A West Hollywood community activist who has frequently been at odds with city officials has been charged with perjury and presenting false evidence in a dispute involving an apartment building he manages.
E. (Budd) Kops, 69, is charged with two counts each of perjury and offering a forged or altered document as genuine, and one count of falsifying a document, all felonies, Deputy Dist. Atty. Hugh M. Bobys said.
The charges stem from a document Kops is said to have submitted to the Department of Rent Stabilization to obtain a rent increase last year for an apartment that had become vacant, the prosecutor said.
Under the city's strict rent control law, once an apartment becomes vacant, a landlord or an agent acting on the landlord's behalf has 30 days from the time the unit is re-occupied to apply for a rent increase.
Kops is accused of using a photocopy of an already approved application he filed for another apartment unit, erasing parts of it, and inserting new information about the second apartment unit before submitting it to city officials.
Prosecutors said that Kops twice perjured himself and offered the falsified document in an attempt to justify increasing the rent on the apartment in question, first before an administrative law judge last November and then at a May hearing of the Rent Stabilization Commission.
In both instances, Kops was found not to have submitted an application in a timely fashion, said Richard Dorsey Muller, the city's director of rent stabilization.
Each perjury count carries a maximum of four years in prison, while the other three felonies each carry prison terms of up to three years. Each of the five felonies is also punishable by fines of up to $10,000.
Kops, who manages the apartment building at 941 N. San Vicente Blvd. for a company owned by a Los Angeles psychiatrist and his partner, denied wrongdoing and expressed confidence that he will be exonerated.
"What do I have to gain from doing something like this? I have no proprietary interest in these properties," he said.
As a resident manager for the same apartment owners for 10 years, Kops said he has frequently filed rent increase applications since West Hollywood instituted rent control in 1985.
"I've never falsified anything, and I've done scores of them (rent increase applications)," he said.
Kops is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Beverly Hills Municipal Court Sept. 30.
Bobys said there was insufficient evidence to link either of the owners, Dr. Robert Braun and Joan Friedman, with the alleged wrongdoing. Steven Rosenblitt, who prosecutes Municipal Code violators for the city, had recommended that the district attorney's office file criminal charges against the owners.
Meanwhile, an attorney for the owners who attended the rent board hearing in May accused city officials of "trying to do a number" on Kops in pressing for the five felony charges.
"I've known Budd for a long time, and it seems obvious that someone's trying to do a number on him," said David Shell, who represented the owners in the dispute before the commission. "I can't comment on the politics that pertain over there now, but I remember in times past Budd always being there and having something to say on various issues."
Kops, a fixture at City Council meetings and at hearings of various city commissions, is frequently outspoken regarding civic matters and has often been critical of city officials.
The case marks the first time anyone has been charged with a felony involving a West Hollywood rent control case, city officials said.
But rent stabilization director Muller dismissed the idea that Kops was singled out because of his frequent criticism of the city's bureaucracy.
"This case was brought before the commission in the regular course of events, and the (rent stabilization) department conducted an investigation and made recommendations for prosecution based on the facts at hand," he said.
Bobys said a handwriting expert who examined several rent documents submitted by Kops concluded that the one in question was fabricated. "The evidence is fairly damning. I would say that Mr. Kops got nailed pretty solidly on this one," he said.
In July, city officials filed criminal charges against 17 landlords for failure to comply with the city's rent control ordinance. The misdemeanor charges were filed against 14 people and three corporations, accused of failure to register their apartments as rental units and failing to pay registration fees.
Muller said about half of those charged pleaded guilty and paid fines of up to $1,000 each, and "another four or five" defendants have indicated that they intend to do so.
He said the Kops case "may be expected to send a message that the integrity of our administrative hearing proceedings is paramount."
"We have to be secure and confident that individuals are testifying honestly under oath and providing documents and evidence that is authentic," he said. "We take these proceedings very seriously."