'Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire': LA Leaders Weigh In (Or Don't) On Huizar's Future At City Hall

City Hall from Grand Park on March 24, 2020. (Chava Sanchez/ LAist)

On Friday, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez asked Councilmember José Huizar not to attend any more council meetings until there's "legal clarity" regarding his involvement in the bribery scheme embroiling City Hall.

For the past few years, federal investigators have been working on a sweeping corruption probe involving L.A. city staff, members of the City Council, developers, lobbyists and more.

News broke last week that a Granada Hills developer had agreed to plead guilty in connection with a scheme to bribe public officials — including an unnamed L.A. city councilmember — to smooth the passage of real estate projects. According to prosecutors, that developer, George Chiang, became a "close political ally" of a member of the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

L.A. City Councilmember Jo Huizar in 2014. (Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC file photo)

Huizar, who represents communities including Boyle Heights, downtown L.A., El Sereno and Eagle Rock, had been a member of that committee until November 2018. His duties were revoked following an FBI raid on his home and council offices in connection with the federal investigation.

Following the Martinez's request, Huizar issued a statement saying he does "not wish to be a distraction" and would "limit my participation in Council while working to meet the needs of my district."

Huizar has not yet been charged with any crimes, but calls for his resignation are mounting at City Hall.

Here's a roundup of what fellow city councilmembers, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other L.A. leaders have said about the corruption scandal — and Councilmember Huizar's possible role in it.

CITY COUNCIL

Gil Cedillo - CD 1

"He is not weighing in on this," said a spokesperson with Cedillo's office.

Paul Krekorian - CD 2

"I applaud and strongly support Council President Martinez for taking a firm stand with regard to Councilmember Jose Huizar's status during the pending federal investigation.

"The corrupt conduct described publicly by the U.S. Attorney is shocking and revolting. Any elected official who has engaged in such conduct has betrayed the public's trust and forfeited the privilege of serving the people. Such conduct also betrays the trust of the vast majority of elected officials and other public servants who work hard every day to represent the people's interests.

"I recognize that no criminal charges have yet been announced against Councilmember Huizar, but the facts and evidence described by federal prosecutors make clear that he is the unnamed Councilmember referenced in their public statements. The people of the 14th District, and the rest of Los Angeles, therefore can no longer have confidence that Councilmember Huizar is representing their interests fairly and honestly, and with his full attention. Worse, the ongoing cloud over him causes the potential for every action the Council takes in which he is involved to be tainted."

Bob Blumenfield - CD 3

"My blood boils as I learn more details about this horrific tale of corruption. This is the absolute antithesis of what public service is all about. The public's trust has been broken and from what we continue to discover from the Department of Justice and news reports, he (Huizar) should no longer hold a seat on our City Council. He should resign. I understand that he hasn't been indicted or pleaded guilty but where there is smoke there is fire and right now it's hard not to choke."

David Ryu - CD 4

Ryu put out a short tweet Friday: "Jose Huizar should resign."

His office later provided this statement to LAist:

"I support Council President Nury Martinez in asking Jose Huizar to refrain from attending Council meetings, and thank her for her leadership, but Jose should not have to be asked. If he knows that he is guilty, he should have resigned long ago."

Paul Koretz - CD 5

"The Councilmember believes it would be inappropriate to comment [at] this time," said a spokesperson from his office.

Nury Martinez - CD 6

The council president has not issued a statement beyond confirming the move to us, and she has stopped short of calling it a suspension.

Monica Rodriguez - CD 7*

Marqueese Harris-Dawson - CD 8*

Curren Price - CD 9*

Herb Wesson - CD 10

The councilmember and his office declined to comment.

Mike Bonin - CD 11

"If he is indicted, Councilmember Huizar should resign, and the Council should immediately appoint his elected successor, Kevin DeLeon, to fill the remainder of the term. The constituents of the 14th District must have their voices represented."

John Lee - CD 12

The councilmember and his office declined to comment.

Lee was elected to the Council District 12 seat in August 2019 after former councilmember Mitch Englander resigned from his seat at the end of 2018. Lee had served as Englander's chief of staff.

In March, Englander surrendered to federal authorities on charges that he "obstructed an investigation into him accepting cash, female escort services, hotel rooms and expensive meals from a businessman during trips to Las Vegas and Palm Springs, and later lied to the FBI about his conduct," according to a statement from the FBI.

Englander later took a plea deal and agreed to plead guilty to one count of "scheming to falsify material facts," according to Department of Justice officials.

Lee was with Englander on that Vegas trip. Following news of the charges brought against Englander, Lee issued a statement, saying: "I did everything in my power to pay for and reimburse expenses related to this trip. I was unaware of any illegal activities for which Councilmember Englander is being charged."

Mitch O'Farrell - CD 13

"Councilmember O'Farrell supports the call for Huizar's suspension," said a spokesperson for his office.

Jose Huizar - CD 14

"I have proudly served on the Los Angeles City Council representing Council District 14 for the last 15 years. It has been my honor to work side-by-side with the constituents who elected me to represent them. During this critical time, I have been working with community groups and nonprofits throughout the district to provide PPE and food to those who would otherwise go without. The establishment of critical rent relief programs and support for small businesses in Council District 14 are essential, and I intend to move forward with this work and carry out my duties to protect the safety and economic wellbeing of the residents of Los Angeles during this COVID 19 crisis. I do not wish to be a distraction to the important work that is being done and will respect the Council President's wishes that I limit my participation in Council while working to meet the needs of my district."

Joe Buscaino - CD 15

"Whatever ends up happening to Jose Huizar on the legal front, it is blatantly obvious he has compromised his ability to represent his District and should step down immediately."

*The offices of councilmembers Monica Rodriguez, Marqueese Harris-Dawson and Curren Price did not respond to our requests for comment.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI

The mayor addressed last week's news at a Friday media briefing and had this to say about the scandal and Councilmember Huizar:

"We cannot tolerate the kind of behavior that's come to light in recent weeks. It is absolutely unacceptable... we can't let this dark cloud continue to hang over us... I support what Council President Martinez said about making sure that he (Huizar) should step aside for the remainder of this investigation, and, if he is charged, he should resign immediately."

OTHER CITY LEADERS

City Controller Ron Galperin

Galperin tweeted this Friday:

His tweet thread went on to say: "While I believe strongly in the principle that someone is innocent until proven guilty, the shocking information about his alleged corruption and serious breach of the public trust are not compatible with continuing as a representative of the people.

"To violate the public trust is the most serious affront to the people we are entrusted and sworn to serve."

City Attorney Mike Feuer

Feuer's office did not respond to our request for comment, but he was quoted in the L.A. Times last week saying that "the right thing to do would be to step down," if a councilmember was indicted.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CITY HALL CORRUPTION PROBE:

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