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LAPD investigates claims of secret recordings at Councilman Jose Huizar's office

David Zahniser and James Queally, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- An aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has been placed on leave amid a police investigation into possible illegal recordings made inside one of Huizar's offices, authorities said Saturday.

Los Angles Police Department Capt. Gisselle Espinoza said her department launched an investigation this month into reports that a city employee illegally videotaped activities inside the councilman's El Sereno field office.

Espinoza would not say what was recorded or name the staffer, saying no arrests have been made. Huizar spokeswoman Joella Hopkins issued a statement saying that one of the councilman's aides has been "suspended and placed on administrative leave" pending the outcome of the investigation.

"We were shocked and angered to learn of any illegal video taping at our field office," the statement said. "Law enforcement was immediately notified and we fully support their investigation."

The case is under investigation by detectives with LAPD's Hollenbeck Division.

The inquiry comes at a turbulent time for Huizar and his staff. In November, FBI agents raided Huizar's offices and his home in Boyle Heights, hauling out boxes of materials, including one labeled "fundraising."

Real estate developers doing business in Huizar's district, which stretches from downtown to Eagle Rock, have received subpoenas instructing them to turn over information on fundraising and communications with the councilman and his employees.

A search warrant filed last year as part of the investigation said FBI agents were seeking evidence of an array of potential crimes, including bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering. The warrant named several City Hall figures, including Huizar, his planning deputy and a former staffer.

No one has been arrested or charged in the federal investigation.


Huizar is also defending himself against lawsuits from two former aides who claim they faced retaliation for complaining that the councilman was engaged in an extramarital affair with a staffer. Huizar has disputed those claims, calling them false.

Attorneys for Huizar tried this year to have proceedings in those lawsuits postponed until the FBI investigation is resolved. But two judges, in separate rulings, said the cases can move forward.

Huizar was elected to the council in 2005 and represents neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, El Sereno, Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles. Because of term limits, he is scheduled to step down next year.

Hopkins, the Huizar spokeswoman, declined to give additional details on the LAPD investigation.

"First and foremost, our concern is for the well being of any individual whose privacy may have been violated," said the statement from Huizar's office.

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