LA WATCHDOG--If a California company and its management were engaged in bribery, money laundering, extortion, mail and wire fraud, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and racketeering,
our elected politicians would be demanding that management resign and calling for these scoundrels to be tossed into the clink. (Photo above, Mayor Garcetti, Councilman Huizar, former council president Herb Wesson.)
These illegal acts are exactly what is going on at Los Angeles City Hall, a criminal enterprise where the Mayor and the City Council are placing their interests ahead of the well-being of all Angelenos.
Last week, Council President Nury Martinez and Mayor Garcetti finally called for the immediate resignation of Jose Huizar from the City Council as a result of the disclosures of payoffs to Huizar in three plea agreements where the guilty parties admitted to bribery and racketeering. The Los Angeles Times has also called for his resignation.
[Note: Councilmen Buscaino, Ryu, Krekorian, and Blumenfield had previously asked for Huizar to resign. But why haven’t they been joined by the other nine members of the Council: Wesson, Koretz, Cedillo, Rodriguez, Harris-Dawson, Price, Bonin, Lee, and O’Farrell?]
While Huizar may be the only elected City official to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar, at least for now, other officials charged with oversight of the City are also guilty because they failed to expose Huizar and his crooked ways. This includes Herb Wesson, the former President of the City Council for eight years, and Eric Garcetti, our Mayor for the past seven years and President of the City Council for six years prior to Wesson.
This corruption flourished on their watch. There is no doubt that Wesson and Garcetti knew exactly what was going on, especially given the stench of so many real estate deals where the developers were making tens, if not hundreds, of millions in extra profit because of zoning changes approved by the City Council and Mayor: Sea Breeze in Harbor City; Catalina and 8th Street in Koreatown; the Millennium, the Palladium and numerous other developments in Hollywood; The Reef in South Los Angeles; Cumulus in West Adams; the three megaprojects (Oceanside, Metropolis, and the Luxe Hotel) in DTLA being developed by the corrupt Chinese real estate developers; and numerous others throughout the City.
How could Garcetti and Wesson not know that these deals were crooked?
The Mayor and Council President also ignored the massive level of Huizar campaign contributions from out-of-district and out-of-City real estate developers and their associates. They ignored the costly settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit even though his financial disclosure filings showed that he had few financial resources. The City even footed his $200,000 legal bill. They also ignored all his expense paid trips to Las Vegas and foreign destinations.
For this dereliction of duty, for these omissions, former City Council President Herb Wesson and Mayor Eric Garcetti should resign.
Even if the termed out Wesson does not resign as a member of the City Council, where, incidentally, he still has considerable influence, we can send him packing by voting for his opponent, Holly Mitchell, in the November election to succeed ethically challenged Mark Ridley-Thomas as a County Supervisor.
Garcetti is more problematic since he is not termed out until November of 2022. And a recall is almost impossible given the cost of obtaining 300,000 signatures (15% of the registered voters), the lack of a viable candidate to replace Garcetti, and the cost of a recall campaign. We will need to rely on Garcetti to do the right thing for the City that he loves.
In addition to pay-to-play corruption, Garcetti and Wesson were the leaders responsible for the budget busting labor agreements that blew a $1.6 billion hole in the City’s finances over the next four years. This fiscally irresponsible action is just another form of corruption where they gave away the store to the campaign financing leaders of the public sector unions.
Pay-to-play corruption may not be top of mind because of the virus and civil unrest. Nevertheless, in order to gain our trust and confidence, the City Council, the City Attorney, and the City Controller must join us in demanding the resignations of Huizar, Wesson, and Garcetti.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)