Editorial: L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander shakes down his campaign donors on his way out of City Hall

LOS ANGELES, CA JUNE 03, 2015 -- Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander listens as the counc
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch Englander listens as the council moved to the forefront of a national campaign to boost the incomes of low-wage workers on June 3, 2015.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

It’s bad enough that Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander is stepping down at the end of the year — two years before the end of his term — to take a job as a lobbyist with a well-connected sports and entertainment firm. That’s a betrayal of his constituents’ trust.

But it now turns out that he couldn’t resist shaking down his donors one last time before making his announcement.

The Times reported that Englander held an $800-a-head fundraiser Wednesday night, mere hours before telling the world he was quitting. The money is to go to his ”officeholder account” — a fund city politicians use to pay for food, travel and other extra business expenses while in office. It’s unclear why he needs the money, because he’s only going to be in office for two and a half more months before he begins his no-doubt lucrative new job.

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Does he want to fill the account so he can live large during his final months? In the past, his officeholder account has paid for business trips to Italy and Peru, as well as pricey dinners at steakhouses with staff and lobbyists. Or does he want money to dole out as gifts at the end of his term to politically connected foundations and nonprofits?

Englander is leaving office to become the executive vice president of government affairs for Oak View Group, an L.A.-based sports and entertainment firm. Earlier this year, the firm bid for a contract with the parks department to manage the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. The city selected another firm.

Englander’s office said the fundraiser was planned before he was offered the job, and he sent a letter to donors on Friday offering refunds to anyone who felt misused. But once Englander decided to accept the offer, he should have canceled the event, returned the checks and chosen a graceful exit.

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