L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar personally asked companies that do business at City Hall to donate to a private school where his wife was working as a professional fundraiser and also assigned his staff to help with the effort, it was reported Friday.
Huizar instructed staffers to work on a yearly fundraiser for Bishop Mora Salesian High School in Boyle Heights, and the assignment was considered part of their job duties, according to interviews with former aides and a lawsuit filed by one of them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Huizar also sent an email to aides in 2013 identifying lobbyists, city contractors and others whom he had contacted about making a donation. In the email, Huizar said two of his staffers were assisting in the fundraising effort, The Times reported. Two donors who gave to Salesian in 2015 said they were asked to do so by Huizar staffers.
Legal experts said any investigation of Huizar’s actions would probably focus on whether his use of government employees to do work that benefited his wife by carrying out tasks she was paid to do could violate criminal laws barring the use of public resources for private gain.
State law also requires elected officials to report any charitable fundraising that results in donations of $5,000 or more. Huizar, who mentioned in his 2013 email that he had secured some donations of $5,000 or more, did not file reports disclosing requests for contributions to the school, according to records kept by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Huizar and his wife, Richelle Huizar, declined to comment after receiving written questions from The Times about their fundraising activities for Salesian, where the councilman graduated in 1986.
FBI agents searched Huizar’s home and offices three weeks ago, hauling away an array of materials, including a cardboard box labeled “fundraising.”
An FBI spokeswoman has declined to say what agents are investigating. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which oversees the high school, said it could not answer certain questions about the donations because it is “cooperating fully with law enforcement” and abiding by a request not to discuss anything related to the FBI*s inquiry.
An FBI spokesperson also recently confirmed that the IRS, which typically scrutinizes income that was not reported on tax filings, is involved in the investigation, The Times reported.
Huizar has not been arrested or charged with any crime.
Richelle Huizar, who recently ended her campaign to replace her husband on the City Council, worked as a paid fundraiser for Salesian from July 2012 to January 2016, according to information provided by the archdiocese.