LA City Councilmember De León calls out city attorney over campaign donations

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A Los Angeles City Council member is accusing the city’s top lawyer of political favoritism — and slamming her tepid response to a violent altercation with an activist.

LA City Council member Kevin de León and his aides have repeatedly appealed to City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto for legal protection from activists who follow the councilman and his staff around City Hall and to events.

They’ve gotten nowhere with her. In private meetings, Feldstein Soto’s staff has relayed the opinion that their hands are tied, pointing to free speech protections they say apply to the activists, two people familiar with the conversations said. De León and his team argue that decision puts them in harm’s way.

The latest twist in the tense standoff between the two elected Democrats involves Feldstein Soto’s increasingly public political activities, including a Dec. 10 max donation of $900 to de León’s City Council opponent, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, also a Democrat.

De León questioned whether the contribution would undermine Feldstein Soto’s ability to fulfill her duties fairly.

“It's deeply troubling that the city attorney, who is supposed to remain impartial and be the attorney for the city council and our staff members, would choose to politicize her position,” de León told POLITICO.

“At a time when the city faces complex challenges, including addressing homelessness, ensuring public safety and promoting housing affordability, we cannot afford to have any doubts about the impartiality of our legal counsel,” he added.

Feldstein Soto declined to comment.

The councilman, who is fighting to keep his seat this year, and the city’s top lawyer have a history that predates his office’s protection requests — with de León previously accusing her of putting politics over public safety.

Last fall, he blasted Feldstein Soto’s decision not to prosecute the activist Jason Reedy after they got into a physical altercation at a children’s Christmas toy giveaway in 2022. De León said Reedy assaulted a staffer of his, a community member and himself during the incident that one witness said had children screaming and in tears. A video of the altercation shows both men getting aggressive with each other. The week before the scuffle, de León said Reedy stalked several women on his staff at a field office at night.

Reedy said it was de León who should have faced charges. Both men filed police reports, and the video of the holiday melee caught fire online. It came just a few months after a leaked audio scandal that included de León burst into public view.

The tapes made de León an outcast among many of his City Hall colleagues and Feldstein Soto in private conversations sought to distance herself from him. Reedy, an anti-police activist and self-described abolitionist, is now suing de León and the city of Los Angeles. His attorneys alleged the city was negligent and should have had police protection on hand. City lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the case, according to court records.

De León’s staff, meantime, have filed complaints with the police accusing Reedy and others of cornering them in a city elevator and making hostile comments. The aides speculated that Feldstein Soto feared angering Reedy and other activists, and thus refused to act.

They met with a representative from the city’s civil division who made the point about free speech. One of the aides referenced incidents in other cities where elected officials and their staff complained about threats and intimidation and were able to secure temporary restraining orders against the perpetrators.

De León is running for reelection in the March primary against a large field that includes Santiago and Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. All three are Democrats.