Voters in LA’s CD12 could be headed to the polls for the fourth time in a year as a City Councilman is implicated in a corruption scandal.
John Lee may want to sue Las Vegas for false advertising. He took the city up on its offer of anonymity and the FBI found out about an entire night out on the town with his former boss, Mitch Englander. And what a night it was!
“Businessman A” spared no expense in allowing Lee and the rest of the Englander posse to party like rock stars. They stayed at a resort and casino with access to comps only available to VIP customers. Casino chips were provided to them so that they did not have to gamble with their own money. They ate a dinner that cost $2,481.00. The group then traveled by limousine to another hotel where approximately $34,000 was paid “for bottle serve and alcohol”. As a nightcap, “Businessperson A” spent $300–400 in cash for the services of “female escorts for the group.” One was sent directly to “Englander’s hotel room to provide him with services.” Apparently, the second split her time between other members of the group.
This night was not a gift from a generous friend. It was an attempt by “Businessperson A” to buy influence and the alleged corruption is made clear by one specific action that night. In a scene right out of a Hollywood movie, Englander is said to have “accepted an envelope containing $10,000 in cash from Businessperson A in the Resort and Casino’s bathroom.”
While Lee does not admit to being “Staffer B,” he has confirmed on his Twitter feed that he was “in Las Vegas with Councilmember Englander in June 2017”. In his carefully worded statement, he states that he “did everything in [his] power to pay for and reimburse expenses related to this trip.” In fact, if he is “City Staffer”, the indictment does confirm that on September 14, 2017, “Businessperson A” received a FedEx package containing a $442.00 check dated August 4, 2017, for “Vegas Expenses.” One does not have to pull out a calculator to determine that this did not even begin to cover the costs of the very expensive night out.
In a Tweet dated March 9, 2020, Lee also confirms that he “completely cooperated with the FBI when they contacted me for voluntary interviews in July and August 2017.” According to the indictment, Englander had an “understanding that City Staffer A and City Staffer also had been interviewed by the FBI.” It also seems clear that Englander had discussed this interview with his senior staffer. The only people that did not seem to know about the investigation were the voters.
After Englander unexpectedly left office at the end of 2018, Lee filed to run for the vacant seat. He narrowly lost the primary election to Loraine Lundquist forcing a runoff. Lee did win that election and became the City Councilperson for CD12. In this year’s regularly scheduled election, he and his supporters ran a campaign worthy of Trump. The votes are still being counted but he is currently ahead.
During these elections, Lee tried to take credit for Englander’s accomplishments but did not bother to mention that his former boss was under investigation. Even while knowing about Englander’s misdeeds, his endorsement was displayed on his campaign website.
The residents of CD12 deserve to know why Lee “didn’t come clean with the voters about the real reasons why there was a vacant seat for him to pursue in the first place.” The lack of transparency surrounding the investigation or the impending indictment of Englander when they went to the polls should disqualify the results of the elections. This is especially true if Lee is in fact “City Staffer B” and was, therefore, a willful participant in criminal activity including backdating a check in an attempt to obstruct justice. The councilman needs to heed the request of 954 citizens who have so far signed a petition calling for his immediate resignation so that they can make an informed decision as to who should represent them on the City Council.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, and a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.