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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Nury Martinez' Rumored Plan Is Riddled With Conflict, Corruption and Nepotism

By Daniel Guss

@TheGussReport - Last week, this column explained how LA City Council president Nury Martinez, City Attorney Mike Feuer, City Controller Ron Galperin and all but three other Councilmembers railroaded their peer Mark Ridley-Thomas into a suspension from his elected office that was accompanied by the suspension of his salary and health insurance even before he entered a plea to his recent 20-count federal corruption indictment.

In that piece, I provided examples of other high-ranking City officials who courted controversy with some even admitting to their misdeeds but were neither suspended nor had their salary and health insurance withheld.  

Add former Councilmember Richard Alarcon to that list.

A Councilmember in the 90s, Alarcon returned to the city's legislative body in 2007 to finish the term of Alex Padilla (who earlier succeeded him) and was re-elected to serve his final term in 2009 and stayed in that role until he termed-out in 2013.

As is now well-known, in 2010, Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes De Oca Alarcon, were indicted on a slew of felony counts related to his not residing in his District as is required by law.  Her charges were for related fraud and perjury. The Alarcons were convicted on some of those charges, though the verdicts were eventually thrown out. The LA City Clerk's office confirmed for this column today that Alarcon was neither suspended from office during that multi-year escapade nor were his salary and benefits withheld.

In case you're keeping score:

Alarcon was neither suspended nor lost any income or health insurance despite 18 felony counts related to his work in the LA City Council office he held at the time.   

Ridley-Thomas, recently indicted on 20-federal felony counts related to his prior job, was suspended and his salary and health insurance are now withheld.


That leads us to this question: What's up with Martinez, Feuer, Galperin and the entire City Council (save for Mike Bonin, Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson) and their rush to judgment on Ridley-Thomas?

The answer is plenty and it reeks of corruption, conflict and nepotism.

Multiple sources within City Hall tell this column that Martinez is planning to appoint Ridley-Thomas's predecessor, Herb Wesson, as a "District Caretaker" while the Ridley-Thomas legal problems work their way through the system, which could take years or until a special election is held.

Herb Wesson
Photo Credit: Unknown

While Mr. Wesson may seem like a logical choice for the appointment, there are glaring conflicts of interest and too-close-for-comfort corruption ties.

  1. Herb Wesson is now a lobbyist hawking his legislative chops to local governments as an advisor on, among other things, marijuana policy. Last December, he incorporated and registered Herb Wesson and Associates with the California Secretary of State, which may disqualify him from serving as CD10 Caretaker even if he hands-off control of his newly formed business.
  2. While there is a battle over which Council District will oversee USC in the coming years, Herb Wesson's brother, Steve Wesson, is reportedly still employed at the school as USC Village Ombudsman presenting another potential conflict of interest.

But there appears to be more than just that going on here.  

Herb Wesson has spent much of 2021 licking his post-campaign-loss wounds by pleading for policy business from local governments and playing the poor card despite having raked-in millions of dollars in his prior government jobs, claiming "I'm just a small businessman trying to feed my family," though his children range in age from 39 years on-up. 

Deron Williams, Herb Wesson's former chief of staff, was in very close proximity to the activity in the federal indictment of former Councilmember Jose Huizar, who Wesson referred to as "my best friend."  While neither Wesson nor Williams stand indicted in that matter, their proximity to the corruption is a curious thing for Martinez to ignore, especially since she breathlessly ran to suspend Ridley-Thomas before he could even enter a plea.

So what's going on here?

Look to Martinez' Deputy Chief of Staff Alexis Marin-Wesson for clues.

Nury Martinez and Alexis Marin-Wesson
Photo Credit: LA Times

Her husband, Justin Wesson, is Herb Wesson's youngest son.  He served as City Council's "Floor Director" during his dad's time as its president. It was a job his father created for him though he mostly functioned as his father's chauffeur and valet. That is a curious choice for a driver given the son's 2012 DUI bust. According to Transparent California, Justin's 2019 salary and compensation, the last reported year available, totaled $141,350.48.   (Note: Justin also voted in scores of elections while registered at his parents' home address despite having a pregnant wife registered to vote in South Pasadena.  This was likely done to establish a fake "residency" to run to replace his dad.  The LA Times stopped pimping that idea after I first wrote about it.)

Funny how the Times' David Zahniser, Dakota Smith and Emily Alpert-Reyes never told you about that.

Hey, but a dad has got to do what a dad has got to do to get their lay-about kids salaries they could never dream of earning in the private sector, right Mr. Wesson and Mr. Ridley-Thomas?

They are birds of a feather.

If you recall, Justin and Alexis were forced to reimburse the LAPD thousands of dollars for misusing the agency for private security at their 2018 wedding. (This was a story that Wesson's office allegedly fed to Zahniser immediately after I inquired about it in order to get a "softer" report. Zahniser allegedly misled his readers by not disclosing that.)

Now, with rumors that Papa Wesson's consulting business is flailing, he and his son are reportedly eyeing their old government salaries that would land them roughly $400,000 combined each year that Ridley-Thomas remains suspended or until a special election is held.  

That's Martinez' likely motivation: enriching her third-in-command, and pseudo younger sister, Alexis by re-employing Justin vis-a-vis appointing his dad Herb Wesson, who implies that his adult children rely on him for income even in their middle ages.

That and the fact that Martinez continuously struggles as Council president, unable (or unwilling) to explain how she is fixing the city's considerable ills while continually censoring the public from complaining and keeping them out of meetings despite vax mandates.  She would readily welcome Papa Wesson's counsel.  It's a win-win for the politicians, but not one that is in the public's best interest assuming Wesson is even eligible for the appointment.  

There is also Ms. Marin-Wesson's mother-in-law, Fabian Wesson, who remains mired in controversy, having falsified her academic qualifications to land a $250,000 job replacing a Ph.D. at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, or AQMD.  Her predecessor, who is also a professor at UCLA, was succeeded by Mrs. Wesson because, as an AQMD spokesperson told me, she "thought she graduated" with a bachelor's degree, except she did not.

In any other job outside of nepotistic LA politics, you get fired for lying about your qualifications.  But not in the dumping ground of political patronage, the AQMD.

By the way, LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a member of the AQMD Governing Board, has dodged this column's questions about Fabian's false quals, so his claims of being a crime-fighter "eager to slap the cuffs" on guys like Englander and Huizar ring completely hollow.  More on that in an upcoming column.

So Nury Martinez' largesse toward Herb Wesson, who endorsed her to succeed him as Council president, is loaded with the same toxic sludge that led to Englander's conviction, Huizar's and others' indictments and whatever comes next.

What a surprise.

So why did Martinez, Feuer and Galperin allegedly conspire to oust Ridley-Thomas before he could even enter a plea?

Simple. Martinez wanted Ridley-Thomas out.  Feuer, who is likely to get creamed in his campaign for Mayor by leading candidate Karen Bass, reportedly okayed the railroading of Ridley-Thomas to curry favor with the Councilmembers whose endorsements he will need to even be competitive.

The same goes for Galperin in his hotly contested campaign to become an LA County Supervisor as key endorsements needed in that race quickly dry up. 

So at LA City Hall, the corruption, conflicts and nepotism are business as usual, at least until the next shoes, plural, drop.

Nury Martinez, her Chief of Staff Ackley Padilla and Alexis Marin-Wesson did not respond to a request to field unscreened questions.  Mark Ridley-Thomas is believed to be shopping for attorneys to fight the suspension.

Get the popcorn.

(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, 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, and other publishers. Tell your friends to follow him on The Twitters @TheGussReport)

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