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Serving Commerce and surrounding communities • 3,200 Homes Every Saturday • September 13, 2013 • Volume 1, No. 7 • HewsMediaGroup.com
EDITORIAL COMMERCE EMPLOYEE RUNS POLITICAL MACHINE ON TAXPAYER DIME By Brian Hews
t is election season, the time when candidates running for local city council offices and school board seats jaunt around to seek out endorsements from other elected politicians, powerful union bosses, and other self-proclaimed political king makers. These “kings” help deliver neophyte candidates large bags of camJason Stinnett paign cash, guarantee vast amounts of votes, and bring in endorsements from other politicians who hold powerful offices like Congressional Members, Assembly Members and State Senators. These kings can make or break a candidate’s chance of winning. Hews Media Group-Community News has learned, and takes issue with, an apparent local political “king” here in Commerce, Interim Public Information Officer Jason Stinnett. We have never spoken to Mr. Stinnett, and not for a lack of trying on our part. The main job of a Public Information Officer is to talk to members of the media and to serve as the official spokesperson for the public agency he or she in employed with. Stinnett has never returned a phone call from this news organization. Not one. We take issue with the Mr. Stinnett who is attempting to build a political empire while on the city’s payroll; he should be doing the work on behalf of the people of Commerce. Stinnett is paid a lofty salary that includes full medical, dental, retirement, and other perks. He applied for the PIO position that will pay over $100,000 HMG-CN has learned that within the
See STINNETT page 9
Commerce Scholarship Program Doles Out $80,000 to 52 Students
Commerce Officials Withhold Public Records Residents forced to retain attorney to compel the City to produce records. By Brian Hews
[l-r] John Griffo of the Commerce Casino with scholars Andrea Ordaz, Serene Beltran and Ernesto Covarrubias. Photo courtesy of the City of Commerce. By Randy Economy The City of Commerce Scholarship Program awarded more than $80,000 in scholarships to 52 local students at a recent luncheon. The program began in 1980, and original money was donated from local civic organizations and service clubs. Scholarships ranged from $50 to $10,000, with $50,000, over 62% donated by the Commerce Casino. Several other Commerce based businesses and residents are donors and sponsors of the annual program. One of the driving forces behind the
scholarship fund is John Griffo of the Commerce Hotel and Casino. Griffo was on hand with city officials during the recent presentation. “I am so proud of all the scholarship winners, and what they have accomplished, I know it’s only the beginning of great things to come,” said Beatriz Sarmiento, Director of Library Services for the City of Commerce. Statistics from the National Center for Education indicate that in 2008, the median earnings of a young adult with a Bachelor’s Degree was $46,000 while the median income was $36,000 for those with an Associates Degree.
Dirty Water: Central Basin Committee Asks for DA Investigation of Director Roybal
News pertaining to a closed session discussion about former Interim Chief OperThe Central Basin Municipal Water ating Officer Chuck Fuentes. The letter was in response to a comDistrict Ethics Committee has voted to ask the Los Angeles County Grand Jury plaint sent to the DA that alleged improper to investigate Director James disclosure of confidential Roybal’s involvement in leakinformation approved in a ing confidential documents to closed session, which is a violation of Government reporter Mike Sprague who Code Section 54956.9. works for the Whittier Daily The letter stated, “based News. upon a June 3 (2013) The vote for the review was memorandum from (CBmade by Central Basin Water MWD GM) Tony Perez, it Board Directors Phil Hawkins would appear the details of of Cerritos and Art Chacon of the agreement disclosed to Commerce. the WDN were subject to Hews Media Group-Comconfidentiality clause and munity News received a copy James Roybal were not to be released.” of a response letter written by Los Angeles County District Attorney Fuentes was fired from the agency in DeJackie Lacey that confirmed that Central cember by a new voting Board majority Basin Municipal Water District Board that consists of Director Leticia Vasquez, President Roybal leaked a confidential Director Robert Apodaca and Roybal. internal document to the Whittier Daily By Brian Hews and Randy Economy
See ROYBAL page 8
A group of active Commerce residents led by Mike Alvarado, have retained attorney Kelly Aviles to compel the city to produce public records they say that city officials are “illeJorge Rifa gally withholding.” Commerce In a letter to City City Manager Manager Jorge Rifa, Aviles says, "the city (of Commerce) has improperly denied requests for information related to legal expenses and has provided just a summary of records responsive to a request for information regarding city owned vehicles instead of providing actual records." Aviles goes on to cite various codes determining the production of public records under the California Public Records Act section 6253. "The city has not responded to a number of requests, or has delayed providing responsive records well outside the time which would be allowed under the code," Aviles stated. The first set of documents requested by Alvarado focused on payments made on behalf of taxpayers to Commerce City Attorney Eddie Olivo. The letter stated, “on July 23, Angie Verdin, Senior Office Assistant, notified my client that the city was declining to produce records relating to the city's legal expenses including information about the payment of fees to outside and in-house attorneys as well as City Attorney Eddie Olivo’s billing invoices.” Aviles cites two Superior Court cases with one case concluding, "The identity of the client, the amount of the fee, identification of payment by case file name, and the general purpose of the work performed are usually not protected." The second set of documents requested were emails between the city council and the city attorney on two days July 15 and 16th of this year. The letter stated, “over a month after the request was made the city responded and notified my client that a number of documents were available. The city then
See COMMERCE page 8
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In the letter, the District Attorney declined to take action on the disclosure, referring the matter back to the embroiled agency that has been a focal point of a massive investigation by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the past several months. HMG-CN first reported on the situation back on August 6th.
said that some of the records were being withheld on the basis of attorney-client privilege however the city has failed to provide any information regarding the communications that would allow the person reviewing the response to determine whether those documents were properly withheld.” The third set of documents asked for transportation logs related to vehicle maintenance records. In response the city provided a summary of records. Aviles demanded that their clients wanted “copies of the documentation used to create the summary for each vehicle including the current mileage, the miles driven per year, records regarding the gas consumption, maintenance, bodywork repairs, and log of who used the vehicle. Aviles concluded her letter saying " While my clients’ certainly hope to avoid litigation, should the City fail or refuse to comply as demanded, such action will lead my clients to seek a court order compelling the City to release the records, as well as an award of court costs and attorney fees incurred as a result of any litigation.” Calls from HMG-CN to Commerce City officials regarding the matter went unanswered. Alvarado is currently involved in a local movement of Commerce residents to recall three members of the city council including City Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, Councilman Ivan Altamirano, and Lilia Leon.
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Continued from page 1 past few weeks, Stinnett has played king and met with elected officials or attended meetings during regular business hours that have nothing to do with the business of the City of Commerce. One such meeting was with current Maywood Mayor pro tem Felipe Aguirre. In an interview with HMG-CN Aguirre said, “it was at South Gate Farmers Market, around 11:00 a.m. I met with him because he was backing Ishmael Ververa, a candidate for Maywood City Council who is a police officer in the City of South Gate. Ververa recently moved into the city of Maywood to run for city council.” Aguirre went on to say, “I wanted to find out why Ververa was running. Mr. Stinnett was representing Ververa and his campaign, and he said that he was running the campaign for Vervara as well as appointed City Councilman Edward Verela, and challenger Eddie DeLa Riva.” Aguirre said Stinnett repeated that he was running their campaigns in their conversation that lasted around 30 minutes. “I have no idea if Jason is running these campaigns out of Commerce City Hall, but I do know that he is indeed running these campaigns here in Maywood,” Aguirre said. “Jason did not threaten me during our conversation. I don’t even know the guy, but he was telling me that he is running against Art Chacon next year for Central Basin Water District, and that he was doing whatever he could to build up support for his campaign.” “This does not surprise me,” said one city employee who declined to be identified, “He is never here at work, in fact, I
called him once, left a message on his city machine, and he told me that I never answer that machine call me on my cell.” HMG-CN has obtained records of Central Basin Water District meetings that show Stinnett’s signature on the attendance sheets. Most of those meetings occur at 10 AM. When informed what Stinnett was doing, long-time Central Basin Municipal Water Director Art Chacon commented, “as a resident and taxpayer in Commerce, we should expect our city employees to be dedicating their work time to city business and improving our community, not to exploiting their position to promote their own political agendas. City Staff and Council need to hold their employees accountable, especially those in upper management positions.” Recently, Stinnett declared his candidacy for the CBMWD’s Division 3 seat currently held by Director Chacon. Stinnett is actively raising money for his campaign and has already raised $1,200 in contributions, including a $1,000 donation from the local AFSCME (Commerce city) employee union he controls. More recently, Stinnett traveled to a meeting of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to argue to the powerful political wing not to support current Montebello Unified School District President Hector Chacon. Stinnett did this during business hours when he should have been at Commerce City Hall. Sources tell HMG-CN that Stinnett and one of the union leaders, “almost went to blows,” over Stinnett arguing not to endorse Chacon. After the argument the union employee got up and left the meeting and the union eventually voted not to endorse Chacon. Stinnett is putting his political clout behind Loni Cupchoy to beat Chacon in the upcoming November 5, 2013 election.
Cupchoy is also being supported by well-know Calderon lackeys Mario Beltran, Sergio Infanso, Carlos Illingsworth, and Julian De La Torre; so now it is official, Stinnett is a Calderon minion. Yes, it is election season, and Stinnett
SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
is in full campaign mode. We would like to remind Mr. Stinnett that the people of Commerce and the media are paying attention, especially in these times when political corruption is out of control in Southeast Los Angeles County.
CENTRAL BASIN DIRECTOR VASQUEZ SLAMS SOUTH ByGATE COUNCILMAN GONZALEZ Randy Economy and Brian Hews
mbattled Central Basin Water District Board Member Leticia Vasquez wrote and mailed a blistering letter to South Gate Councilman Henry Gonzalez on official agency letter head denouncing remarks he had made about her in articles published by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper. In the rambling three-page letter under the subject line “Re: Cerritos Community News Article,” Vasquez lambasts Gonzalez over comments he made in a series of investigative articles the publication has been conducting for the past several months. “I am sure all of the individuals whose lives I have touched through my work would be greatly disappointed in hearing of the lies you have told (to LCCN),” Vasquez said. “While you affirmed during our phone conversation, that in fact there is no such proof and not one incident you could identify proving your false allegations,” Vasquez writes. Vasquez also responded to a comment in LCCN in which Gonzalez says “she knows how to play dirty.” “Once again as with other lies, Mr. Gonzalez you provide no details, no facts, no dates, no names, no places nor any other bit of information to support these fabrications. ,” Vasquez continues. Gonzalez also told LCCN in a previ-
ous interview that Vasquez “doesn’t care about rules.” Vasquez wrote back to Gonzalez that “this is another absolutely baseless charge. As with the other charges: no details, no facts, no dates, no names, no places nor any other bit of information to support these fabrications. Mr. Gonzalez you owe an explanation to me and the public why you make sure false statements against another public official that are made up out of the whole cloth?” Vasquez goes on to scold Gonzalez by writing “there is no shame in being wrong or mistakenly relying on false information or rumors you have heard. The only shame and lack of integrity a man may suffer comes from perpetuating a lie and a falsehood once you are aware of the truth. I await your apology and prompt response.” Vasquez also send copies of the letter to six other South Gate city officials including Mayor Bill Dewitt, Vice Mayor Gil Hurtado, Councilwoman Maria Davila, City Clerk Carmen Avalos and City Treasurer Maria Belen Bernal. Los Cerritos Community Newspaper spoke to Vasquez on Tuesday morning about the letter she wrote and said that she would “call us back later.” Gonzalez told LCCN that he didn’t “take too kindly” to the letter he received from Vasquez.