Originally Published May 15, 2020
Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martínez is asking Councilmember José Huízar not to attend any more meetings until there’s “legal clarity” regarding his involvement in the city’s “pay-to-play” bribery scheme.
Martinez’s office confirmed the move to us, but stopped short of calling it a suspension. It will mean Huízar is unable to vote on city matters.
Huízar responded in a statement saying he would continue district work but limit participation with the city council:
Back in Nov. 2018, FBI agents raided Huízar’s Boyle Heights home and council district offices. He has not been charged with any crimes.
Martínez’s office calls the move an effort to preserve the council’s integrity.
That integrity is under federal investigation at the moment. The FBI has been looking into possible corruption at City Hall in a probe that includes multiple suspected “pay-to-play” schemes involving city officials, developers, investors, lobbyists and others.
So far, three people have pleaded guilty.
That includes George Chiang, a Granada Hills real estate developer who authorities say offered bribes to public officials — including an unnamed member of the City Council — to smooth the passage of real estate projects.
Court papers detail how the councilmember accepted bribes from a Chinese real estate business, for which Chiang consulted.
Chiang became a “close political ally” of a city councilmember on the powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, according to Department of Justice officials. Huízar had been a member of that committee before being stripped of his committee duties following the Nov. 2018 FBI raid.
This March, former Councilmember Mitch Englander surrendered to federal authorities and later pleaded not guilty to seven federal counts of obstruction of justice. He faces a maximum of 50 years in prison for allegedly trying to cover up an extravagant Las Vegas trip and accepting $15,000 in cash from an unnamed businessman.
Brianna Flores and Ryan Fonseca contributed to this story.
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2020 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.