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Twelfth District Councilman asked to resign after corruption allegations

John Lee is facing accusations of bribery in connection with the scandal councilmember Mitch Englander was indicted for in January.

By Edward Segal, Staff Writer

Councilmember John Lee's community service center office in Chatsworth, CA. (Photo by Annette M. Lesure/The Valley Star)

John Lee, councilman of the 12th district, is on the hot seat as the West Valley People’s Alliance demands his resignation from the Planning and Land Use Management Committee regarding his involvement in a scandal for which former 12th district councilman Mitch Englander is doing prison time.

Englander was sentenced in January to 14 months in prison for obstructing a public corruption investigation into his acceptance of bribes. The councilmember covered up the trip he took to Las Vegas in 2017, in which he accepted “cash payments, expensive meals, escort services and other gifts” offered to him by a businessperson, according to the United States Attorney’s Office. Lee, who also went on the trip, is being accused by the People’s Alliance and the San Fernando Valley group of partaking in the scandalous activities.

The case resurfaced after 10th district councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas was suspended in October for his suspected bribery to USC in order for his son to receive a full-ride scholarship and a job on campus, according to the LA Times.

Now, the WVPA wants to make sure Lee is held accountable for his offense.

“It is an affront to all Angelenos, especially his constituents in [California District] 12, that he was ever allowed to be a member of this committee,” said the Alliance, which formed during the pandemic to address issues such as homelessness and institutional racism.

Lee is being urged to resign by the alliance after accusations surfaced of him helping Englander cover up the scandal, in addition to accepting free meals and cash payments.

Although Lee admitted to being on the trip, he claimed to have no knowledge of Englander’s illegal undertakings.

“[I was] unaware of any illegal activities for which Councilmember Englander is being charged,” said the councilman in a press release on the daily news. “[I] did everything in my power to pay for and reimburse expenses related to this trip.”

Loraine Lundquist, who challenged Lee for his spot on city council in March 2020, also believes the father of two should step down.

“To date, although he has acknowledged receiving the illegal gifts, he has not acknowledged that he is 'City Staffer B,’” said Lundquist. “John Lee owes the voters a full disclosure of his involvement in the corruption, and he owes it to his Council colleagues as well.”

The ‘City Staffer B’ Lundquist referred to was the person who, according to the federal indictment of Englander, went along with the former city councilman to Las Vegas, as reported by the LA Times. The indictment records state that ‘City Staffer B’ was a high-ranking official who worked for Englander until around June 2017, which is the month Lee resigned as Englander’s chief of staff.

This city staffer, according to the LA Times, received expensive meals, a hotel room and drinks at a nightclub from the same person who provided Englander the gratuities, and sent a $442 check back to the businessman after the FBI started looking into the scandal.

Lee has declined to comment on whether he is ‘City Staffer B.’

Other council members have shown their support for Lee throughout these allegations, saying that he deserves to stay in office.

“The public John Lee that most residents have seen is a family man who takes his family to all sorts of public functions,” Northridge East Neighborhood Council Education Committee member Joe Kozul said to the Daily News. “That’s the image that stands before anything else.”

No charges have been filed yet against Lee.

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