This former L.A. politician took cash in envelopes. Now he’s been fined $79,830

A couple hold hands as a woman walks alongside them
Former L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander walks with his wife, Jayne Englander, left, and his attorney, Janet Levine, in 2020.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Five years ago, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander took a fateful trip to Las Vegas with a clutch of businessmen and city staffers, accepting a free hotel room, expensive liquor and an envelope containing $10,000, among other things.

That trip eventually led to criminal charges, a guilty plea and a 14-month prison sentence for Englander. But the Vegas saga has yet another chapter: a fine from the city’s ethics watchdog.

On Wednesday, the city’s Ethics Commission voted unanimously to levy a $79,830 penalty against Englander for violating city gift laws. Agency investigators concluded that Englander, who left office in 2018, far exceeded the city’s limits on gifts to public officials, failed to fully report those gifts to the public and misused his position as a City Council member.

Ethics Commissioner Jeffery Daar described the agency’s agreement with Englander as “very significant,” since it includes not only a fine but also an admission from Englander that he committed the various violations identified by city investigators.


It “demonstrates that no one, including elected council members, are above the law in this city,” Daar said.

Englander, 52, was charged with multiple felony counts in 2020, with U.S. prosecutors accusing him of obstructing a federal investigation into public corruption. Within weeks, he agreed to plead guilty to a single felony count of scheming to falsify material facts.

The charges come more than a year after Englander was sentenced to prison for lying to federal authorities.

Jan. 20, 2022

Neither Englander nor Gary Winuk, his attorney, addressed the commission. After the vote, Winuk said the former councilman is “relieved” that the commission’s decision “adds closure and finality.”

“He has been rebuilding his life by volunteering with a local reentry program and continuing his commitment to public service by helping others put their lives on the right track,” Winuk said in a statement.

In their report on the Englander fine, ethics officials acknowledged that the former councilman expressed regret over his actions — both to a federal judge and to city investigators. But they said he should have been well aware of city and state laws regarding gifts. Englander’s actions, they said, indicated an intent to “deceive the public.”

In his 2020 plea agreement, Englander admitted lying repeatedly to federal investigators, when he was asked about those gifts. He also admitted instructing a businessman who gave him cash to lie to FBI agents and conceal information from them.

“The violations are serious because the monetary value of the gifts received significantly exceeded the gift limit, because of the nature of the gifts, and the circumstances in which they were received,” ethics investigators wrote, adding: “Englander held a particularly important position of public trust as a City Council member at the time of the violations.”

City officials are required by law to disclose any gift they receive with a value of at least $50 from a single source. In 2017, the year Englander went to Vegas, city officials also were prohibited from accepting more than $470 in gifts from a single source.


Englander, who represented the northwest San Fernando Valley from 2011 to 2018, admitted in his plea agreement that he received a combined $15,000 in cash — $10,000 in a casino bathroom in Las Vegas, plus another $5,000 at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa near Palm Springs. In Las Vegas, he received an estimated $6,080 worth of food, drinks and “bottle service,” liquor served at an exorbitant price, according to Ethics Commission calculations.

City investigators concluded that the various gifts, provided by a real estate developer and by a businessman who sold home furnishings, exceeded the city’s gift limit by at least $21,140.17.

Councilman John Lee, who eventually replaced Englander, also went on the 2017 Vegas trip. At the time, he was Englander’s chief of staff.

Federal prosecutors said Englander went on the Vegas trip with an employee they identified as “City Staffer B,” a high-ranking aide who received some of the same perks as Englander, including a hotel stay and expensive liquor.

Lee repeatedly declined to say whether he was City Staffer B, telling The Times in 2020 that he had cooperated with federal investigators. He has not been charged with any crime and has not been issued any fines by the city’s ethics agency.

When Englander first ran for council, he campaigned as the “official public safety candidate” in the race, touting his support from the union that represents rank-and-file officers at the Los Angeles Police Department.

Under Wednesday’s penalty agreement, Englander was required to make an initial payment of $39,915. The remainder must be paid by Aug. 31.