In the midst of a contentious reelection campaign, the CD 1 councilmember has redacted 39% of his public calendar so far this year.
CD 1 Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s office has been redacting an extraordinary number of events on his council office calendar from public view.
Public records procured by Knock LA reveal that of Councilmember Cedillo’s total 290 events scheduled between January and April 2022, 177 of the events were listed and 113 were fully redacted. That means 39% of all appointments in the first four months of this year were unknown business for Councilmember Cedillo, CD 1’s incumbent in a contested election cycle.
To put this in context, Knock LA also obtained and reviewed the calendars of CD 3 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, Council President Nury Martinez, and LA Controller Ron Galperin over the same time period. Councilmember Blumenfield and Controller Galperin, like Councilmember Cedillo, are currently running for election. Full redactions of calendar items were extremely rare.
Knock LA found that Councilmember Blumenfield’s office fully redacted zero items in his calendar between December 2021 and March 2022. His office left personal events like “Gym time,” “Curren Price’s Bday,” and “FYI Kids have music lessons” intact.
In an analysis of Council President Martinez’s calendars from December 1, 2021 through mid-March 2022, Knock LA found two events that were completely redacted. Her office left personal appointments such as “Acupuncture” in the calendars, as well as other work-related reminders such as “Acting Mayor” for days when Mayor Eric Garcetti was absent. Campaign-adjacent events, like her meeting with Sam Yebri, an attorney currently running for the CD 5 seat, were not redacted.
The city attorney’s office sent an email to Knock LA asserting that none of Cedillo’s redactions in his March calendar were related to his current campaign for reelection, and are instead personal in nature.
Campaign events are generally not considered city business, but by any means none of the redacted information on these calendars relate to campaign events. Private events on calendars typically redacted are things like doctor appointments, lunch with spouse, etc.
When later shown that a fundraising event, hosted by AEG and the Central City Association for Councilmember Cedillo and CD 13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell on April 25 at 5 PM, had been redacted on Cedillo’s calendar, the city attorney’s office gave the following explanation: “It is my understanding that campaign events are considered personal activities so a redaction of campaign-related information, so long as the campaign has no relationship to city business, is appropriate.”
Councilmember Cedillo’s office did not return Knock LA’s request for comment.
To begin, “it seems sufficiently fishy” and is “an extremely high number of redactions,” Unrig LA’s Rob Quan explains.
The redactions suggest, in an almost cartoonishly obvious fashion, Councilmember Cedillo has been getting into many activities recently that he does not want the public to know about.
That could mean a number of things.
Despite the office’s initial claims, there is clearly campaign business being concealed. Additionally, Councilmember Cedillo could be using these redactions to conceal meetings his office would rather the public did not know about. And Councilmember Cedillo could be hiding potentially damning personal business. The truth is probably some combination of all of the above.
“There might be people it doesn’t look good to meet with. For example, someone he would shy away from taking a donation from or hiring as a consultant,” Quan speculates. After all, Councilmember Cedillo’s nine-year tenure on council has been strange and sloppy. He’s been known to keep a variety of “bellicose” stooges in his orbit. Councilmember Cedillo has also been known to take meetings with high-profile billionaires who are lobbying to disappear poor people.
Councilmember Cedillo’s office has a history of flouting accountability and, more generally, not giving a fuck. In 2018, he was busted keeping a private email account for conducting city business in an effort to unsuccessfully skirt public records laws. In 2021, he canceled more than half of the meetings of the Housing Committee, which he chairs. In fact, seven Housing Committee meetings were canceled specifically on Councilmember Cedillo’s motion; meanwhile LA remains one of the least affordable places to reside on the planet.
Councilmembers’ calendars came to the foreground of local politics several years ago via Councilmember Cedillo’s old colleague Jose Huizar during his hotel corruption investigation. In that case, the councilmembers’ calendars were used to connect contributions to development votes. There was a clear effort by Huizar’s office to tamper with the actual records themselves before handing them over.
But few, if any, offices are likely to act as brazenly as Huizar, especially in the wake of his downfall. And, it’s an election year. But the answers to the mystery behind these redactions could be campaign-based, and the pressure to conceal might also be catalyzed by the election. “Unlike Martinez and Blumenfield, Cedillo is in a very fierce reelection campaign right now. So optically it might just look really bad if he’s spending a whole bunch of time on campaign work and not just doing his job.” Quan continues, “It could be something as simple as that, not necessarily Huizar-level nefarious.”
Short of Councilmember Cedillo’s office having a miraculous change of heart and deciding to release the details of his calendars, the only real rejoinder in this case is to sue the city, something which happens all of the time, albeit rather quietly.
Between 2016 and February 2020, an audit by Michael Kolhass revealed the City of Los Angeles paid $1.7 million in settling 26 lawsuits where LA City offices committed California Public Records Act violations.
In many cases such as these, the only option is litigation. For a councilmember who is already playing in the gutter in a reelection race this early on, shaming his office into performing the most basic duties of transparency seems unlikely.
What is likely, however, is that Councilmember Cedillo has a very difficult and very ugly year still in front of him.
Knock LA is a journalism project paid for by Ground Game LA, which has endorsed Eunisses Hernandez for City Council. This article was not authorized or paid for by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.