Los Angeles might be known as “The City of Angels,” but a litany of the city’s elected officials have been in the spotlight recently for behavior in direct contrast with righteousness.
It’s causing some to question whether LA is the most corrupt city in America, despite Chicago winning the designation three times in a row, according to a University of Illinois report.
Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva held a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 19, to address public corruption in Los Angeles County.
During the conference, Villanueva highlighted the most explosive case to rock Los Angeles politics as of late – a leaked audio recording of city officials making racist remarks.
Former City Council President Nury Martinez made the remarks in a meeting that included at least two of her council colleagues – Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo. LA Labor Federation President Ron Herrera was also present for the conversation.
Martinez, the first Latina elected to lead the LA council, was caught on tape saying, “F*ck that guy, he’s with the Blacks,” referring to Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.
She also called her colleague Mike Bonin a “little b*tch” and referred to Bonin’s adopted Black son as “ese changuito,” which means “little monkey” and “su negrito,” also an offensive term for a Black person.
The issues didn’t stop there. During the conversation, the city officials talked about buying endorsements from Democratic clubs, how the additional tax to help the homeless has nothing to show for it, how to influence the redistricting process to work in their favor and more, according to Knock LA.
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“This is what we know, what do we not know? What conversations are going on behind closed doors with all the City Council and the Board of Supervisors trying to lever each other’s positions, basically to game it to their advantage? A sad moment for all the community,” Villanueva said at the press conference.
However, Martinez, de Leon and Cedillo are not the only Los Angeles politicians under fire by the community or law enforcement for being corrupt.
Former LA city councilman Jose Huizar was indicted on racketeering, bribery and other charges by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He recently pled not guilty.
However, his older brother, Salvador Huizar, has admitted to lying to the FBI about receiving large envelopes of cash from his younger brother without knowing the source of the money, the LA Times reported.
Embattled LA city councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas is also facing charges of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and more. According to the City Journal, the FBI filed a 20-count indictment against him in 2021.
Before Huizar and Ridley-Thomas, councilman Michell Englander was arrested and charged with obstructing an investigation into gifts he received from casinos in March 2020. He was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in prison, City Journal reported.
“The case is a reminder of just how pervasive corruption is in Los Angeles,” the Journal wrote about Ridley-Thomas. “Maybe the corruption happens because political power is concentrated in too few hands.”
Both Huizar and Ridley-Thomas have denied any wrongdoing, but the corruption probes aren’t limited to council members.
The homes of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission member Patricia “Patti” Giggans and others were searched as a part of investigations.
“The investigation has been shared with a federal agency and they continue to monitor,” the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said in a statement about the searches. “This remains an active investigation and we are unable to comment further at this time, although in full transparency the search warrant has been posted online at LASD.org.”
According to the Square Mile blog, corruption in LA is nothing new because the city was built on it.
“Almost from its start, Los Angeles had a reputation as a hellhole. In the mid-1800s the city was filled with murderers, vigilantes, thieves, and prostitutes,” Square Mile wrote.
If you ask some current Los Angeles residents, not much has changed.
“This is kind of a very involved circle … I don’t know what to call it, a web of corruption or just the status quo in politics and the machine of LA,” Villanueva said. “And this is what a lot of people are disparaging and concerned about.”
PHOTO: FBI agents leave the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power after spending several hours inside the building on July 22, 2019. David Wright, the former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the nation’s largest public utility, has agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes in a corruption scandal that grew out of an automated billing disaster that stuck ratepayers with exorbitant bills, federal prosecutors said Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti removed Wright from his job in 2019 after the FBI raided the water and power department and other city offices, months before his expected departure date. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)