City Hall: Garcetti’s Hidden Email Account and Other Flavors of Corruption

@TheGussReport(This is the first of a series of in-depth reports on the current investigation into the possibility of corruption at Los Angeles City Hall.) On Sunday, the LA Times published a story on how the FBI’s recent raid on the City Hall offices of City Councilmember Jose Huizar as well as on the home he shares with his politically crafty wife Richelle, are part of a broader investigation on Southern California political corruption. 

The article references an FBI warrant and its efforts to get Google to turn over City Hall content from the personal email accounts of City Hall insiders. 

Before I dig into today’s column, allow me to send this note to the FBI:  get a warrant for the private email account(s) that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has directly used to communicate City business.  Then let’s meet for coffee.  Note: I’m not saying Garcetti might use personal email for public business.  I am saying that he does.

And on we go …

Apparently, the FBI is noodling around Councilmember Curren Price, his wife and real estate consultant Delbra Richardson Price; Deron Williams, Chief of Staff for City Council president Herb Wesson; Huizar’s mother and brother; current and former staffers, and who-knows-who-else.  Whether any of them are FBI targets or just sources for more information is anyone’s guess.  My money says the whole enterprise is rolling toward Wesson and the Prices (others also say Garcetti) leading someone to eventually turn State’s evidence, as it were.

And isn’t it often the case where someone is ratted out by their “best friend?”  Well, keep in mind that Wesson has long referred to Huizar by that term, though he ultimately stripped Huizar of his powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Chair immediately after the FBI raids.  Yet note that Huizar never publicly refers to Wesson that way.

But political corruption comes in many flavors.  I got a taste of it from Wesson five years ago this month, after my increasingly vocal concerns about corruption and incompetence at LA Animal Services, the City’s animal pound system.

During a nearly two-hour meeting I had with Wesson and his then right-hand man Michael Bai in his City Hall office over the holiday break back on January 3, 2014, I showed them graphic evidence of unaddressed mistreatment of animals across LA; of pet adoption statistics that were falsified; and about LAAS’s unhealthy relationship with Best Friends, which I have stated is a black hole for homeless animals and statistics that track them.

Wesson, upon seeing the graphic documentation of animal cruelty among guard dogs, of street strays, and poor impound conditions, used his own colorful language to say how moved he was by the problem and that he had to think what he wanted to do about it.

Six months to the day later, I tracked down Wesson who asked me to provide a comprehensive report on all the problems at LAAS to show “where the bodies are buried….I will make a Motion to have it all audited, and (Councilmember Paul) Koretz will second it…you know, to give him cover.”

In other words, the whole City Hall system is a charade of backroom deals, predetermined outcomes and sleight of hand.  And nobody knows which buttons to press and levers to pull more – or more expertly – than Wesson.

The problem is that City Controller Ron Galperin audited none of what I provided.  Instead, Galperin used the material not as a blue print for auditing and exposing corruption and failure.  He used it like a film negative….to identify places to avoid auditing.

Wesson later claimed that he never promised that what I provided would be audited but was unable to explain how none of it was audited.   The answer is the fix was in.

Wesson then made me a challenge that I gather he has regretted ever since, asking “Dan, can’t you write about something other than animal issues?”

I took him up on that challenge and have since exposed his dubious real estate dealings; his and his wife Fabian’s multiple mortgage defaults; poor conditions cited at a home he rents out as a medical rehab facility; his Discover credit card default and the $5,000 small claims judgment he and his wife subsequently lost.  There was my coverage of his son, City Council Floor Director Justin Wesson, misusing LAPD resources as security for his wedding.  And how instead of answering questions she solicited from me, Wesson’s media person Vanessa Rodriguez fed the story out from under me to David Zahniser at the LA Times.  A few months ago, I wrote about another FBI raid that took place a mile from City Hall that you didn’t hear about, that I suspect may eventually land squarely on Wesson as well.   And don’t forget the bigamy, fraud and perjury this column exposed on his close friend, Curren Price, which Wesson asked me to ease up on “because Curren is good people.”

I wound up writing more columns about Price’s proverbial predilections than any other topic, alliteration intended.

It was around that time I was hauled out of a City Council meeting by two LAPD officials, Captain Patricia Sandoval and Sargent Frank Preciado, during which Sandoval suddenly decided to revoke my LAPD Press Pass despite zero misconduct on my part.  I refused her loud order to return the pass, as it hung around my neck on a lanyard, but challenged both of them to try and remove it, which they opted not to do, given that my camera recorded the encounter.  I have since repeatedly been threatened with arrest by the LAPD if I were to use it to enter non-public areas at City Hall or elsewhere.  The LAPD failed to give me my due process hearing and has ignored my request for documents related to that decision.  

So, who knows where this is all headed?   I have some ideas and will share them with you in the coming days and weeks.   If you know, or have verifiable leads, my contact information is below.  It’s going to be an interesting year, especially as Wesson prepares to try and make the leap from LA City Council to LA County Supervisor.

Which leads to this question:  why do you think Wesson opted to not run for Mayor of LA in 2020, a job he most likely would have won in a landslide, and perhaps without a legitimate opponent?  My guess: It isn’t that Wesson lacked desire to be Mayor.  It’s that he wanted to sidestep the coming tsunami.

(This is the first of a series of in-depth reports by Daniel Guss and CityWatch on the current investigation into possible corruption at Los Angeles City Hall.)

(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 TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)