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Activist Pleads Guilt in Felony Rental Matter

January 12, 1989|RON RUSSELL | Times Staff Writer

A West Hollywood community activist often at odds with city officials has pleaded guilty to two felonies--perjury and offering a forged or altered document as genuine--in a dispute involving an apartment building he manages.

As part of a plea agreement, E. (Budd) Kops, 69, will be placed on probation for up to three years. He will also pay the city $6,500 in investigative costs in addition to a $3,500 fine, and be placed under house arrest for up to 60 days, Deputy Dist. Atty. Hugh Bobys said.

He will also be barred from representing landlords or tenants before the Rent Stabilization Department or the nine-member Rent Stabilization Commission for three years, Bobys said.

Kops was charged last September with two counts each of perjury and offering a forged or altered document as genuine, and one count of falsifying a document. As part of the plea-bargain, prosecutors agreed to dismiss all but two of the felony counts.

Redundant Charges

"We're very pleased that he entered the guilty pleas on both the primary felony charges. The other (charges) were mostly duplicative," said Richard Dorsey Muller, the city's director of rent stabilization.

The charges stemmed from a document Kops submitted to the Department of Rent Stabilization to obtain a rent increase in 1987 for an apartment that had become vacant, prosecutors 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 reoccupied to apply for a rent increase.

City officials accused Kops of failing to file the application within the 30 days and of tampering with an already approved application to disguise that fact.

Kops was accused of using a photocopy of the already approved application he filed for another apartment unit, erasing parts of it and inserting new information before submitting it to city officials.

Prosecutors said 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 in November, 1987, and then last May at a hearing of the Rent Stabilization Commission.

The perjury count carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison, the other felony a maximum of three years. Each count is also punishable by fines of up to $10,000.

Kops, who pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment last November, declined to comment on the matter this week.

'Loyal Employee'

However, his lawyer, Leonard Levine, said Kops "accepts full responsibility for what he did. . . . He was a loyal employee who stepped over the boundaries of the law, and he obviously regrets it."

Kops, who manages an apartment building at 941 N. San Vicente Blvd. for a company owned by a Los Angeles psychiatrist and his partner, is to be sentenced March 6 in Santa Monica Superior Court, prosecutors said.

Steven Rosenblitt, who prosecutes Municipal Code violators for the city, had recommended that the district attorney's office file criminal charges against the owners, Dr. Robert Braun and Joan Friedman.

But Bobys said there was insufficient evidence to link either of them to the case.

The case marks the first time anyone has been charged with a felony involving a West Hollywood rent stabilization case.

The outspoken Kops, a fixture at City Council meetings and at hearings before various city commissions, has often been critical of city officials.

Officials said Kops was not singled out for prosecution.

"The (rent stabilization) department conducted an investigation and made recommendations for prosecution based on the facts at hand," Muller said. "We're pleased with the resolution of the case."

Muller said a second such case "is under active investigation" and that "several other similar investigations are in the initial stages."

"We think the resolution (of the Kops case) sends a strong signal to those who would violate the city's rent control law that we intend to protect its integrity," he said.

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