By Bill Hendrickson
Wendy Carrillo, the state Assemblymember for Northeast Los Angeles, was one of more than a half dozen of state legislators who attended the recent lobbyist-studded conference in Maui of the Independent Voter Project, despite officials advising residents not to travel during the current surge in coronavirus infections.
The Boulevard Sentinel emailed Carrillo to ask why it was appropriate to attend the conference at this time when authorities are imploring people to restrict nonessential travel and gatherings.
Her office replied with a prepared statement in which Carrillo likened the Maui trip to a recent car trip she took to Bakersfield to meet with lawmakers and stakeholders on pressing matters. “This is part of my work and part of the process for developing a further understanding of some of California’s biggest issues,” reads the statement.
Carrillo also suggested that attending the conference took physical courage but was worth the risk because she stood to learn things that could help California.
“For those who have asked about my safety, I thank you. For those that are confused or angry as to why I’m here, I can assure you that I took great precaution and thought regarding my attendance. I was informed that IVP is the first conference allowed and is being seen as a test as to what is possible. This helped inform my decision on what could be possible in California.”
The statement summarizes the pandemic-related guidelines in Hawaii that Carrillo says could be replicated in California to boost the economy.
“My intent to be very clear and transparent is to find solutions on how we can safely live through COVID-19, how we safely re-open our economy, help small businesses and restaurants and better inform the public amid continued and constantly changing information from Governor Gavin Newsom.”
You can read the full statement here.
Attending the Maui conference is the second time this year that Carrillo has faced sharp criticism. In February, 2020, she and her then-chief of staff, George Esparza, were reprimanded by the speaker of the California Assembly for inapprorpriate workplace conduct, citing allegations that Carrillo hugged and kissed an employee in an unwelcome encounter and that Esparza made “inappropriate sexual comments.” In July 2020, Esparza pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge for his role in the alleged City Hall pay-to-play scheme involving former NELA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, for whom Esparza worked before being hired by Carrillo in 2018.