City Council candidate pleads not guilty to misdemeanor charges of pay-and-use violations

L.A. council candidate pays two workers about half the amount owed in wage theft cases

LOS ANGELES — A city council candidate who is charged in a police misconduct case for allegedly paying two workers less than the actual wages owed in the past four years paid the employees about half the amount they were owed, authorities said.

Robert Garcia, a real estate consultant who is challenging Councilman Joe Buscaino for the District 6 seat, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of pay-and-use violations on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

One of the two workers named in the charges provided a copy of his pay stub during his campaign to Garcia’s campaign, which contained the figures, according to Buscaino’s chief of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still before the courts.

Buscaino, who is running against Councilwoman Nury Martinez, said he was surprised by the figures.

Buscaino said he will ask the court to dismiss the charges against Garcia.

Buscaino has said the workers “were victims of unfair labor practices and I want to make sure that they’re protected from the same unfair labor practices that I am.”

He has said that he will seek to settle the case with the city, but has no timeline for when that might happen.

L.A.’s labor department said earlier this year that Garcia and his campaign should make sure they were not illegally underpaying workers after taking time out from his campaign work after a state investigation.

The alleged wage theft came to light after L.A. County sheriff’s deputies entered Garcia’s home and seized a laptop computer with a computer tower and a hard drive containing alleged stolen pay stubs.

Sheriff’s officials said they took the laptops and the hard drives to the state Department of Justice for questioning in connection with a possible criminal probe.

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