L.A. councilman who went to prison now faces ethics fine

Five years ago, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander made a fateful trip to Las Vegas with a group of businessmen and city employees and received, among other things, a free hotel room, expensive alcohol and a $10,000 envelope.

That trip eventually led to criminal charges, a guilty plea and a 14-month prison sentence for the Englishman. Though he completed that sentence, one chapter remains in the Vegas saga: a fine from the city’s ethics commission.

On Wednesday, the city’s ethics committee will vote on a $79,830 fine against the Englishman for violating the city’s gift laws. Agency investigators concluded that Englander, who left office in 2018, had gone well beyond the city’s limits on gifts to civil servants, failed to fully report those gifts to the public and abused his position as a member of the city council.

The England man, 52, has agreed to pay the fine as part of an agreement in which he admits to committing those breaches. In 2020, he pleaded guilty to a crime of plotting to falsify material facts, saying at the time he took full responsibility for his actions.

Gary Winuk, a lawyer representing Englander, said the ethics committee agreement was intended to provide a “final solution” to the legal problems caused by the gifts.

“Mr. Englander’s federal case was not a corruption case. He has never been charged with corruption, has not been charged, nor has he pleaded guilty. These ethics allegations also do not include any corruption allegations,” he said in an email.

In their report on the Englishman’s fine, ethics officers acknowledged that the former councilor expressed regret over his actions. But they said he should have been well acquainted with city and state laws regarding gifts. They also said his actions indicated an intent to “deceive the public.”

Englander admitted to repeatedly lying to federal investigators in 2017 and 2018 when asked about those gifts. He also admitted to directing a businessman who had given him cash to lie to and hide information from FBI agents.

“The violations are serious because the monetary value of gifts received significantly exceeded the gift limit, the nature of the gifts and the circumstances in which they were received,” ethics investigators wrote, “and because Englander held a particularly important position of public trust.” as a City Council member at the time of the violations.”

City officials are required by law to disclose from a single source all gifts they receive valued at least $50. Also, in 2017, the year the Englishman went to Vegas, city officials were barred from accepting gifts worth more than $470 from a single source.

Englander, who represented the Northwest San Fernando Valley from 2011 to 2018, admitted in his plea agreement that he received a total of $15,000 in cash — $10,000 at a Las Vegas casino bath, plus another $5,000 in Dollars at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa near Palm Springs. In Vegas, according to ethics committee calculations, he received an estimated $6,080 worth of food, drink and “bottle service,” alcohol served at an exorbitant price.

City investigators concluded that the various gifts, provided by a Chinese real estate developer and a Los Angeles businessman who sold home furnishings, exceeded the city’s donation limit by at least $21,140.17.

Council member John Lee, who replaced the Englishman in 2019, also went on the Vegas trip. At that time he was an aide-de-camp to Englander. In 2020, Lee said he fully cooperated with the federal investigation. He has not been charged with a criminal offense and has not been fined by the city’s Ethics Board.

When Englander first ran for council, he campaigned as the “official public safety candidate” in the race and campaigned for his support for the union representing junior officers at the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to Wednesday’s penalty agreement, the Englishman will have to make an initial payment of $39,915 this week. The rest must be paid by August 31st.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-17/former-los-angeles-city-councilman-mitchell-englander-agrees-to-pay-79-830-penalty-in-ethics-case L.A. councilman who went to prison now faces ethics fine

Alley Einstein

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