In July, 2022, the Los Angeles Daily News published a troubling look at the key corruption cases that have enveloped Los Angeles City Hall, the Los Angeles City Council, and the city’s Department of Water and Power, resulting in investigations by the FBI and Department of Justice that sent one council member to prison. Others await their court cases, are under investigation, or have been found guilty.
LA City Council President Nury Martinez (File photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
A new scandal now focuses on the Los Angeles City Council’s former president Nury Martinez, who, in a leaked secret taping of her discussion with Councilman Kevin de Leon, Councilman Gil Cedillo, and powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, used disturbing racist slurs to criticize City Councilman Mike Bonin’s toddler son, who is Black.
Martinez resigned from her powerful council president post on Monday, Oct. 10, amid widespread condemnation after she privately attacked Bonin’s son as a “Parece changuito” meaning “like a monkey.” De Leon, also joined in criticizing Bonin and his little boy, seeming to liken Bonin’s handling of his toddler at a parade to Martinez holding a Louis Vuitton purse. Councilman Gil Cedillo and L.A. County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera could also be heard on the tape, strategizing how to elect more Latino candidates onto the City Council and expressing frustration over redistricting.
Nury Martinez represents City Council District 6, which includes Van Nuys, Panorama City, Arleta and other San Fernando Valley communities. The Nury Martinez scandal adds another notch to a growing record of disturbing behavior in Los Angeles City Hall.
Here is a summary of Los Angeles City Hall scandals and corruption cases that have enveloped the city’s leadership, and continue to do so today:
File photo of Jose Huizar ( Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
On June 27, 2022, the first in a series of prominent trials produced a guilty verdict in what federal authorities call a “pay-to-play” criminal enterprise in L.A. City Hall. The court found that developer billionaire Dae Yong “David” Lee in 2017 gave a $500,000 bribe to a middleman for then-Councilman Huizar to assure that Huizar would push back against a construction trade union group that opposed a 20-story tower Lee hoped to build.
In an earlier case, George Esparza, a special aide to Huizar, pleaded guilty in 2020 to a racketeering conspiracy charge involving a developer who sought to build a 77-story skyscraper in Huizar’s district. Billionaire developer Wei Huang in 2014 provided $600,000 in collateral as Huizar was applying for a loan, Esparza said in his plea agreement.
Future trials are expected to focus on bigger players, including former City Councilman Jose Huizar, who prosecutors allege was the ringleader of a criminal operation within L.A.’s municipal government, along with top-level official Raymond Chan, who led the powerful Department of Building Safety and who prosecutors say was part of Huizar’s alleged enterprise.
Jose Huizar was removed from office in 2020 after his arrest. He and Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan are scheduled to go to trial February 21, 2023, on federal charges alleging they conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on June 23, 2020, to suspend Huizar, shortly after his arrest on a federal racketeering charge stemming from a wide-ranging bribery investigation. Huizar, 51, is accused of accepting $1.5 million in bribes from developers in exchange for his support of downtown building projects.
FBI agents leave the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power after spending several hours inside the building Monday, July 22, 2019. Neither the FBI nor the city offered an explanation on why the agents were there. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
A second City Hall corruption scandal is focused on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the L.A. City Attorney’s Office, following a 2019 FBI raid that targeted DWP and an internal scheme to rig DWP contracts and pay $2.2 million in kickbacks to private attorney Paul O. Paradis. Paradis, aided by an unnamed employee in the city attorney’s office, allegedly secretly represented both sides in a vast class action suit against DWP over its 2013 billing debacle in which overcharges were sent to tens of thousands of Angelenos.
Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted last October by a federal grand jury for allegedly taking part in a bribery and fraud scheme during his previous post as an L.A. County Supervisor. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)
In 2021, another scandal arose when then-City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas was charged with bribery after allegedly securing his son a paid position and scholarship at USC in return for providing USC favorable votes on contracts with the county. At the time of the alleged crime, Ridley-Thomas held a seat on the influential Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. His prosecution is not directly tied to City Hall. His trial for bribery is set for November this year.
Councilman Mitch Englander at Northridge Recreation Center on Friday, January 17, 2014. (Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News)
A third city council member, Mitchell Englander, quit and was later imprisoned for obstructing an FBI investigation into his acceptance of lavish gifts in Las Vegas from a businessman who sought favors from Englander.
Other former high-ranking City Hall officials and advisors, developers, lobbyists and others have pleaded guilty, or been found guilty of bribery, fraud, obstruction and other crimes.
Mayor Eric Garcetti (File photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)
Ethical allegations are also creating a major career controversy for Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had hoped to be named as ambassador to India months ago. But after a Senate report suggested that he may have ignored alleged longtime sexual harassment by one of his top aides, the trail to Washington D.C. got cold. The mayor has said he was unaware of any sexual harassment involving his aide Rick Jacobs. His appointment remains up in the air.
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