VOICES--Developer corruption is an on-going way of life at LA city hall. Since 2006, every single member of LA City Council has engaged in felony behavior. That is what makes the FBI’s case bizarre; Huizar’s behavior is common.
On October 22, 2010, Jill Stewart wrote in the old LA Weekly, Richard MacNaughton Draws A Bead On Eric Garcetti, Demands Trutanich Probe Coverup And Dirty Land Deal At Selma And Vine. It detailed the real estate fraud where Councilmember Eric Garcetti concealed a CRA/LA $4.07 M appraisal, dated May 23, 2006, for the property located at 1610 N. Vine Street (“The Cesspool on Vine). Instead Garcetti produced a developer obtained appraisal for $5.45M, dated May 25, 2006. The CRA/LA had previously banned developer obtained appraisals. Garcetti had an unqualified duty to reveal the lower CRA/LA appraisal. Because the city then paid $1.3 M too much, Garcetti’s deception was open-and-shut fraud.
What few people know is that a number of people provided the FBI with all the documentation of this felony. Jack Humphreville wrote a series of follow up articles in CityWatch. Google “CityWatch and cesspool.” There were a number of hearings at city hall. In a follow up phone call with an FBI agent, his sole question was whether I knew about a specific project in DTLA. I did not know about that development and the FBI agent had no interest in the fraud at the Cesspool on Vine or any other corrupt project. When the FBI asked about DTLA, Huizar had been a LA City Councilmember since 2005.
Penal Code § 86: The Lynchpin to Developer Corruption
Penal Code § 86 outlaws a certain type of bribery. When a city council person gives a vote with the expectation that he will receive a favorable vote in the future, the council person has committed a felony. Each instance can carry a four-year prison term. Bribery does not require money or sex favors or trips to La Vegas. The far more effective bribe is Councilmember A’s gives a Yes Vote to Councilmember B if Councilmember B will give him a future Yes Vote.
How difficult is it find out if “A” voted Yes in order to have “B” vote Yes on a future project? If it involved only two councilmembers, it would be hard to know. When the entire city council agrees to participate in this illegal vote trading system, it is impossible to conceal. The agreement shows up in the public city council votes. Each project will pass unanimously! As Jill Stewart pointed out in her 2010 article, the city council unanimously agrees over 99% of the time. (CM Englander or CM Zine may or have voted No on a CIM Group Project as they were upset CIM would not build in their district.)
Assuming the FBI could not figure out that 10,000 consecutive unanimous votes were the product of the Vote Trading which Penal Code § 86 criminalized, it certainly should have touched off an FBI investigation. In fact, nothing about the Jose Huizar June 22, 2020 criminal complaint makes any sense unless the Penal Code § 86 Vote Trading System existed. Yet, the FBI carefully tiptoes around this huge 14-year on-going felony which implicates every single councilmember including Mayor Eric Garcetti. (See Federal Huizar compl fn2 p6 & ¶¶197, 223, 227, 232, 288, The tern “fraud by omission” comes to mind.)
What sane developer would pay even $150,000.00 unless the councilmember could guarantee approval? Acting alone Huizar cannot approve a project. No head of the PLUM Committee can guarantee approval. A developer could pay $10 Million to Huizar and still have no expectation of city council approval. The only thing which makes Huizar’s corruption work is the guaranteed cooperation of every single councilmember to vote Yes.
The criminal vote trading system, in which every single councilmember participates is why Huizar and every other councilmember can collect bribes. The councilmember can guarantee the developer that if he pays, his project will be approved. The vote trading system is extremely efficient for developers as they only have to bribe one councilmember and get their projects approved. This fact can easily be backed up with tons of evidence from city staff members and by developers’ employees. In fact, it is the simplest bribery case in world history!
Pay to Play – What a Farce
The FBI makes a big deal about Pay to Play. The use of this term in the context of the Vote Trading System is deception. “Play” suggest that one gets a chance to be part of the game. That is not the situation with Huizar’s Case. Huizar did not take bribes so that CIM Group or some other bigwig could “play the game.” Huizar got his bribes because each and every city councilmember had committed to felonious Vote Trading.
While Huizar engaged in bribery, the FBI is engaged in a massive cover-up of perpetual felonious behavior. If each illegal vote resulted in the full four-year prison term, collectively the LA city councilmembers would be serving more than one million years in prison. The FBI has known about the criminal vote trading system since at least 2010
What Is Huizar’s Real Crime?
Huizar was endangering the system where each Councilmember could have a nice supplemental income. As efficient as the system was in its simplicity, some districts like Garcetti’s Hollywood and Huizar’s DTLA districts, got a gazillion projects, while many districts got almost none. Those outlying council districts had to be content with a few apartment projects. One can envision Huizar’s making himself into the Nancy Pelosi of LA city politics by doling out cash through the PLUM committee. This pattern seems reflected in the Sea Breeze Project where developer Samuel Leong had to pay bribes throughout Los Angeles.
No Pay Loans
It would be dereliction of journalistic ethics not to mention that the FBI described the mortgage scam where judges allegedly get no-pay mortgages. Per the FBI, to settle his sex case, Huizar got a $600,000.00 plus loan where a developer put up cash as collateral. When Huizar did not pay, the bank took the developer’s cash. This is the pattern where it has been alleged judges get mortgages but do not make payments.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)