L.A. Ethics Reform Gutted, City Council Upholds Status-Quo

After years of unrelenting scandal, the City Council reaffirms it should still police itself

LOS ANGELES — Today, the Los Angeles City Council gutted the ethics reforms it has been working on for months, deciding the ultimate authority on ethics matters will remain in the City Council’s hands. Deviating from the recommendations and best practices of academics and democracy reform advocates, the City Council voted in favor of amendments that will deny the Ethics Commission the power to police the Council and effectively enforce the City’s ethics laws.

Specifically, the City Council voted in favor of amendments that effectively deny the Ethics Commission the autonomy and powers to conduct its critical business on behalf of the people and without Council supervision.

Since 2020, three L.A. councilmembers and a former deputy mayor were found guilty of or pleaded guilty to such charges as bribery and lying to authorities; another councilmember was charged with embezzlement, perjury, and conflict of interest; and yet another stands accused of violating city ethics laws. During the same period, three other councilmembers, including a former City Council president, were caught on tape engaged in racist commentary as they discussed how to gerrymander council districts to their advantage.

“The Los Angeles City Council had a chance to turn the tide of corruption at City Hall and begin a new era in which L.A. residents could trust their local elected officials,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause. “Instead they chose to uphold a broken, shameful status quo.”

The push for ethics reform in Los Angeles has been led by Council President Krekorian and motivated by the endless cycle of scandals and corruption seen from City Council over the last five years, including the 2022 redistricting scandal that shocked the nation and reignited the public’s outcry for change. This spurred months of hearings, recommendations, and advocacy from community organizations, including California Common Cause, residents, community leaders, and academics. All parties advocated for meaningful reforms to help curb corruption in the City, until last-minute pushback from special interests. The proposals were informed by statewide best practices, evidence-based research, leadership from the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, and lessons learned from around the country.

“This is a disheartening setback, but we will not allow this to be the end of the road for ethics reform in Los Angeles,” added Stein. “California Common Cause is committed to helping realize an ethical city government that is deserving of Angelenos’ trust and participation.”