside extension. And Papiano is currently working as Alatorre’s attorney in a bitter and politically charged custody battle over the councilman’s niece, a case in which much of Alatorre’s alleged dirty laundry is getting aired.

This tangled skein of relationships has drawn the attention of the FBI. Apparently, field agents investigating Alatorre for alleged tax violations and corruption have been inquiring into the particulars of the Hollywood-Vine–station site purchase, according to one source who was recently interviewed.

The Nederlander Organization, for its part, is said to be exploring development of a new theater on land near the subway stop, which is scheduled to open in summer 1999.

—Sam Gideon Anson

Beach Front Bully

The National Labor Relations Board in West Los Angeles sent a not-so-subtle message to the Miramar Sheraton Hotel last week: Play fair.

It seems the board felt the Santa Monica hotel wasn’t behaving nicely last October when employees were asked to vote on whether the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees, Local 814, should be allowed to keep their stronghold. The hotel won that election by just a few votes. Union officials immediately filed objections against the hotel, alleging misconduct on the part of the hotel’s management.

In a 36-page report, NLRB officials recommended a new vote be held after investigators concluded the hotel had waged an illegal anti-union campaign. The board cited the hotel’s decision to hire professional consultants to run the campaign, and the meetings it held to sway workers away from the union, as proof the Miramar’s managers had made it clear that supporting the union was "not considered to be the proper thing to be doing," the report said.

An NLRB official also found that the Miramar had intimidated workers on election day by stationing supervisors and security guards near the polls.

Intimidation came in subtler forms, too: Workers in the housekeeping department were told to pick up their checks at the security office on election day, instead of from their supervisor’s office.

But don’t expect new elections just yet. An attorney for the hotel said it plans to appeal the board’s recommendation. And both sides must still wait for the NLRB to consider unfair-labor-practice charges filed by the union against the Miramar.

—Mary Moore

School Dazed

LAUSD students got a lesson in new math last month after school officials quietly admitted something wasn’t adding up. It seems that in between handing out diplomas, bidding long goodbyes and collecting books, administrators at Jordan High School in Watts noticed a small scheduling error: The school year wasn’t long enough to meet state law. Evidently, students were let out last month after attending only 179 days of school — a day short of the mandated 180 days. The shortfall even confused principal Etta Seamster McMahan, who at first refused to acknowledge that something was wrong. "There is no school on Thursday," said McMahan, denying the need for a make-up day. Apparently, she spoke before she realized a group of parent and teacher volunteers were on campus busily calling high schoolers to tell them about the "educational (with incentives) fair," which was hastily scheduled for a Thursday three days after students were dismissed for the summer. Among the door prizes given out to those who attended the extra day were free pizza, tickets to Magic Mountain, and even sweatshirts donated by Shaquille O’Neal. And of course students could also pick up report cards, get help on the proficiency exams they need to pass, or enroll in summer school. That did little, however, to draw students back for one more day of learning — less than a quarter of the 2,030 enrolled at Jordan attended.

—Jade Chang

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