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Huizar, facing felony charge, will no longer receive L.A. council salary, official says

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin is flanked by City Atty. Mike Feuer, left, and Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin moved Monday to have the city stop paying Councilman Jose Huizar his salary, saying it would be “unacceptable” for the councilman to continue receiving taxpayer funds while facing a felony charge in a federal corruption case.

Huizar had been earning nearly $214,000 per year. Galperin, in a memo, said Huizar’s last day receiving a city salary was June 23, the day he was charged with racketeering in a sprawling case in which he is accused of receiving $1.5 million in bribes and other improper financial benefits.

“While I believe strongly in the principle that all persons are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, the shocking information about Mr. Huizar’s misconduct is an unacceptable violation of the public trust,” Galperin said. “As such, he should not and will not continue to receive any salary payments from my office and from the treasury of the people of Los Angeles.”

A Galperin spokesman said that the City Charter allows the city controller to stop salary payments when a council member is not “devoting his time to duties related to his office.” The City Council voted to suspend Huizar from his post last week.

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Huizar has not yet entered a plea, and his lawyers have offered minimal comment on the corruption probe, saying they plan to make their case in court, not in the media. Attorneys for the councilman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Galperin’s action.

Can you imagine an easier job than being a federal investigator assigned to L.A. City Hall, where a pay-to-play culture has been entrenched for years?

Federal prosecutors have portrayed Huizar as the leader of a pay-to-play scheme in which real estate developers were shaken down for bribes and campaign donations in exchange for help in getting development projects through the city’s approval process. In a 116-page affidavit, they alleged that businessmen provided Huizar cash, air travel, casino trips, casino chips, prostitution services and other gifts.

Two council members — Paul Krekorian and David Ryu — said Monday they want a formal review of the real estate projects highlighted in the Huizar case to determine whether their permits from the city should be suspended or revoked.

Krekorian and Ryu said they also want to explore new penalties for developers and real estate companies found to have engaged in corrupt activities at City Hall.

“When these big real estate entitlement projects go forward and they are the product of fraud, the people committing that fraud should not be able to profit from it,” Krekorian said.

Federal prosecutors have not filed charges against any of the developers in the Huizar case. They also have not identified any of the high-rise developments, or the companies backing them, by name.

Nevertheless, details in the filings — project descriptions, campaign contributions and hearing dates — show that prosecutors have been focused on four projects: a proposed 77-story skyscraper at 3rd and Figueroa Street; a hotel redevelopment project planned across from the L.A. Live entertainment complex; a 35-story tower approved in the city’s Arts District; and a 20-story residential building planned at Olympic and Hill streets.

All four are located in Huizar’s district, which stretches from downtown and Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock.

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Ryu and Krekorian also voiced support for the creation of a new inspector general to serve as a watchdog over planning decisions handled by council members.

That proposal is scheduled to go before the council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Tuesday.


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