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L.A. candidate calls for investigation and ejection of commissioners over campaign invite

Los Angeles City Hall
A candidate seeking to unseat L.A. City Councilman Curren Price says she asked the City Ethics Commission to investigate whether her opponent had violated city rules. Above, L.A. City Hall.
(Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images)

A candidate seeking to unseat Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price said Wednesday that she had lodged a complaint with the City Ethics Commission, asking the agency to investigate whether her opponent violated city rules.

Dulce Vasquez said that a flyer from the Price campaign appears to have broken a city law that prohibits city commissioners from helping fundraise for elected officials.

The flyer is an invitation to a fundraising event on June 23 that says “Please Join Community Leaders” and lists several names. Among the people listed were two members of a city commission overseeing redistricting.

L.A. bars certain commissioners from engaging in “prohibited fundraising” on behalf of people elected to city office. That covers a range of activities, including allowing their names to appear on an invitation to a campaign fundraiser.

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The names of the two commissioners, Maria Brenes and Charisse Bremond Weaver, do not appear on another version of the event invitation filed with the Ethics Commission. The initial version of the invitation, which included the two names, was filed on June 2 before being amended five days later, according to a spokeswoman for the Ethics Commission.

Price campaign attorney Stephen Kaufman said that neither version of the invitation was sent out to any recipients. “In fact, the event was canceled after the invitation was posted and before they were due to be sent,” Kaufman said.

A former Ethics Commission staffer said she and others were told that a Los Angeles City Council member wanted more “permissive” advice on gift laws.

“No invitations were distributed, there is no event scheduled, and there is no basis for any complaint to the Ethics Commission,” Kaufman said in an email.

Brenes, who is the executive director of the nonprofit InnerCity Struggle, said she was aware of the complaint made by Vasquez and said “the only comment I can share is that I know the event was canceled, immediately, a while ago.”

Bremond Weaver, who serves as president and chief executive of the South Los Angeles group Brotherhood Crusade, similarly said that her only comment was that “the event is not happening. It was canceled immediately once it was posted.”

“I am aware of the complaint, and the complaint needs to go through the Ethics Commission,” Bremond Weaver said.

Both commissioners declined to say whether they had consented to have their names on the event invitation. Kaufman said he could not immediately answer that question Wednesday because he was traveling, nor could he immediately address why the June event had been canceled.

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Vasquez said the cancellation of the event did not change her concerns about what had happened. She called on Mayor Eric Garcetti, who appointed the two commissioners, to immediately replace them on the redistricting commission.

“Their votes, motions, amendments, and intent behind their actions will now forever be in question,” Vasquez said.

Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said in a statement that “the mayor expects that all city employees and appointees follow the rules established by the independent Ethics Commission and that any alleged violation of those rules be dealt with accordingly.” He did not address whether Garcetti would replace the two commissioners.

Brenes and Bremond Weaver sit on a commission that is charged with drawing up new boundaries for L.A.'s City Council districts. The redistricting process is politically sensitive because it can change the racial and economic makeup of council districts, altering the political odds for candidates seeking office.

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Even if the fundraising event was canceled, “the damage is done, as far as broadcasting the support these commissioners have” for Price, said Rob Quan, organizer with the group Unrig LA, which has been monitoring the redistricting process.

Vasquez, who currently works as director of strategic partnerships for Arizona State University, is one of several candidates seeking to unseat Price, who represents a district that stretches from the L.A. Live complex into South Los Angeles. Price, a former state senator, was first elected to the L.A. City Council eight years ago.


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