A day after federal prosecutors revealed that a former top aide to José Huízar was involved in a City Hall “criminal operation” that took bribes in exchange for help with real estate developments, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martínez called for the District 14 councilmember to resign “immediately.”
“The increasing level of greed, corruption and deception laid out in federal documents has not only disgusted me personally, it clearly and understandably has shaken our fellow Angelenos’ faith in their local government,” Martinez said in a statement Thursday.
“The increasing level of greed, corruption and deception laid out in federal documents has not only disgusted me personally, it clearly and understandably has shaken our fellow Angelenos’ faith in their local government… [Huízar] should resign immediately.”Nury Martínez
A spokesperson for Martínez told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that the council president sent a letter to Huízar asking for his resignation. Previously, Martínez had asked the CD14 representative to refrain from attending council meetings and participating in legislative work. “However, [(Wednesday’s] indictment directly implicates Council member Huízar and his illegal, offensive and absolute abuse-of-power dealings with a Council District 14 staffer,” Martínez went on in her statement. “He should resign immediately.”
Following Martínez statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti released a similar call for Huízar to resign.
“I’m sickened by the bribery and corruption described in federal indictments, and I support Council President Nury Martinez’s call for Jose Huizar to step down from Los Angeles City Council,” Garcetti said in the statement. “All city employees must uphold the highest moral and ethical standards, and elected officials have a special responsibility to the people who entrust them with power. Mr. Huizar has lost that trust, and I hope and expect that any wrongdoing will be exposed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“I’m sickened by the bribery and corruption described in federal indictments, and I support Council President Nury Martinez’s call for Jose Huizar to step down from Los Angeles City Council”Eric Garcetti
Huízar, who has not been charged with a crime, has not publicly responded to the growing outcry for him to step down from the City Council. He has also refused to comment on a years-long federal corruption investigation since his Boyle Heights home and several of his offices were raided by the FBI in November of 2018.
Huízar’s district 14 includes a large swath of downtown Los Angeles and all of Boyle Heights as well as El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Eagle Rock and other Northeast neighborhoods.
On Wednesday it was revealed that former top Huízar aide George Esparza had agreed to plead guilty to a single count of racketeering and to cooperate with the FBI on the ongoing probe. Court papers stopped short of naming Huízar as the councilman running the criminal operation which hit up developers for cash, luxury trips and other perks in exchange for help with real estate projects.
Among other revelations, Federal prosecutors said Esparza’s boss took more than $1 million in bribes from a single developer hoping to do business in his district. Esparza, who lives in Boyle Heights, is currently chief of staff for California Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, whose district includes a tiny northeastern edge of Boyle Heights.
Huízar, who was born and raised in Boyle Heights, has not made any public appearances in several weeks. The councilman’s term ends in December, when he will be replaced by former State Senator Kevin De León, who was elected in March.
On May 15, Huízar issued a statement saying he would adhere to Martínez request that he refrain from attending city council meetings, but that he would continue to “move forward… and carry on with my duties to protect the safety and economic well-being of the residents of Los Angeles during this COVID-19 crisis.” Since then, he has published a handful of posts on Twitter, the latest being this one from Wednesday.
Last week, several city council members called for Huízar’s resignation.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times published an editorial also calling for the Councilman, who is still collecting a hefty paycheck and cannot be suspended or removed without being charged for a crime, to step off the City Council seat he’s held since 2005.
“Beyond wasting the taxpayers’ money, Huizar’s refusal to vacate his seat is harming his constituents by denying them an effective voice on the Council” the paper’s Editorial Board wrote. “If Huizar resigned, De León could be appointed to the seat immediately so residents of the 14th District would have representation during this critical time.”