Documents Show Burbank’s Expenses Against Tinhorn Flats Now Over $287,000

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Boarded Up TinHorn Flats (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Figures obtained last week that were given to myBurbank showed that the City of Burbank has already occurred expenses that at approaching $300,000 during the incidents at Tinhorn Flats this year.

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After repeated citations by the County of Los Angeles Health Department, the City of Burbank revoked the Conditional Use Permit of the restaurant/bar on February 22 after a public hearing. The owners remained defiant and kept the restaurant open, resulting in the arrest of one of the owners three times and ultimately erecting a chain-link fence around the property to keep people from entering.

All of these actions resulting in protests from people, who mostly came from outside of Burbank, that resulted in increased tension in the area for neighbors which police were forced to monitor.

During this time, the City has continued its court case against the owners of the restaurant, Barfly Inc. The City Council met in a closed session this past Tuesday to discuss the case further.

From December 22, 2020, until September 2, 2021, the Burbank City Attorney’s Office has expenses of $21,663.13 with the case still not going to trial. A Case Management Conference is now scheduled for October 12.

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Burbank’s Water and Powers show expenses of $3,693.90 and Public Works has expenses of $31,486.77.

Besides the expenses of the City Attorney, Burbank police have expenses of $227,539.60 from April 18 to August 24.

According to Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department in an email reply said, “All of the costs reported incurred by the Police Department were related to overtime.

Police were on duty constantly after repeated calls from residents, even after the installation of a fence around Tinhorn Flats back in April. (Photo By Edward Tovmassian)

The overtime was to ensure appropriate levels of staff to provide safety and security for members of the community who live, work or patronize businesses in the area, for individuals protesting in the area, for City staff conducting work in the area, to ensure property was not vandalized, and to maintain order and ensure the court’s and county’s rulings were not violated.

Unanticipated overtime and staffing needs placed a financial strain on the department as well as a mental and physical strain on officers who were required to regularly work overtime on regular days off to staff THF.”

In the documents we received, it showed a breakdown of the day-to-day activity of police operations and the manpower involved, documenting each officer individually and the time they spent working the detail.

While officials can not discuss what happened in the Council’s closed session Tuesday night when they were given an update of the case by a representative of the City Attorney’s office, it is still the Council who will give direction to the City on how they want to proceed.

Simone McFarland, Public Information for the City of Burbank, said the following in an email reply when asked what recourse the City had to recoup costs from the enforcement, “It is premature to discuss the recovery of City’s potential cost. I do wish to emphasize the property owner has been very cooperative through the litigation”

Isabelle Lepejian, the property owner and former wife of business owner Baret Lepejian has also been named as a defendant in the City’s suit against Barfly, Inc. (Tinhorn Flats) but according to McFarland, “The property owner has been working to correct all violations at the building. The property owner has the right to determine the future use of the property within the confines of the City zoning laws.

The City fenced the property pursuant to the City’s Building Official’s authority, and as such, once building and safety violations have been corrected the fence will be removed at the appropriate time.”

Isabelle Lepejian’s son, Lucas Lepejian has had four misdemeanor charges filed against him and according to McFarland there have been court hearings and the defense has notified the court they plan to seek judicial diversion but have, yet, to file a motion requesting it. He is due back in court in early October.

Tinhorn Flats has already raised some substantial funds. According to the website Propublica, Barfly was given $64,118 in Federal PPP funds for the purpose of payroll. In addition, a gofundme page started by Lucas Lepejian has raised $93,911 dollars to date.

Baret Lepejian, has not been present during the entire event. He has spoken through his Tinhorn Flats Instagram Page, attacking City officials, and giving his opinions on everything from vaccine mandates to the forced eviction by his ex-wife. He has remained in Thailand where he says he runs his business, Anoogo in Bangkok.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hello,

    While I did not object to fines and notices, I did not support the blank-check policy that the Burbank City Council approved regarding Barfly, Inc. dba Tinhorn Flats. The County had already filed a case in LA Superior Court and we pay the County Health Department to abate such nuisances and violations. The LA County Sheriff had the power and our tax money to deal with this and the City’s decision to double the efforts was, in my view, a political move. The City Council may have meant well however exceeded their mandate by spending our money in this way. Blank-check government actions must be stopped and become a thing of the past. Such attitudes are the vector of high taxes and for those who know me well, I am working daily to find a path to lower taxes in Burbank, LA County and California.

    Perhaps there is more to the story and here are some considerations:

    1. The inability to put “hands” on Baret Lepejian is no excuse for dropping the “pen” here on proceeding with recovery of the People’s hard-earned tax money. The sum is so astronomical, the City has a fiduciary duty to all taxpayers to seek a judgment, which is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely. See: Code of Civil Procedure § 683.140.

    https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/ej190.pdf

    My financial analysts here have estimated the true figure is well over seven figures because of the cost of the criminal proceedings, the LA County’s lawsuit and related costs, undisclosed staff time and costs not necessarily subject to public records requests (inability of the City to accurately account for those true costs), human capital expenses such as the cost of managing employees and legal proceedings and involvement of other staff and agencies that the City has not considered and accounted for, and other possibilities we could discuss and debate.

    The Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles will issue an order for publication of the summons and complaint in any situation where personal service of a lawsuit cannot be effectuated. See: Code of Civil Procedure § 415.50. See also: https://www.lacourt.org/forms/pdf/laciv108.pdf

    Clearly blood is thicker than water and the City’s use of the term “property owner” appears intentionally misleading.

    The property owner is mom. Every mother I know will do whatever it takes to protect her children.

    The property owner is a blood relative, the mother, and no one whom I have spoken with believes for a minute that her cooperation should relieve her and the property of the right of the City to file a Notice of Lis Pendens with the County. The City also has the power to add the costs of abatement and enforcement to the property tax bill. These powers are codified. Has the City filed a Notice of Lis Pendens and if not, why not? See for example: https://www.talkovlaw.com/what-is-a-lis-pendens-california/

    2. The misdemeanor cases…how much did they cost? That is certainly not accounted for in the enforcement action cost breakdown. The management of probation will also have a substantial cost. How much is that projected to come to?

    3. Why is the City speaking about diversion? This is “old” school thinking in criminal proceedings and the City should seek criminal convictions for the charges. The State of California offers relief after conviction, so long as all fines are paid and conditions of probation are fulfilled (emphasis added).

    The City’s current rhetoric will result in an outcome that leaves us taxpayers without restitution. Baret Lepejian can fix his background after his probation ends and he pays back what he owes in restitution. See: Penal Code §§ 1203.4; 1203.4a. Also see here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/cr180.pdf

    The citizens of Burbank must be satisfied that the maximum sentence and greatest possible penalty were sought in light of the mayor’s own words that the perpetrators were defiant of the City’s orders and that was a reason the City put so much money and time into this; allegedly to protect us all from harm.

    4. In reading the words of Communications Manager/PIO, it would seem that the City has already made a decision regarding NOT pursuing recovery of the People’s hard-earned money…the reference to Baret Lepejian being out of the country and the cooperation of these people’s mom continues to be referenced however the sum is so massive, a judgment must be sought. Remember why the sales tax rate is 10.25%…and lodging tax is 10% and these rates will go up even more if we do not push back against the blank-check City government policies.

    5. All civil fines and penalties owed to governmental units are not dischargeable in a Chapter 7 or 11 case (11 United States Code § 523(a)(7)). The Lepejians will not escape the judgment even in bankruptcy and eventually will have to repay the taxpayers. America remains the greatest country in the world and rest assured, we will see Beret Lepejian back here again. I am willing to bet money on it.

    6. It is imperative that the criminal cases involve fines sufficient to cover the costs of enforcement/abatement. The City can multiply the fines for each violation that occurred, for example, the statutory fine permitted can be multiplied by the number of days the business was illegally operating. Further, the People can seek restitution for the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money.

    It takes two to tango and the City is equally responsible for the high cost of this “project”.

    I recommended alternative actions to the City leaders that would have cost little to nothing but my recommendations were not activated. When I personally visited the site after the power was shut down, the only customers in the property appeared to be friends of the Lepejians. I’m not sold on the pitch that the big bucks were needed to “protect the public from COVID”. This was an over-heated urinating contest plain and simple.

    The City must now recover our hard-earned taxpayer money. Let’s insist on it…I will, will you?

    If you have an opinion, here is the City Council’s email address: citycouncil@burbankca.gov

  2. The govt forced business to close down and then didn’t compensate the owners or employees. Instead the govt gave BILLIONS of dollars to people who never missed a paycheck!?!? Then politicians across the country defied their own mandates – including newsome, pillosy, and just this week the mayor of SF. The city council should get over their control issues and drop all charges and fines against the owners of THF. This miscarriage has already cost the owners their business and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the city almost $300k. Move on.

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