FBI agents carry boxes and bags of documents from Councilmember Jose Huizar’s home in Boyle Heights. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)
Rafu Wire and Staff Reports
The FBI searched Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar’s City Hall office on Wednesday, with at least a dozen agents carrying out boxes, bags or rolling suitcases of potential evidence.
Huizar’s home and a field office were also the target of searches by FBI agents serving a court-authorized warrant.
KNX Newsradio reported that FBI agents arrived at Huizar’s City Hall office in the morning and delivered a search warrant to his chief of staff. The employees present were told not to touch or move any documents, and were then ushered into a conference room to wait while agents investigated.
After the agents carried out the evidence in a single-file line from the City Hall office, an agent checked whether the office door was locked.
“We’re done,” the agent told reporters when asked if the search was completed.
Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said the affidavit supporting the warrant is under seal, and the office is prohibited from commenting on the nature of the investigation, but did say no arrests were planned as a result of the searches.
The City Hall search lasted around five hours. Agents also went to a private residence on Britannia Street in Boyle Heights and to an address in the 2000 block of First Street, also in Boyle Heights. Huizar and his wife have both listed the Brittania Street residence as their home address with the State Bar of California, and the councilman has a field office at the First Street location.
At Huizar’s home, around a dozen agents, with a search dog, removed several bags and boxes, one of which bore the label “fundraising.” At least one computer and several flash drives were taken from the property. The Los Angeles Times reported that the dog was there to sniff out electronics, such as thumb drives and cell phones, that may be hidden.
No one at the home would comment on the investigation, as the search warrants are believed to be sealed.
Huizar also has field offices in Eagle Rock and El Sereno, but those locations were not searched. His district also includes Downtown and Little Tokyo.
Stephen Kaufman, an attorney for Huizar, told City News Service that he was monitoring the situation but had no further comment.
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, when asked for comment about the searches, said: “Today’s events come as a surprise to each of us. We will continue to do the jobs we were elected to do and will cooperate with authorities if asked.”
City Councilmember Gil Cedillo walked up to Huizar’s City Hall door along with an aide around 2 p.m. and tried to enter the office, but found the door locked. He did not knock and kept walking down the hall toward his office, telling a reporter that he did not know what the FBI search was about.
Huizar was recently named in two lawsuits filed by two former employees. One of the suits accuses him of doctoring his schedule to hide certain meetings from the media, along with other ethics violations, including that his staff was pressured to work during city time on the campaign of his wife, Richelle Huizar, who is running in the 2020 election to succeed Huizar in the 14th District.
Mayra Alvarez served as Huizar’s executive assistant and scheduler for about three years, but contends in her lawsuit that she left in July because she was demoted after returning from maternity leave.
The complaint alleges that Alvarez was retaliated against for voicing concern over an affair Huizar was allegedly having with another staffer, although it does not identify the woman.
Huizar previously admitted to an affair with a former staffer, Francine Godoy, who sued him for harassment and retaliation in 2013, but denied any harassment.
A second former staffer for Huizar, Pauline Medina, also recently filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging she faced retaliation after complaining that Huizar had an affair with a staffer and had instructed his aides to perform inappropriate tasks.
Medina alleged that Huizar launched a campaign to push her out in 2017 after she told the councilman’s chief of staff that her boss was in a relationship with someone else in the office. Medina also alleged that Huizar was funneling city money to his alma mater, Bishop Mora Salesian High School, and secretly used city funds to pay for his personal expenses.
Huizar has strongly denied the accusations contained in the Alvarez and Medina lawsuits, which were both filed within the last month.
Huizar has served on the City Council since 2005 but is prevented from running again due to term limits when his current term expires in 2020.