Wesson’s pay halted after judge bars him from council duties

Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin has cut Councilman Herb Wesson’s pay and benefits after a judge suspended Wesson from his duties.

“Because there is a statutory order preventing Mr. Wesson from performing the functions of a council member, the controller is suspending his paychecks effective July 19,” Galperin spokeswoman Chelsea Lucktenberg said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, City Council President Nury Martinez appointed Wesson’s chief of staff, Heather Hutt, as caretaker to handle affairs in the 10th Precinct, Martinez’s spokeswoman said. Hutt will represent the district but cannot vote on points before the council.

Wesson, who has already served three terms on the council, was appointed earlier this year to temporarily replace Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was suspended after he was charged with corruption by federal prosecutors last fall.

Ridley-Thomas has denied the allegations and plans to fight them in court in the autumn. His allies sued earlier this year to prevent the council from appointing Wesson, requesting that he be removed from his post pending the judge’s decision.

In a Tuesday ruling, LA Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel said Wesson was “prohibited from performing any Council member functions.”

Wesson did not respond to requests for comment.

Plaintiffs in the case, which include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California and several Council District residents, were pleased with Strobel’s decision.

“The court correctly recognized that the rules of the city charter mean something. The City Council should never have appointed a recalled council member to represent District 10,” said Crystal Nix-Hines, an attorney for Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan who is working on the case.

In a similar move, Galperin suspended salaries and benefits for council member Jose Huizar after he was indicted on federal corruption charges in June 2020. If Strobel’s policy is lifted and Wesson is reinstated, Galperin’s office said he will reconsider starting salaries and benefits again.

Earlier this year, Strobel had temporarily blocked Wesson’s appointment, only to back down weeks later and say the case could not proceed until the plaintiffs received prosecutorial clearance. General Rob Bonta to pursue a challenge to an official’s eligibility to hold public office.

Such challenges cannot be filed by a private party without the consent of the Attorney General.

Last month, Bonta’s office allowed a legal challenge to Wesson’s appointment.

“We conclude that there are significant legal questions as to whether Wesson’s nomination to the Los Angeles City Council was lawful,” Bonta’s decision read. “Furthermore, the public interest is served by allowing what is proposed [legal challenge] Continue.”

Strobel said the plaintiffs, who include a group of voters in the Ridley-Thomas Borough, have a reasonable chance of winning their argument that Wesson is barred by law from temporarily returning to the council because he already has the maximum number has completed the deadlines according to the city’s fixed-term limitation law.

The city and plaintiffs will appear before Strobel again next month — on the same question.

Until then, Wesson is temporarily unemployed. Immediately after Ridley-Thomas’ suspension, Martinez appointed his chief of staff, Karly Katona, as the ward’s caretaker, but that meant she couldn’t vote on points before the city council.

Wesson later fired Katona when he took over the post and replaced her with Hutt, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the state assembly last year.

For now, Hutt is Wesson’s second-in-command.

“While we are disappointed with Tuesday’s decision, we are proud of the work we have accomplished under Councilor Wesson’s leadership,” Hutt said in a statement Thursday. “The CD10 team will continue our work of serving the people of the 10th District.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-07-21/city-stops-paying-wessons-salary-after-judge-bars-him-from-performing-council-duties Wesson’s pay halted after judge bars him from council duties

Alley Einstein

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