Fri, Aug

Wesson Continues to Welsh on Credit Card Debt - LA Times Keeps Protecting Him

@THE GUSS REPORT-Who is funding the lavish lifestyle of Herb Wesson, the Los Angeles City Council President, and his wife Fabian?

What are the taxpayers of Los Angeles giving up in exchange for it, and why does the Los Angeles Timesprotect him by staying quietly on the sideline until someone else – namely this column – reports on it? 

Two years after I broke the story on the Wessons repeatedly falling into default on their mortgages, once coming within hours of their home being sold at auction, the dashing duo find themselves in another chaotic mess – credit card default – while living the good life, as it were, according to at least one local lifestyle blog. 

On May 3, a Washington State law firm specializing in debt collection filed a default judgment of $4,529.52 on behalf of Discover Bank, on whose credit card Wesson and his wife racked up $4,195.02 in charges and interest before cost of collections were added in. Both Wessons were served at their home back on June 21, 2017, but they have not filed a response or appeal as of last week. 

Wesson has been paid north of $2.25 million since he was elected to the LA City Council in 2005, and nearly $1.5 million just in base salary since 2012 when he assumed the Council presidency. 

According to his LA City Ethics forms, he also receives up to $100,000 per year in rental property income. His wife’s income as an executive with the South Coast Air Quality Management District is illegally missing from those disclosures, but with comparable titles paid an average $185,000 per year, it places their gross annual household income near the $500,000 range, assuming no other income is missing from Wesson’s required but dubious disclosures. 

Two of the Wessons’ sons, Justin and Herb III, as well as their daughter-in-law Alexis Marin, an aide to LA City Councilmember Nury Martinez, are each paid City Council staffer salaries worth nearly $100,000 in annual salary and benefits, according to Transparent California. 

Last September, the senior Wessons co-hosted an elegant wedding of Justin and Alexis at the exclusive (and ironically non-union) Ebell Club, prepped for the big day at the ritzy Jonathan Club, which included a custom-made mirrored seating chart for the soirée that appears to read like a veritable Who’s Who of LA political and business glitterati, as documented on The Wife of the Party blog. 

During the time that they planned this wedding, the Wessons were in continual mortgage default, and welshing on credit card debt that appears to date back to 2016, begging the question: who is it that paid for the wedding, or were they given free services as a de facto fundraiser for the Council President’s anticipated Mayoral campaign? The fancy seating chart and vendor list silently speak volumes. 

Requests for comment made to Wesson’s office, as well as direct messages to the Council President himself, went unanswered. 

After I originally broke the story about the Wessons’ money woes in August 2016, Los Angeles Timesreporter David Zahniser wrote a piece with his own take on it. But his own take stated that the Wesson’s primary residence cost $759,999, while public records and real estate databases, including RedFin and Trulia, show that Wesson was far deeper in debt than he told Zahniser because he paid a far greater price: $950,000. (I brought the issue to Zahniser’s attention via email, but no correction was made to his story.) 

Also, in Zahniser’s article, Wesson pledged that he would help others avoid the financial mistakes that he made. “We hope to use our experience to help local families learn more about managing their finances and weathering economic uncertainty." 

When asked, Wesson’s office refused to provide information on whether, when or how it provided that education to constituents and none is listed on Wesson’s website. 

Ironically, Wesson – whose first job in LA was as a bill collector – is the City Hall official leading the parade for the city to open a bank, which might not come to fruition given legal prohibitions. 

Oh, and by-the-way, since security at the Wesson wedding was provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, when were the taxpayers of Los Angeles reimbursed for that expense? Or does the LAPD provide taxpayer funded security for the private parties of children of the politician who holds sway over how much money cops make in LA? 

Were City Controller Ron Galperin and others entrusted with stopping waste on the invitee list? This means you, Paul Krekorian, Mitch Englander and Charlie Beck. Did you not notice the police resources being used at a private party?  

A public records request for the cost of those services to the taxpayers of Los Angeles has been submitted directly to the new LAPD chief Michel Moore, including whether it has sought or received reimbursement for them. 

If Wesson wants to be Mayor of Los Angeles, he needs to start by writing a big check to reimburse the taxpayers for LAPD services at his private event, as scores of other private entities are required to do on City Council agendas. And then he needs to explain what’s really going on with his failure to accurately disclose his income and debt issues a la President Donald Trump. 

On that note, what’s really going on with the LA Times, Norm Pearlstine and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong? Their staff continually monitors court and public record filings. How is it that they consistently miss those dealing with the financial woes of the leading candidate to be LA’s next mayor?  

Whether negligence or protectionism, this may be the top reason why Los Angeles has lost faith in the El Segundo (formerly LA) Times.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Join his mailing list or offer verifiable tips and story ideas at [email protected]. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.