CD12 Councilmember John Lee implicated in FBI probe; his ex-boss, former CM Mitch Englander, indicted

A quick note before we get started. Let’s all thank Jim Pocrass of the Pocrass & De Los Reyes law firm for renewing their title sponsorship of this site for the coming year. 

Without their help, it wouldn’t be possible to keep BikinginLA going on a full-time basis. 

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Is anyone really surprised that former CD12 Councilmember Mitch Englander may have been dirty?

According to the Los Angeles Times, Englander was busted by the FBI yesterday.

Not for being a very bad, bad boy, and allegedly taking bribes from a Los Angeles businessman, but lying to the feds about it.

When a Los Angeles businessman treated then-City Councilman Mitchell Englander to a night out in Las Vegas in 2017, he pulled out all the stops, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

The perks allegedly included a hotel room with amenities reserved for high rollers, an envelope stuffed with $10,000 in cash, lavish meals and bottle service at a nightclub, and a female escort sent to his room at the end of a long night of partying.

But according to the indictment, Englander wasn’t alone in his nefarious activities.

Word quickly spread that the so-far un-indicted city staffer who accompanied Englander on his wild partying spree was current  CD12 Councilmember — and bike and transit foe — John Lee.

According to Bike the Vote LA,

We learned on Monday from reporting by the L.A. Times, NBC Los Angeles, and LAist that the FBI has focused on John Lee as a central figure in an alleged corruption scandal involving former CD12 Councilmember Mitch Englander, his former boss. You can download the full indictment of Mitch Englander here.

After being questioned by reporters, John Lee admitted that he was “City Staffer B,” the “high-ranking staff member” who is alleged to have joined Englander on an illicit trip to Las Vegas in which they received a $10,000 cash in an envelope, $1,000 in casino chips, $34,000 in nightclub bottle service, and “services” from two escorts.

Yes, Lee copped to the partying, if not the crimes.

But as Bike the Vote points out, the indictment doesn’t support his last claim.

John Lee claimed to be “the choice for law enforcement,” but apparently was an active participant in bribery and the coverup for his and his boss’ actions. Despite being aware he was under FBI investigation since 2017, John Lee chose to hide his actions from voters in hopes of bolstering his election campaign.

It’s important to remember that neither Lee, who’s currently leading in the vote to retain his seat, nor Englander have been charged with bribery or any other crime, other than Englander’s indictment for lying to the FBI.

But it’s also clear from the indictment that the FBI has both in their crosshairs. And Lee’s activities were shady, if not criminal.

Which is why a petition went live yesterday demanding that Lee resign effective immediately.

And yes, I signed it.

Bike the Vote LA is also calling on LA City Council President Nury Martinez to strip Lee of all his committee assignments until he doesn’t the right thing and resigns.

They have a sample email below; all you have to do is click the first line, and sign it.

Sample email (click HERE):
To: councilmember.martinez@lacity.org

Subject: Council President Martinez: Please remove John Lee’s Committee assignments

Email body: Honorable Council President Martinez,

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday morning that it has indicted former Councilmember Mitch Englander with seven counts of making false statements and obstruction of justice related to a corruption investigation involving then Chief of Staff and current Councilmember, John Lee, identified in the indictment as “City Staffer B.” The indictment describes a number of alleged illegal acts that John Lee took part in. It is imperative that the public trust be maintained, and it is for that reason that I am calling on you to remove all of John Lee’s City Council Committee assignments.

Amid a series of corruption scandals involving businesses and developers seeking to influence City decision-making, Los Angeles City Council must send a clear message: that corruption will not be tolerated from its own members. Until either the FBI has exonerated him from wrongdoing in this probe or he resigns from office, I call on you to immediately remove Councilmember Lee from the following City Council Committees:

• Information, Technology, and General Services (Chair)
• Personnel and Animal Welfare (Vice Chair)
• Planning and Land Use Management
• Public Safety
• Ad Hoc Committee on Police Reform

Thank you,
[YOUR NAME HERE]
Los Angeles, CA

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of speculation that Englander’s indictment is an attempt to get him to roll over on other officials.

And don’t forget the raid on CD 14 Councilmember José Huizar’s office in 2018, which led to his wife dropping out of the race to replace him.

So this may be just a single incident implicating two current and former councilmembers.

Or it could be the tip of a very deep, and possibly very corrupt, iceberg.

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No bias here.

A New York lawyer claims the city’s new protected bike lanes are a lawsuit waiting to happen. Because apparently, bike riders are always at fault in collisions with pedestrians, who never step out in front of people on bikes without looking.

Yes, bike riders sometimes break the law.

But so do other humans, regardless of how they travel. And studies have shown that protected bike lanes improve safety for everyone, not just the people on two wheels.

Which you’d think a decent liability lawyer would know.

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The next round of Metro BEST bicycle education classes will kick off at the end of this month.

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Local

A new study shows Los Angeles has the two worst corridors for motor vehicle traffic in the US, and three of the top ten. To which bike commuters said, “So?”

This is who we share the road with. A Hawthorne man has pled guilty to the 2017 road rage crash that killed a motorcycle rider.

 

State

I want to be like him when I grow up. A 92-year old man has raised over $400,000 riding his ‘bent through Death Valley to fight diabetes, and plans to take part in the Death Valley Ride to Cure Diabetes again this year.

A Cal Poly student says a century ride may be painful, but it’s worth it.

San Francisco remembers a woman who was killed in a dooring a year ago.

Sonoma considers plans for a road diet, with options for a protected or buffered bike lane. Note to Sonoma: If your protected bike lane still forces bicyclists to go around buses stopped in it, it’s not very protected.

Davis police want to know why a man was riding a bike through the UC Davis campus carrying a machete; they recovered the knife, but haven’t found the rider.

 

National

An Oregon public radio station warns listeners that better weather brings out the bike thieves.

Spokane WA is building its first bike and pedestrian friendly greenway, while a local bike advocate is calling for more.

A Massachusetts “urban cyclist” says if you don’t want kids swerving bikes and popping wheelies in traffic, just build them a bike park. Or stop chasing them out of empty parking lots.

More details are emerging in that fatal Maryland crash that took the life of a bike rider and injured two others — including one with life-threatening injuries. The seven riders in the group were reportedly well-lighted and riding in single file when the driver of an SUV crossed onto the wrong side of the road and hit them head-on.

The University of North Carolina has updated the Federal Highway Administration’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Transportation University Course, based on the latest recommendations. Let’s hope it doesn’t just come down to wearing a helmet and hi-viz. Thanks to Mike Wilkinson for the heads-up. 

Bad news from Georgia, where the son of a US congressman is in intensive care after crashing during a race with the Georgia Tech cycling team.

 

International

An English driver is charged with the equivalent of drunk driving and driving with a suspended license for critically injuring a man bicycling the length of Britain, from John O’Groats to Lands End, to raise money to fight cancer; his riding partner finished the ride alone.

A UK bike rider learns the hard way to always lock a bicycle to something, and not just lock the wheel, after a thief simply walks up and carries it off.

It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. A Zambian bike rider was killed after drifting out of his lane and colliding with another bicyclist, who suffered just a deep cut over his eye.

A Kiwi street artist is back at work painting Lego heads on a retaining wall after taking a few months off to recover from a broken collarbone suffered in a bike crash.

A new study from New Zealand shows what we already knew — ride your bike to work and live longer.

An Aussie driver crossing a roadway hits someone on a bicycle, and the country debates who was at fault. Which is only a question if they’ve repealed right-of-way down there.

Thor is one of us, as actor Chris Hemsworth goes for a ride with his kids in Australia’s New South Wales.

After video showed a Singapore man’s $10,000 mountain bike being stolen, local social media helped him get it back in just four days.

 

Competitive Cycling

Forget those plans to attend the Olympic torch lighting ceremony on Thursday, which will now be held behind closed doors due to the coronavirus.

The Paris-Nice bike race is still ongoing, despite the worldwide coronavirus threat. And no, the riders don’t appear to be following health experts recommendations to stay at least three feet from other people.

The crit stages of next month’s Redlands Classic, as well as New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila, will be available on a free livestream, with highlights of other races available after the finish.

The four stage Colorado Classic women’s bike race announces its host cities for this year’s edition.

 

Finally

If you’re stealing a bicycle from an open garage, don’t drop your cellphone — and don’t call the cops to get it back. Look at the bright side of stress.

And now your cat can have its own tent on your next bikepacking trip.

 

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