One week after the FBI searched his offices and home, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar Thursday was stripped of his committee assignments.
The move was announced in letter sent by Council President Herb Wesson to the City Clerk’s Office. Wesson removed Huizar from his seats on the Economic Development Committee, the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, the Rules Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and from his chairmanship of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
“We’re optimistic Angelenos will be best served by these changes as the Los Angeles City Council continues the people’s work without interruption,” Wesson’s spokeswoman, Vanessa Rodriguez, said in an email to City News Service.
According to the Los Angeles Municipal Code, the council president has the power to appoint the members and chairs of all of the committees.
Huizar has not made any public statements since the FBI searches and he was absent from the two City Council meetings that have been held since the FBI searches. His attorney, Stephen Kaufman, issued a statement Thursday saying, “The council member 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.”
Wesson’s letter is the first public action taken by any council member in response to the searches.
Armed with a search warrant, FBI agents entered Huizar’s City Hall office on Nov. 7, with at least a dozen agents carrying out boxes, bags or rolling suitcases of potential evidence. Agents also searched Huizar’s Boyle Heights field office 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.
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 began 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.
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson was named as chair of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
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