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City Hall Intrigue: Garcetti Appointee Resigns After Being Named in FBI Corruption Probe

[dropcap size=big]J[/dropcap]oel Jacinto, a commissioner on the five-member Board of Public Works, resigned last week from one of the plushiest seats on the city government’s appointed civilian boards after his name came up in an FBI warrant looking into alleged money laundering, bribery, and kickbacks involving Councilman Jose Huizar.

Jacinto and his wife, Ave Jacinto, were among a slew of people named in the warrant, which was filed in federal court in November. The warrant said agents were seeking evidence related to an investigation into an array of potential crimes possibly involving a collection of City Hall’s top people.

Joel Jacinto, right, with Mayor Eric Garcetti and other members of Public Works. Photo via Joel Jacinto/Twitter.

Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Jacinto to the Board of Public works in July 2015. The mayor last week sought to distance himself from the inquiry, saying during a press conference – ostensibly about the start of the teachers strike – that he should not be held accountable for everything that people do inside his administration.

“I am not responsible 100 percent for the actions of everybody in this building, the elected officials and stuff,” the mayor said. "But I do take my responsibility seriously."

Mayor Garcetti did not comment on Jacinto’s resignation.

Thomas M. Brown, Jacinto’s lawyer, said he submitted his resignation to avoid becoming a distraction for his department. “If contacted by any federal agency, he willfully and voluntarily cooperate as a witness against any individuals within city government,” Brown said. “He hopes that he will be able to return to his position as commissioner in the near future after any distraction related to his willingness to serve as a witness is completed.”

At the time of his appointment in 2015, Garcetti said: "With his extensive experience working with youth, families, businesses, and communities, Joel is well equipped to make sure City Hall is working efficiently and helping to improve life for Angelenos."

Prior to his city employment, Jacinto worked as a global sales coordinator for FRHI Hotels and Resorts, according to paperwork he submitted when he joined the public works board.

A significant figure in the city’s Filipino community, Jacinto also worked previously as executive director of the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, a nonprofit group based in Historic Filipinotown that focuses on economic and community development.

Board members oversee such issues as street repairs, trash pickup and the city’s sewer system, earning a salary of more than $160,000 annually.

The federal search warrant also named Councilman Jose Huizar, formerly chair of the Planning Land Use and Management committee, which oversees development in the city. The FBI raided Huizar’s home and offices on Nov. 7.

[dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]ther City Hall insiders named in the search warrant include Councilman Curren Price, who represents parts of Downtown and of South Los Angeles, and Deron Williams, chief of staff to City Council President Herb Wesson.

After news of the warrant went public, he told reporters he was not aware that he had been mentioned in a search warrant. He added that his wife is an independent contractor, but did not elaborate on that. While serving with Public Works, Jacinto was assigned to work with the city’s Bureau of Engineering, which reviews permits that are provided to companies that seek to carve into streets and sidewalks as part of their construction projects.

He was in regular contact with Raymond Chan, then at Building and Safety, and scheduled several meetings with real estate developers or about development, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Councilman Jose Huizar, right, with Mayor Eric Garcetti, left. Courtesy of Jose Huizar.
Jose Huizar, right, with Mayor Eric Garcetti, left. Courtesy of Jose Huizar.

Garcetti’s Ambitions

The expansive investigation could not come at a worse time for the mayor. Garcetti has invested hundreds of days traveling outside of California to key Democratic primary states Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina for more than a year. He is weighing a run for president in 2020.

If he does try for the White House, he would likely face questions about the corruption probe on any campaign trail. Although, the mayor did work up some good will from his role in helping to resolve the six-day teachers strike this week.

Agents also served a warrant on Google back in July, seeking information from a private email account for Raymond Chan, former deputy mayor for economic development in 2016 and 2017 under Garcetti. From 1987, Chan had worked his up at the city’s Department of Building and Safety. Garcetti had promoted him as the department’s top executive before he appointed him to deputy mayor.

It is important to note that the federal warrant does list specific evidence of criminal activity or even wrong doing by any of the people named in the document. The warrant also doesn’t indicate there is any evidence discovered in Chan’s email account.

RELATED: Jose Huizar Warrant Reveals FBI Is Looking Into Garcetti's Former Deputy Mayor, Councilman Curren Price

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