When Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., came to the LA County Department of Public Health in January 2017 she implemented a set of protocols that drastically changed the way things worked at LA DPH, which was formerly overseen by Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a nationally-respected epidemiologist.
According to several long-time employees who’ve spoken to RedState, LA DPH was not the place for patronage jobs, but that all changed when Barbara Ferrer came to town.
As her partner-in-purpose George Gascon would do shortly, one of the measures Ferrer took was to install allies in key positions to warn against potential mutinies, and leverage the considerable powers of appointment she had to do favors for people whose support she would need… namely, her bosses, members of the Board of Supervisors.
This is how a politically-connected, recently-released felon who was convicted of filing a fraudulent tax return (for failing to report $750,000 in “lobbying” income, including nearly $220,000 from a drug trafficking kingpin), Carl Kemp, came to work as Chief Communications Officer in the Environmental Health Division of the LA County Department of Public Health.
Environmental Health is one of the least glamorous sections in an unsexy part of county government. In addition to tasks like performing restaurant inspections, the department does things like lead the response to the Aliso Canyon gas leak/blowout, can yay/nay business permits based upon potential environmental concerns for nearby neighborhoods and the county as a whole, and more. In other words, it’s an area in which opinions can be shifted based upon whom one knows — and how much money gets into the right hands.
Kemp knows a lot of people, and he needed a job once he was off federal parole in late 2018. His wife, Claudia Gutierrez, was the longtime legal aide to former Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and a confidential source tells RedState that she leveraged that relationship and asked Ridley-Thomas to get her husband a job, and Ridley-Thomas had Ferrer hire Kemp in 2019. Ridley-Thomas is currently facing 20 counts of federal bribery and public corruption charges described in an October 2021 indictment. Those charges are unrelated to Kemp.
Kemp, who was once a powerful government relations/communications consultant based on Long Beach, was convicted in November 2016. His client, John Melvin Walker, is a twice-convicted felon who was therefore not eligible to own a marijuana dispensary, so Walker and his attorney set up a number of corporations and installed owners who were eligible for a permit, but Walker was the true owner. Walker moved a literal ton of marijuana through these storefronts and used his connections with Kemp and a local attorney, Richard Bridenstine, to harass at least one local business. Walker paid Kemp $4,500 in cash for a month for a number of years for lobbying and spokesman duties. As a part of his plea agreement, Kemp admitted that he knew the funds were coming from a criminal enterprise. Walker’s indictment is sealed, but there are a few details that have been made public about the raid on his properties:
Federal drug agents said [Walker] was one of the major players that they have prosecuted in Southern California’s medical marijuana business.
When detectives initially searched his properties, they were stunned by the amount of cash. At one location in Long Beach, they discovered over $390,000.00 in four grocery bags in his garage. They also found a shotgun, a Beretta handgun and an AK-47 with a bayonet. At another house, they discovered stacks of cash stuffed in furniture, totaling over $700,000.
Department employees tell RedState that Ferrer herself announced Kemp’s hire in a department-wide email on September 3, 2019, though Liza Frias is his immediate supervisor, not Ferrer.
When Barbara Ferrer came to Los Angeles in January 2017, Ridley-Thomas gave her a glowing endorsement.
“Dr. Ferrer is uniquely qualified to lead and serve Los Angeles County’s diverse populations, and has a gift for engaging youth and families. I look forward to the energy and creativity that she will bring to protecting the health of our communities during this time of uncertainty in federal healthcare policy.”
When Ridley-Thomas left the Board of Supervisors in 2020 for the Los Angeles City Council, Kemp’s wife remained in the office and now works for Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Kemp also has a fan in longtime Supervisor Janice Hahn.
I want to give my special thanks to Carl Kemp (one of our very own @CountyofLA employees) for organizing today’s #Juneteenth Celebration and bringing us together to recognize this important moment in our nation’s history. pic.twitter.com/jbCguQg5Kn
— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) June 19, 2021
While Los Angeles County has a Fair Chance Initiative, which allows those with criminal records to be hired, it’s unbelievable that Ferrer was able to hire Kemp, who had never worked for the County before, in such a position just two years after he went to prison on public corruption-related charges. The terrible details of what happened in Kemp’s case will be discussed in an upcoming article.