Mitch Englander, L.A. City Leader, Asked to Step Aside in Debate Over Taking Unlicensed Drivers' Cars
Corrected: We deleted an erroneous reference to "business ties" between Mitch Englander and folks who represent tow yards and the police union.
The matter of impounding cars belonging to unlicensed drivers in the city of L.A. is becoming a hot topic.
The National Lawyers Guild and the Southern California Immigration Coalition are calling on L.A. city Councilman Mitch Englander to step away from the debate because he has family ties to people who represent the tow yards that are paid for the impounds and the L.A. police union that is vehemently pro-tow.
Englander sent this response to LA Weekly:
These made up lies are wrong and they are simply trying to change the subject since they don't have any legal basis for their argument.
The beef is this: The NLG and the Southern California Immigration Coalition point out that Englander's uncle "[Harvey]
Michael Englander, and his public relations firm-Englander, Knabe & Allen-represent the PPL (Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union)" and that " ... the league's [media relations consultant] chief lobbyist, Eric Rose, doubles as the Executive Director of OPG, which stands to lose significant revenue as a result of the Chief's procedural change ... "
In other words, they argue, Englander is allegedly tied into interests that have money on the line regarding the LAPD's tow policy. However, there's nothing illegal there if Englander weighed in on a decision that happened to benefit a non-household relative.
Englander has appeared to be against the policy change. At a Police Commission meeting this week packed with anti-illegal-immigrant fans of the AM radio show John & Ken, he said, "I'm confident that through dialogue we'll be able to set good public policy."
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the L.A. Police Commission are looking at ending the mandatory tows of unlicensed drivers stopped by cops. It's a change that Mayor Antonio Villaragosa clearly wants to see happen.
Immigrants' rights groups have criticized the tows, which involve mandatory, 30-day impounds:
They say that undocumented workers, who can't legally get licenses in California, are unfairly targeted and essentially have their cars taken (it takes about $1,500 to get them back after 30 days) while the city, police department and tow yards make money.
While the groups have also accused the LAPD of targeting immigrants by setting up DUI checkpoints in certain neighborhoods (the state no longer allows impounds of unlicensed drivers' vehicles at checkpoints), it was pointed out to us that city impounds have actually decreased more than 30 percent in recent years.
It still appears to be a lucrative business, however.
The NLG's letter:
... Thirty-day impounds are a profitable enterprise for OPG garages, who do substantial business with the City. Each 30-day impound can earn OPG garages almost $1,500. Not surprisingly, these garages have aggressively lobbied the City to continue the flow of money from poor immigrant workers-the most common victims of 30-day impounds-to the coffers of these towing companies.
Councilman Englander's close financial and familial ties to the Police Protective League and the Official Police Garage Association completely compromise his ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of the City of Los Angeles and its residents
It's not clear it the policy will come before the full council, however. Police officials maintain that it's a police decision.
But L.A. Councilman and former LAPD Chief Bernard Parks submitted a motion to the council last month that would have Beck explain the department's direction to the body's Public Safety Committee within 30 days.
For his part, Eric Rose off the Official Police Garage group sent us this response:
Councilman Englander has no financial interest in Englander Knabe & Allen nor has he ever had a financial interest in any of the companies associated with Harvey Englander. As previously published in the media, Harvey Englander does not advocate any client issues with any family members holding elective office.
... The objections from the LAPPL to the proposal from the Mayor regarding changes to the 30-day hold policy are because unlicensed drivers are unsafe drivers.
... To be clear, The Official Police Garage Association of Los Angeles (OPG) supports changes in state law to reduce the number of unlicensed drivers by allowing for provisional licensing for those who cannot legally obtain a California driver's license.
As our boss joked, if Englander did step aside for fear of presenting even the possibility of a conflict of interest, it would be a first for City Hall.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.