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"Honest Services Fraud - How City Hall Rigged Its Herb Wesson Vote" by Daniel Guss
@TheGussReport - A surprising number of LA politicians, their bagmen and hangers-on are corrupt in one form or another. Some wind up in federal prison, others may have prison on the horizon and their colleagues vote trade and blindly enable corruption in so many ways, your head would spin.
Take the ruse that LA City Council President Nury Martinez and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer pulled on us earlier this week when they dishonestly facilitated a unanimous City Council vote to install former Councilmember Herb Wesson as "caretaker" for Council District 10 while suspended Councilmember, Mark Ridley-Thomas, fights federal corruption charges.
Before we continue, on Thursday, February 24th, LA County Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel issued a temporary restraining order preventing Wesson from taking office until at least March 17th, when Ridley-Thomas’s lawsuit has its next hearing scheduled.
Back to the backstory…
On February 7th, John E. Sweeney, Ridley-Thomas's Beverly Hills-based attorney, electronically transmitted to City Hall a detailed 4-page letter outlining why his client should be allowed to serve the district that elected him while his criminal case works its way through the system. His reasoning includes that the charges do not relate to Ridley-Thomas’s job as Councilmember but his previous job as an LA County Supervisor.
City Hall, namely Martinez and Feuer, didn’t want this column or the public to read Sweeney’s talking points and went out of its way to prevent us from seeing his letter.
So hit the pause button for a moment to define what “honest services fraud” means: According to the United States Supreme Court, it is "schemes to defraud citizens of their intangible rights to honest and impartial government."
Keep that in mind as we continue…
On February 17th, this column submitted a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request for all available documents related to Martinez’s appointment of Wesson. It was emailed to Martinez, her chief of staff Ackley Padilla, her deputy chief of staff Alexis Wesson (who is Wesson's daughter-in-law) and Strefan Fauble, a deputy city attorney IV and Feuer's highest-ranking liaison to City Council.
On February 18th, Fauble responded as follows: "The City Attorney's office has records responsive to your request, but they are all in their entirety either attorney-client privileged or attorney work-product privileged and thus exempt from production under Government Code section 6254(k) will not, therefore, be produced."
This response is a bald-faced lie by Fauble.
The Sweeney letter is neither protected by attorney/client privilege nor is it attorney work-product. It is a public communication, as proven by the fact that on the same day (2/18) that Fauble denied to me that he has such a public document (above), the Wesson Council File (below) shows him submitting the Sweeney letter to the City Clerk and instructing that office to place it into the Council File, which is public.
Except that was a lie by Fauble, too.
That’s because while Fauble’s cover letter to the Clerk is dated February 18th…
…the metadata in Fauble’s cover letter proves that he created it on Sunday February 20th, at 10:17am. It was last modified 4:13pm. It was created with publicly funded software and hardware located on the 8th Floor of City Hall East, where Fauble’s office is located. But he dated it the 18th to falsely create the impression it was viewable by the public for five days prior to City Council’s vote on the 22nd.
Fauble then used telephone lines to transmit his misleadingly back-dated letter to the City Clerk.
But, since Monday the 21st was a holiday, the Sweeney letter would not be seen by the Clerk until the morning of the 22nd around the time that City Council voted on the matter at 10am, with the Council File falsely representing that the public had access to Sweeney’s talking points for five days before the vote.
Some federal prosecutors might consider that wire fraud.
Fauble and Martinez intentionally kept the Sweeney letter away from the public for the 15 days between its transmission to City Hall on February 7th up until minutes before the February 22nd Wesson meeting, discussion and vote.
So let’s revisit the definition of honest services fraud: "schemes to defraud citizens of their intangible rights to honest and impartial government."
When asked by this column, Fauble refused to state when he first received the Sweeney letter and was silent when asked what he was doing for at least six hours in City Hall East, on the 8th floor, on Sunday the 20th.
Fauble, who unlawfully threatened to have this columnist arrested a few years ago for peacefully exercising my lawful right to use my LAPD press pass in City Hall, has now earned himself a damages claim against the City for an intentional public records violation as well as a complaint to the State Bar of California and the City Ethics department. Whether his using telephone lines to transmit an intentionally deceptive, back-dated official document is a crime is up for the feds to decide.
Fauble’s misconduct is nothing new or novel to this column. A few weeks ago, he left my personal data unredacted in a public records request response to someone who Feuer’s office has previously labeled as “dangerous” in a restraining order application.
But at some point, Fauble’s misconduct may catch up with him.
It’s hard to deny metadata.
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(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and runner-up in 2021 in the Activist Journalism category. He has contributed to Mayor Sam, CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, KCRW, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and The Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment Sections and Sunday Magazine among other publishers.)