Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson was cautious Monday when he was asked at a downtown luncheon about the city hall corruption investigation.
Speaking to a packed banquet room at the Palm, Wesson brought up the probe himself at the beginning of his talk. He said. "Everyone here knows there has been some drama at city hall." He said that when the probe, by the FBI, is completed "it will insure the integrity of city hall...will still stand." He appeared at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum, organized by public affairs consultant Emma Schafer.
As for himself, Wesson said, "I personally did not know anything about those things until they were reported in the media." He said, "I have not been contacted" by investigators. "That is all I have to say," he said.
Los Angeles Times reporters Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser wrote that the explosion of high rises in downtown Los Angeles is being financed "in good measure" by Chinese companies and investors. Now, they reported, "some of these projects have become a focus of federal agents seeking evidence of possible bribery, extortion, money laundering and other crimes." They based their story on a warrant issued to federal officers. It showed the feds are seeking records relating to City Councilmen Jose Huizar and Curren Price and current and former aides to Huizar, Wesson, and Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Huizar was chair of the council's powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee, known for short as the PLUM committee. It earned that nickname because serving on it is a plum job for council members seeking campaign contributions.
With Huizar in charge, PLUM approved big office buildings, hotels, condos and other major projects in downtown L.A. and other parts of the city.
Wesson removed Huizar when news of the FBI probe broke. He was asked at the Current Affairs Forum lunch whether he regretted appointing Huizar chair and why he was removed. Wesson declined to answer.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, it places those being questioned by the FBI in a certain amount of peril. A lie or an evasive answer to agents can bring down federal charges, as the Trump-Russia investigation has shown. It's probably time for some people around city hall to, as they say in Washington, lawyer up.