The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to immediately suspend Councilman Jose Huizar, hours after his arrest on a federal racketeering charge stemming from a wide-ranging bribery investigation.
"While today's announcement on the arrest of council member Huizar is not unexpected, the horrendous and disgusting allegations leveled against him and others have painted a dark cloud over our City government for a long time now," said Council President Nury Martinez, who introduced the emergency motion to suspend Huizar.
Huizar, 51, is accused of accepting $1.5 million in bribes from developers in exchange for his support of downtown building projects. He was stripped of all his committee assignments in November 2018, following FBI searches of his home and offices, and he recently scaled back his legislative activity at the request of Martinez.
The council voted 14-0, with Huizar absent, to suspend him from the council.
Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement blasting the councilman and again calling for his ouster.
"Council member Huizar has violated the trust of the people who elected him. I have zero tolerance for this criminal behavior and corruption," Garcetti stated. "He should be immediately removed from the City Council and replaced by his democratically elected successor to ensure that the 14th Council District has the representation it deserves."
Kevin de Leon was elected to the 14th Council District in the March primary, but has not yet taken office because Huizar's term lasts until the end of the year.
Martinez said she has been "in discussions" with de Leon on "the best path forward" for Council District 14. Calls to de Leon's staff by City News Service were not immediately returned.
Councilman Paul Krekorian called for Huizar to step down from the council.
"Today's arrest of Jose Huizar is an important step toward finally bringing his reign of corruption and misconduct to a close," Krekorian said. "For years, his actions have brought shame to this body, which is why I have demanded his resignation and again reiterate that demand."
Councilman David Ryu said the city needs an inspector general with the power to oversee, investigate and subpoena council members with regard to land-use decisions, and he called for a city charter amendment to limit the power council members have on those decisions.
"Jose Huizar's alleged crimes are stomach-turning. Instead of serving the best interests of our city, Huizar chose to enrich himself. He must be removed from City Council," Ryu said. "This scheme is disgraceful, and I hope Huizar and anyone else involved faces swift justice, but that alone is not enough.
"This culture of corruption and pay-to-play politics has been allowed to fester in City Hall for far too long, and I'm sick and tired of putting forth ideas that are dismissed as going too far, too fast," Ryu said. "How many more examples do we need until something changes?"
Huizar's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
The council does not have the authority to remove Huizar from office since he has not been convicted of a crime. He would automatically forfeit the office if he is convicted.
City Attorney Mike Feuer said Huizar should step down immediately.
"As I said previously, now that Mr. Huizar has been charged, he should resign immediately -- no longer drawing a salary paid by L.A.'s taxpayers, and allowing his district to have the representation it deserves," Feuer said. "If true, the allegations against him indicate absolutely outrageous misconduct -- a pattern of corruption that should deeply offend every Angeleno."
The City Council also voted Tuesday to pay $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by Mayra Alvarez, a former Huizar aide who accused the councilman of engaging in workplace harassment, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation.
Operation Casino Loyale
Federal investigators released numerous photos tied to their investigation of 14th District Councilman Jose Huizar. The feds allege that Huizar accepted bribes from developers and their representatives.
The FBI said the investigation dated back to 2015, when Huizar was spotted cashing in a large amount of chips at a Las Vegas casino, allegedly provided to him by a developer. The origin of the investigation earned the probe the code name "Operation Casino Loyale."
Huizar has been charged but has not been convicted of any crime.