L.A.'s ethics commission gets a new boss: A 29-year employee of the watchdog agency

Dakota Smith
·2 min read
Overcast skies over Los Angeles City Hall in October.
The ethics commission was created in 1990 in the wake of ethics scandals at L.A. City Hall during Mayor Tom Bradley's administration. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's appointees on the city's ethics commission picked a new executive director on Tuesday, turning to a longtime employee to head the department.

David Tristan, deputy executive director of the L.A. City Ethics Commission, was appointed to a 10-year term, replacing Executive Director Heather Holt, who faces term limits.

"I'm looking forward to continuing to do the critical work the commission does," Tristan said. He has worked for 29 years at the Ethics Commission in roles that have included clerk, auditor, investigator and program manager.

Commissioner Jeff Daar cited Tristan's decades of experience at the department. "Obviously, he has a passion for the mission of the Ethics Commission," Daar said.

The executive director helps develop and carry out policies and orders related to campaign fund-raising, lobbying, conflicts and more. The commission was created in 1990 by voters in the wake of ethics scandals during Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration.

The commission acts as an independent body, though the mayor and City Council control its budget. Staff members conduct investigations and audits.

Rob Quan, an organizer with Unrig LA, a good-government advocacy group, described Tristan as extremely responsive. He described how advocates have called Tristan over the years to discuss a variety of topics, including campaign filings and broken links on the commission website.

"I’m really grateful that we have someone like David Tristan," Quan said of his appointment. "He’s just got loads of experience in the commission. He’s extremely professional."

Tristan's appointment is not subject to approval by the L.A. City Council. He starts on Jan. 18.



Recent scandals involving campaign contributions and lobbyists have brought fresh attention to the city's ethics laws.

Torrance-based real estate developer Samuel Leung pleaded guilty last week to felony conspiracy, admitting he took part in a scheme to reimburse campaign donors as his development project was being reviewed and approved at Los Angeles City Hall.

Ousted Councilman Jose Huizar stands accused in a widespread corruption case that has resulted in recent guilty pleas from one of his former aides, former City Councilman Mitchell Englander, a longtime City Hall lobbyist and a pair of real estate consultants. Huizar this week pleaded not guilty to bribery and other federal charges.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.