JULY 25, 2008
A veteran commissioner who helped supervise contracts in one of the nation’s largest cities has been convicted of more than a dozen felonies for his role in a public corruption scandal that began as an investigation into the trade of city contracts for campaign contributions under the previous mayor.
After a three-week trial a jury found Los Angeles City Commissioner Leland Wong guilty of 14 crimes, including accepting $100,000 in bribes in a secret Hong Kong account from the executive vice president of a Taipei shipping company seeking more space at the crowded Port of Los Angeles. The money bought the disgraced commissioner’s influence as a member of a separate powerful city panel with the authority to grant the favor.
As a longtime lobbyist and big time political fundraiser, Wong became a powerful political figure in southern California and he served on several important city commissions for 14 continuous years under three different Los Angeles mayors—Tom Bradley, Richard Riordan and James Hahn.
His troubles started when authorities began investigating his former boss, Mayor Hahn, who lost a reelection bid to L.A.’s self-proclaimed Chicano mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a few years ago. Hahn, a former city attorney, had handily defeated Villaraigosa in 2001 but the probe into his administration cost him reelection. In fact, several polls revealed that voters thought Hahn lacked integrity and honesty to merit a second term.
Now his convicted commissioner, a second generation Chinese-American who grew up in L.A.’s Chinatown, could go to jail for up to a decade. Maybe some day Hahn will join him.
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