Updated after the jump with reaction from Martinez's campaign regarding his statements that the FBI questioned him about Huizar's business dealings.
The fight over Jose Huizar's Eastside L.A. City Council seat is getting about as catty as a Beverly Hills Housewives reunion, and the election is still more than a month away.
As challenger Rudy Martinez told the Los Angeles Times that FBI agents have asked him about Huizar's business dealings, the Weekly received documentation this week showing that the District Attorney's office is looking into campaign contributions to Martinez that we reported on previously. (He has returned the money in question).
Dave Demerjian, head of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division stated in an email that his division is “opening an inquiry into this matter.”
What's the big deal?
A man named Carlos Lira says he and other employees at a law firm owned by former city Councilman and Martinez supporter Nick Pacheco were pushed to write checks to the Martinez campaign that they were at least partially reimbursed for.
Lira named Juan Carlos Jaramillo as the firm “partner” who encouraged the check writing. Alleged reimbursement — a few checks were forwarded to the Weekly — were drawn on in the name of a company linked to Jaramillo. It's called Financial Success. (We seen images of copies of Financial Success checks written to Lira and others).
Pacheco says Jaramillo was nothing more than a consultant to his firm. He said he and his law firm have nothing to do with the situation.
For his part Martinez returned $6,000 in checks that Lira says were tied to what he describes as a scheme. (A $500 check from Jaramillo himself remains with the campaign).
It's illegal to contribute more than $500 per person to a city campaign, and employees can't be reimbursed for pitching in.
Here's what Martinez's campaign stated: “Despite the fact that we were never asked to return the contributions, we did so proactively. The city Ethics inquiries are only into the contributors and not our campaign.”
Meanwhile, the Times reported that Martinez says the FBI questioned him about some of Huizar's business dealings, including repairs that Martinez (a star of Flip This House) made in 2006 and 2007 to a residence owned by Huizar and his wife.
Martinez said he had not been paid for the work until a $8,980 check arrived recently — in the midst of his campaign to unseat Huizar.
A spokesman for the councilman downplayed the significance of any FBI questioning, telling the Times, “No one is investigating Jose.”
Update: Martinez's campaign states (regarding the FBI questioning controversy):
“Today is sad day for the City of Los Angeles and the residents of CD 14. I believe the residents deserve better and more ethical representation. My campaign will continue, and I will continue to work hard to bring public accountability, transparency, and fiscal responsibility to the Office of the City Council. We will continue to engage the voters of Council District 14 on the issues that are important to them until they decide the outcome of this election on March 8th.”
First posted at 3:01 p.m.