A California politician is under fire after it was revealed that she received breast augmentation surgery that was paid for by a lobbyist.
El Monte, California Councilwoman Victoria Martinez Muela has been accused of failing to report $1,100 she received for a breast augmentation surgery from a “friend” who was working as a lobbyist for a company that was doing business with the city.
Martinez Muela was first elected in November of 2011, and is the most senior member on the council. The money was given to her in December of 2016 by her friend, Sigrid Lopez, who was a lobbyist for Southland Transit, an El Monte-based company, at the time. When this gift was given to the councilwoman, Southland Transit had a $700,000 proposal before the city to extend the company’s contract for public busing and dial-a-ride services.
Lopez revealed that she became friends with Martinez Muela in 2011 after meeting her at a political event in Sacramento.
According to reporting from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the lobbyist “confirmed in a telephone interview that the $1,100 she paid to Pasadena plastic surgeon Daniel J. Casper on Dec. 29, 2016, was to help offset the cost of Martinez Muela’s breast augmentation surgery.”
Lopez also noted that she drove Martinez Muela to and from the clinic for her surgery, and stayed with her during her recovery period after the procedure. The lobbyist insists that the payment, which she characterized as a gift that was not paid back, was given out of friendship and not part of any plan to seek influence over the councilwoman’s vote.
Martinez Muela and Lopez have since had a falling out.
Former El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero revealed that ethics complaints were submitted to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office and the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. The complaints are currently under review, according to a district attorney’s office spokesperson.
Quintero’s complaints included a copy of a signed declaration by Lopez, a copy of the councilwoman’s bank statement showing the $1,100 payment to the doctor, and copies of Martinez Muela’s statement of economic interest forms for the period of January through December of 2016. These forms reveal that the councilwoman did not report the money she received for the breast augmentation surgery.
The former mayor also said in his complaints that local government officials, such as the councilwoman, are prohibited from receiving gifts over a certain amount, and noted that the gift limit in 2016 was $460.
“The gift in question exceeded the limit provided by law,” Quintero said.