Two months ago, federal prosecutors announced that a former top lawyer in Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer’s office took part in an extortion scheme stemming from the Department of Water and Energy’s billing debacle.
Now another attorney – who pleaded guilty for his role in the DWP scandal – has filed a lawsuit with the California State Bar, alleging Feuer knew about the extortion scheme and perjured himself in the process. a 2019 deposition. Feuer denies the allegations.
The state bar complaint filed by attorney Paul Paradis marks the first time an individual implicated by federal prosecutors in the DWP corruption case has alleged that Feuer knew about the unethical actions and illegal actions carried out by the lawyers working for him.
Paradis’ complaint requests “that the State Bar conduct an investigation into Feuer’s conduct to determine whether Feuer should be disbarred.”
“Paradise’s claims are absurd and nothing more than a malicious attempt by a confessed criminal to distract from his own criminal misconduct,” Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said. “Of course, the city attorney was never aware of such a threat.”
Paradis, who is awaiting sentencing, declined an interview request. Complaints to the state bar are confidential, but Paradis’ complaint became public after it was filed in his pending bankruptcy case in Arizona. The city filed a lawsuit against Paradis in this case.
Feuer, a mayoral candidate, said he was unaware of schemes hatched by lawyers working for him, which began after a flawed DWP billing system sent erroneous charges to thousands of customers in 2013.
With the utility facing multiple class action lawsuits, the city’s legal team sought an attorney to file a class action lawsuit against the city, so a settlement could be quickly reached, prosecutors said.
The city’s plan was put in jeopardy, however, when a woman threatened to go public with the city’s handling of the DWP lawsuit unless she received more than $1 million from her former employer, the authorities said. prosecutors.
The woman previously worked for Beverly Hills attorney Paul Kiesel. Kiesel, along with Paradis, had been hired by Feuer’s office to help with the billing dispute.
Thomas Peters, the former top lawyer who worked for Feuer, threatened to fire Kiesel unless Kiesel paid the woman, per Peters’ own plea agreement.
In his plea agreement, Peters said he feared that if the employee made the documents public, she would show that the settlement negotiations between the DWP and its taxpayers were not the “adversarial process” they were supposed to be. be, which in turn jeopardizes the city’s $67 million settlement and damages the reputation of Feuer’s office.
At one point, Kiesel participated in a “failed mediation” in the DWP cafeteria with his former employee, which reduced his claim to $900,000, according to Peters’ agreement. Kiesel responded with a counter-offer of $60,000, which was not accepted, according to the agreement.
Paradis, in his state bar complaint filed in February, argues that, based on his communications with Peters, Feuer was aware of the extortion threat. Feuer is one of the unnamed senior officials named in Peters’ plea deal who assisted in the extortion, according to Paradis’ complaint.
Peters’ agreement says he met with unnamed “senior officials” at the city attorney’s office on Dec. 1, 2017, to discuss the threat of extortion, where he was tasked with handling the situation, pursuant to his plea agreement.
After the meeting, Peters told Paradis in a text that evening that senior management at the city attorney’s office “were not firing anyone at this point,” meaning neither Kiesel nor Paradis would lose their jobs as outside counsel on the case.
But Peters warned that others were concerned about “the prospect of a sideshow” if the employee’s threats were not addressed, according to his plea agreement.
Paradis, in his complaint to the State Bar, alleges that Peters’ text makes it clear to him that one of the senior members Peters refers to in his plea agreement is Feuer.
“Mike is not firing anyone at this point. But he’s far from happy with the prospect of a sideshow. Further, mediating Paul’s case at the DWP is not a popular decision,” the text reads, according to Paradis’ complaint.
Paradis’ complaint also states that Peters let him and Kiesel know during a meeting in November 2017 that Feuer was unhappy with the threat of extortion. In a January 2019 phone call with Paradis and Kiesel, Peters said he discussed the collusive lawsuit with Feuer, according to Paradis’ complaint.
Feuer, in deposition testimony taken in August 2019 — in a separate lawsuit stemming from the DWP billing debacle — said he was unaware of the collusive lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses Feuer of violating various California ethics rules by making false statements and ordering Peters to carry out the extortion scheme.
“The City Attorney has never heard of this woman who apparently worked for Mr. Kiesel and does not recall being told of a complaint by her” to anyone at the City Attorney’s Office. city, said Wilcox, the spokesman for Feuer.
Wilcox also said Feuer “knew nothing about the threat of extortion and the [Dec. 1, 2017] the text does not claim that he did.
Peters’ attorney, Jeff Rutherford, declined to comment on Paradis’ complaint. “Mr. Peters is cooperating fully with the authorities,” Rutherford said.
Kiesel has not been charged in this case. He confirmed to The Times last week that he attended a meeting at the city attorney’s office in November 2017, but said he did not recall Peters referring to Feuer. He also said he did not recall the January 2019 phone call.
Los Angeles Times