Pete Demetriou

LA Councilman Huizar Shows Up at Council Meeting

November 20, 2018 - 9:56 am

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - LA City Councilman Jose Huizar was present for the Tuesday Council meeting.

He's been lying low since the FBI raided his home and offices earlier this month.

But the councilman was expected to come back to work this week.

His attorney said - in a statement last week - Huizar had "scaled back his assess the situation" but was getting ready to return.

There's been no word since then and Huizar's been stripped of his committee assignments. That includes his position as chairman of the Planning and Land Use committee, which reviews proposals for hotels and other big projects.

Huizar's been accused of potentially illegal activity by some former staffers, who are now suing him.

The feds still aren't saying what prompted the FBI searches.

 LA City Council President Herb Wesson stripped LA City Councilman Jose Huizar of his committee assignments last week.

His attorney had this to say Thursday: 

“The Councilmember scaled back his activities this past week to assess the situation, and will be back at work next week. He respects Council President Wesson’s decision, and will use the time away from committee assignments to tend to personal matters.”

After the FBI searched his home and two of his offices last week, Jose Huizar remained out view Tuesday. Huizar has skipped on several meetings since the raid.

The City Council held its first meeting since the searches, and Huizar did not appear to be present at any time and did not cast any votes. He also was not present during an afternoon meeting of the Economic Development Committee, of which he is a member, and the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which he chairs, canceled its meeting.

Huizar has not made any public statements since the FBI searches, and both his spokesman, Rick Coca, and his lawyer, Stephen Kaufman, did not return messages from City News Service. On the day of the searches, Kaufman said he was monitoring the situation but had no further comment.

Huizar's Twitter account does not appear to have any new postings since the day before the FBI searches, nor does the account of his wife, Richelle Huizar.

Armed with a search warrant, FBI agents entered Huizar's City Hall office last Wednesday morning, with at least a dozen agents carrying out boxes, bags or rolling suitcases of potential evidence. Agents also searched a Boyle Heights field office of Huizar's and his Boyle Heights home.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles office, said last week that the affidavit supporting the warrant was under seal, and the office was prohibited from commenting on the nature of the investigation. No arrests are known to have been made as a result of the searches.

The City Council was on a pre-planned recess from Wednesday through Friday, making today's City Council meeting the first since the FBI searches. The council members present treated the meeting as business as usual, with no one publicly acknowledging the FBI search.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson's spokeswoman, Vanessa Rodriguez, said he had not been in contact with Huizar.

Wesson, when asked for comment about the searches last week, said: "Today's events come as a surprise to each of us. We will continue to do the jobs we were elected to do and will cooperate with authorities if asked."

Huizar was recently named in two lawsuits filed by two former employees, both of whom accused him of ethics violations and other misdeeds, although it is unknown if the FBI searches are related to the lawsuits.

Mayra Alvarez served as Huizar's executive assistant and scheduler for about three years, but contends in her lawsuit that she left in July because she was demoted after returning from maternity leave.

Alvarez's suit accuses Huizar of doctoring his schedule to hide certain meetings from the media, along with other ethics violations, including that his staff was pressured to work during city time on the campaign of his wife, who is running in the 2020 election to succeed Huizar in the 14th District.

Huizar has called Alvarez's suit "absolute nonsense" that includes "outlandish accusations that are completely false."

"It is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by political operatives who seek to undermine all the good work I've accomplished on behalf of my constituents," Huizar said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. "I find it suspicious that these claims have surfaced now when my wife has announced her candidacy for my seat. This further supports that this is politics at its worst."

A second former staffer for Huizar, Pauline Medina, also recently filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging she faced retaliation after complaining that Huizar had an affair with a staffer and had instructed his aides to perform inappropriate tasks.

Medina alleged that Huizar launched a campaign to push her out in 2017 after she told the councilman's chief of staff that her boss was in a relationship with someone else in the office. Medina also alleged that Huizar was funneling city money to his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School, and secretly used city funds to pay for his personal expenses. Huizar also strongly denied the accusations in Medina's lawsuit.

Medina and Alvarez have the same lawyer, Terrence Jones.

Huizar previously admitted to an affair with a former staffer, Francine Godoy, who sued him for harassment and retaliation in 2013, but denied any harassment. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, and a report from the city's Special Committee on Investigative Oversight concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Huizar.

Huizar has served on the City Council since 2005 but is prevented from running again due to term limits when his current term expires in 2020.