(Update: October 4, 2022 4:00 pm. – The Los Angeles District Attorney, responding to a request for more information from Santa Monica Next has confirmed that Councilmember Negrete is no longer under investigation and has not been for several months. They admitted they informed Santa Monica Next they confirmed the investigation was still open in error. For more information, click here.
The D.A. writes, “Our office mistakenly informed you that two complaints involving Santa Monica City Councilmember Lana Negrete were under review. One of those complaints, involving distribution of gift cards to SMPD members, was closed on July 14. The other complaint, which is unrelated to the gift card complaint, remains under review.”)
(Update: September 29, 2022 5:30 p.m. – After a week and multiple emails asking for comment and response to questions for this story from 1212 Santa Monica, their legal representatives sent a letter with information we requested two days after our initial publication. The story below is updated with this information. You can read their letter, here.
An earlier version of this story said that the business license for 1212 Santa Monica had expired. While the license provided to Next Lucian Tudor with 1212 Santa Monica was listed as expiring on 6/30/2022, under Santa Monica law the business has 60 days to apply for a new one and according to 1212 Santa Monica’s representatives they have filed and the city has accepted payment for a new license.)
Councilmember Lana Negrete is accused of distributing gift cards to members of the Santa Monica Police Department who were investigating an incident at 1212 Sant Monica that were provided by the restaurant according to a complaint registered with the Los Angeles County District Attorney. Representatives of 1212 Santa Monica claim the cards were distributed before July 1 and had no relation to the investigation of the incidents outlined below on July 2 and 3.
According to the complaint, on the evening of July 2/morning of July 3, three women under the age of 21 gained access to 1212 Santa Monica (located at 1212 3rd Street on the Promenade). While at the club, all three are suspected to have been dosed with Rohypnol, the so-called date-rape drug. One was found unconscious in 1212’s bathroom, an investigation into a potential assault is still ongoing. The other two entered a vehicle they believed to be an Uber from the location and were allegedly sexually assaulted.
In the following days, the police investigation focused not just on finding the people directly responsible for the assaults, but could have also focused on security and underage drinking at 1212 Santa Monica. As the investigation into the assault is ongoing, the police would not comment further on the investigation as of press time.
This is where the City Councilmember steps into the story. Negrete supplied a packet of $50 gift cards to an officer with the Santa Monica Police Department in the Downtown Division at morning rollcall after the investigation began according to multiple sources just days after the alleged assaults occurred. Negrete was invited to the rollcall because she is a sitting Councilmember, so she was there doing official duties. SMPD leadership discovered these cards originated from 1212 Santa Monica. Once the source was revealed, they were collected by Lt. Robert D’Andrea of the SMPD’s Downtown Services Bureau.
D’Andrea disclosed information about both the assaults and the gift cards to staff in meetings on July 6th and 7th. SMPD Chief Ramon Batista confirmed on a July 9th call with Juan Matute, a contributor to Santa Monica Next, former Downtown Santa Monica boardmember, and the person who filed the complaints with the district attorney, that the cards had been confiscated once the chain of command had been made aware of them and their origin.
While giving gift cards to police officers is certainly not a crime by itself, if the purpose was to influence the investigation it would be considered bribery under Penal Code 67 (PC67), bribery of an executive officer of the state. An executive officer is a police officer or judge, and the punishment is two to four years in state prison and disqualification from holding any office in this state. The district attorney’s office has confirmed receipt of the complaints and confirmed they are still under investigation.
The aforementioned letter from 1212 Santa Monica’s lawyers denies that there was any intent to influence the investigation with the distribution of the gift cards. The letter reads, “The gift cards in questions were issued and provided prior to July 1 and had no relation whatsoever to any investigation related to events occurring July 2-3. As you know—your post includes a reference to a California Penal Code section—bribery is a criminal offense and requires a quid pro quo. No evidence of any quid pro quo exists here, because simply put there was no quid pro quo.”
Negrete casts herself as a ‘law and order’ candidate and earned the support of the Santa Monica Police Officers Association for her re-election campaign in September. Regardless of her intent, at the least she put these officers in a compromising position by involving them in what was possibly an illegal act a week before she was to vote on approving a revised budget that includes officer salary and benefits for the current fiscal year.
Santa Monica Next reached out to both Negrete and Tudor in their official city emails to offer them a chance to comment or provide more context to the story. (Negrete has one as a City Councilmember, Tudor as a board member for Downtown Santa Monica). As of press time, neither has responded to the questions although Tudor returned a follow-up email requesting more information on the complaints. As noted above, two days after the story was initially published, legal representatives from 1212 Santa Monica sent a letter with more information and claims.
The Santa Monica Police and City Manager’s Offices confirmed the calls and police reports taken on July 2/3 are part of an investigation into the alleged assaults but declined further comment.