Scott Svonkin, a former West Hollywood City Council deputy who is said to have gotten into altercations with coworkers while in that job, has been accused of intimidating and physically threatening a member of the L.A. Community College Board of Trustees, which he chairs.
At a meeting last Wednesday, the LACC board formed an ad hoc committee consisting of three board members to look into allegations by board member Andra Hoffman that Svonkin verbally abused her.
In a complaint filed with the board, Hoffman cited a number of incidents. “… Svonkin on March 8, 2017, at a closed session meeting at West Los Angeles College yelled at me in a threatening manner claiming I was staring at him and if I did not stop I would be dismissed from the room….,” is one example. Another is Hoffman’s claim that Svonkin “engaged in such intimidating behavior in front of Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez this caused the Chancellor to remind Trustee Svonkin that we were in public and to cease his behavior… “
Hoffman said that since Nov. 3, 2015, Svonkin “has had a pattern of harassment including a history of voice mails and text messages, which I have saved and submit as evidence of his contempt, anger, hatred, and disdain toward me as he continually reminds me that I did not vote for him for Board President.”
In a response to Hoffman’s complaint, Svonkin described Hoffman’s allegations as “false and malicious attacks.” However, he said he is “more than happy to apologize for my vigor, my passion and my high-energy in this political debate — and any debate — I have about the issues that drove me to run for this office.”
Svonkin attributed Hoffman’s criticism of him to his advocacy for a bond measure and a monitor to ensure that the financial firm engaged to help LACC issue the bonds had no history of corrupt behavior. Svonkin said Hoffman refused to support his initiative. He was elected to the LACC board after a series titled “Billions to Spend” by the Los Angeles Times called out the board for its poor supervision of millions of dollars in bond money spent on campus projects that were said to be poorly planned and executed.
Former City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who now is L.A. County Assessor, named Svonkin as his Council deputy in 2014. Svonkin had worked for L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz and served as senior advisor to former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca, who has been convicted of interfering with an investigation of abuse in county jails. In 1999 Svonkin served as deputy to Koretz when he was a member of the WeHo City Council.
Svonkin’s name came up during the former council deputy Michelle Rex’s unsuccessful lawsuit against the City of West Hollywood in which she alleged it eliminated the controversial deputy system in part as an act of retribution against her.
Rex’s lawyer quizzed several witnesses, including City Manager Paul Arevalo, about the contentious relationships among the deputies.
Arevalo said he viewed an altercation from the dais in the City Council chambers in which Svonkin and deputy Ian Owens got into a “verbal altercation” because Owens was mocking Prang. Svonkin also has been alleged by City Hall staffers to have gotten into a physical altercation with a city employee.
A story in the L.A. Weekly, which first reported Hoffman’s complaint against Svonkin, cites what it calls a “history of boorish behavior” by Svonkin.
“In 2010, there was an aborted attempt to recall him from his post as a board member for the San Gabriel Valley Unified School District. An editorial in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune noted Svonkin’s ‘incivility,’ ‘bullying tactics’ and ‘union shilling’.”
An L.A. Weekly story in 2011 titled “Scott Svonkin’s Personality Problem” called out complaints about him by his former San Gabriel School board colleagues. The story said the school board president kept an empty chair between Svonkin and herself during board meetings because of his “violent fist-pounding.” Another board member said Svonkin was continually “jumping up and pounding and raising of his voice.” “The Grandstander Supreme” is how a third member of the five-person board described him.
That story noted a San Gabriel school board meeting at which Svonkin “had his mouth so full of food that when he decided he wanted to fight with the board president and other board members, there was food falling out of his mouth.”
Svonkin now is running for a seat on the Board of Equalization and has received endorsements from an array of elected officials including Attorney General Xavier Becerra, State Treasurer John Chiang, U.S. congressmen Brad Sherman and Tony Cardenas and six Los Angeles City Council members and four L.A. County supervisors.