It’s been seven weeks since professional accountant, community activist and current frontrunner in the race for L.A. city controller Kenneth Mejia received a coveted endorsement from the Los Angeles Times editorial board. Since then, billboards promoting the 31-year-old’s candidacy have popped up all over town, and it’s beginning to feel as though Mejia is assured to glide through the June 7 primary and into the city controller’s office—despite some fresh reporting around his political positions that may have turned off a large swath of voters, if only it had been widely publicized. Now, revelations about Mejia’s professional past and members of his inner circle may bring a blow to his insurgent campaign.
Back in April, on the day after the Times printed its editorial board’s endorsement of Mejia, a pair of reporters with the paper recovered a trove of incendiary tweets that Mejia had posted during the 2020 presidential election cycle. At that time, the candidate was an enthusiastic backer of the Green Party and its nominee, Jill Stein. Amid that campaign, Mejia tweeted—but quietly deleted before they were discovered by the Times reporters—that former Vice President Joe Biden is “a rapist & racist.” He’d also told his followers that “the police exist to uphold white supremacy.” In another questionable tweet, Mejia defended Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad against charges that he gassed his own people.
Now, Los Angeles has exclusively learned that Mejia’s license as a certified public accountant—central to his campaign pitch as “the only CPA in the race for L.A. City Controller”—was not valid for years at a time over the past decade. According to the California Board of Accountancy, the state agency that oversees CPA licenses, Mejia’s license had expired or, for years, was listed as inactive; in fact, his license was listed as inactive until January 25, according to the board:
November 30, 2016 to December 9, 2016 – Expired
November 30, 2018 to September 10, 2019 – Expired
September 11, 2019 to November 30, 2020 – Inactive
December 1, 2020 to January 26, 2021 – Expired
January 27, 2021 to January 25, 2022 – Inactive
When asked by LAMag on Friday for comment about these lapses in his status as a certified public accountant, Mejia instead took to Twitter to suggest that his opponent is behind this story and stated that like all accountants, he is allowed to practice accounting with a lapsed license. He chose not to address why he renewed the license in January.
“Later today, another hit piece will be dropped by our opponent, Paul Koretz, because he has no clue how the accounting profession works. He’s going to say “Mejia was an Inactive CPA before!” Anyone who is a CPA knows you DON’T NEED AN ACTIVE CPA to be an accountant,” Mejia wrote.
However, according to the California Society of Certified Public Accountants, the nation’s largest statewide professional association of certified public accountants, “you cannot practice public accountancy while your license is in an inactive status. Additionally, when using the title certified public accountant or the CPA designation, you must place the term inactive immediately after the designation or title.”
On September 6, about four-and-a-half months before he opted to renew his license, Mejia tweeted two dubious statements: “FUN FACT: I’m a CPA and the best Skee Ball player in the world.” Over the past several years, the candidate has referred to himself publicly as a CPA on countless occasions.
Patrick Ibarra with the California Board of Accountancy was quick to clarify this in an email sent to LAMag on Friday.
“While ‘certified’ is a term included in the designation ‘Certified Public Accountant,’ each word does not stand on its own as it relates to what license is issued by the state,” Ibarra wrote. “An individual can still hold the ‘CPA’ or ‘Certified Public Accountant’ designation if their license has expired, however; that is why various statuses are developed to provide definition regarding the ability to use or holdout in relation to the license. During periods of expiration/delinquency, the individual is not authorized to practice public accountancy.”
This revelation around the validity of Mejia’s CPA license and how he has been describing himself over the years comes on the heels of online reports that foul-mouthed Mejia campaign staffers have been disrupting a series of mayoral forums and debates this year. This includes attempts to force their way into a ticketed mayoral debate at California State University, Los Angeles, as well as the infamous interruption of a forum taking place inside a Jewish house of worship in Valley Village on March 21. Such disruptions are unbecoming behavior, perhaps, from the associates of a media-savvy Millennial vying to become the elected paymaster, auditor and chief accounting officer for the nation’s second-largest city.
At the March 21 forum, Mejia consultant Steven Chun interrupted the candidates inside Temple Beth Hillel, shouting that Councilman Kevin De León was “a piece of shit” and “a fucking liar.” This was amid a group disruption that ultimately prompted a rabbi to clear the audience from the event room in the synagogue and briefly shut down the forum as the candidates stood on stage.
Chun—who is designated as “Delivery driver, Doordash” on a campaign donation form—was paid $2,500 by the Mejia campaign between July 1 and December 31. He also rushed the stage at a raucous mayoral debate on February 22 at Loyola Marymount University featuring De León and his fellow candidates Joe Buscaino, Karen Bass, Mel Wilson and Mike Feuer. Described as an “organizer with J-Town Action” in the press, the young man has not previously been disclosed as a paid Mejia staffer. On April 30, he also rushed and occupied the stage at a mayoral forum held by progressive Asian groups, including The Filipino Voter Empowerment Project, in Little Tokyo. Chun hails from Huntington Beach in Orange County.
“The Asian community in Los Angeles rarely gets the same level of political access,” bemoaned Democratic operative Tim Phan, the organizer of the fizzled event, as he later reproached Chun and his fellow disruptors on Twitter, “and the very few times they’re able to bring candidates together, you made it about you.”
On June 3, a video posted to Twitter showed Chun getting into a physical altercation with De León during a campaign stop the councilman made in Placita Olvera, in his downtown district. A source close to De León reached out to LAMag on Friday afternoon, saying that Chun and a cohort of aggressive protesters confronted De León, claiming to represent the area’s unhoused people.
Mejia declined to comment on Chun when LAMag reached out to him on Friday.
And it also turns out that it was a second Mejia staffer who had stood up at the San Fernando Valley synagogue during that March disruption to shout down Congresswoman Karen Bass with a tirade of profanity.
“You don’t give a fuck about poor people,” Sim-Marel Bilal shouted, calling the 68-year-old representative for California’s 37th congressional district “a fucking liar.”
Bilal was paid $1,500 by Mejia’s campaign during the reporting period in which the Valley View synagogue disruption took place. He has been described in the press as “an activist with Youth Climate Strike L.A.” However, like Chun, Bilal has never before been disclosed as a paid Mejia staffer. He made an additional $1,100 from the Mejia campaign during the previous reporting period between July 1 and December 31.
Bass, who once worked as an L.A. social worker, has likened the disruptors at these campaign events to the MAGA fanatics who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 in support of Donald Trump. Councilman De León called them “entitled and privileged mocosos [a Spanish word that translates to snot-nosed brat] who weaponize other people’s misery,” in a statement to Los Angeles.
Mejia also declined to comment on Bilal when LAMag reached out to him on Friday.
Such questionable behavior on the part of Team Mejia isn’t limited to paid, so-called campaign consultants like Bilal and Chun. On May 29, one volunteer, Eli Rachimi, responded to LAPD Chief Michel Moore’s announcement regarding the death of 32-year-old police officer Houston Tipping after a catastrophic spinal injury during an academy exercise, by coldly suggesting on Twitter that the only good cop “is a dead cop.”
It was Rachimi who also made a mea culpa, of sorts, after the Mejia campaign was called out online for a bizarre mailer that was apparently sent out exclusively to Jewish voters. This uncomfortable misstep was revealed by Angeleno Samantha Millman on Twitter on May 27.
“A serious candidate for citywide office sent me a mailer in English and Hebrew, presumably because I am identified as Jewish in the voter file,” Millman revealed on the platform. “Unless you are Israeli American, it is highly unlikely that Hebrew is spoken in your Jewish household. The whole thing feels clumsy and rather ignorant.”
Rachimi, the volunteer, replied: “I hand translated the letter myself, with the intention of being inclusive and increasing accessibility.”
Mejia declined to comment on Rachimi when LAMag reached out to him on Friday.
When the Los Angeles Times editorial board endorsed Mejia, a Filipino-American, for city controller, readers were provided with none of this information on his history of incendiary tweets or about the disruptive and downright callous political operatives in his inner circle. Instead, the board’s emphasis focused on Mejia’s outsider status and the “CPA’s zeal for numbers and data.”
While records from the California Board of Accountancy show Mejia’s CPA license has been expired or in inactive status for years and was only recently renewed as he launched his campaign, he may not have actually needed it. Most candidates keep their jobs while they run for office, but not Mejia, who has quit working to focus entirely on his political ambitions.
He’s been at this for years. As a perpetual candidate in California’s 34th congressional district, Mejia ran a write-in campaign as a Democrat in 2016. Then he ran as a Green Party candidate in the same district in 2017, raising a total of $35,682; when he ran again as a Green in 2018, he raised $145,375. For his latest campaign, he has raised $217,665 and received an additional $428,000 in city matching funds, so far. His cash on hand as of May 21 was $149,628. Updated figures are expected from city election officials on Friday.
Mejia’s job before he began to focus entirely on campaigning for office this time around was at EVGo; He left the company, which installs electric vehicle charging stations, in late 2021. In a donation to the mayoral campaign of activist Gina Viola, Mejia listed himself as unemployed—a striking designation for a candidate hoping to become the fiscal watchdog of the nation’s second-largest city. Incidentally, Mejia campaign manager, Phuong Nguyen, who has earned $15,000 from the Mejia campaign since January 1, plus another $15,000 from the campaign in the last six months of 2021, is also designated as unemployed on four donations she made to the Mejia campaign.
As this has all been revealed, detractors of the self-avowed radical and revolutionary candidate, now angry about the perceived lack of vetting that went into the Times board’s endorsement, have created the website www.mejiaisdangerous.com, to collate information that remains unreported in the Times and goes mostly unnoticed on Twitter. The site features a gallery of evidence showing a half-dozen paid Mejia staffers espousing polarizing political views online; included is a message from the campaign’s 18-year-old head of social media, Kyler Chin, who tweeted “roses are red violets are blue defund the police and fuck garcetti too.” The site shows that others with Team Mejia have been spouting off the freshly popularized locution “all cops are bastards” (or ACAB) and that police “only serve the agenda of the corrupt & foul.”
The Times editorial board, no doubt in response to criticism of its endorsement of Mejia and other left-leaning newcomers, made an unusual statement on May 29 as the primary date approached.
“Sometimes a candidate’s experience is less than ideal or some of the positions they hold are not necessarily supported by the editorial board. It’s rare, if not impossible to find the perfect candidate,” the board wrote. “The task for the board—and for voters—is to weigh a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and contrast it with the others in the race to pick the best possible person.”
In addition to Mejia, candidates for the controller of the city of L.A. appearing on the June 7 primary ballot include independent auditor and attorney David T. Vahedi, Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Public Works Stephanie Clements, L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, schoolteacher J. Carolan O’Gabhann, and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s former Executive Officer Reid Lidow.