DOWNEY 2013 LA Press Club Award Winner for Best Investigative Newspaper in Los Angeles.
Serving Downey and surrounding communities • Published every Friday • August 30, 2013 • Volume 1, No. 12 • DowneyCommunityNews.com
Labor Day Weekend Traffic Advisory Set in Downey Cerritos Mayor Barrows Rebukes Gandhi Statue at Brookshire, Stewart & Gray Protestors By Brian Hews
Dirty Water: Employee, Central Basin Reach Deal in Harassment Allegation Against Apodaca By Brian Hews and Randy Economy Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained a 2010 Separation Agreement and General Release (SAGR) document via a public records request between a former employee and the Central Basin Municipal Water District that outlines payments to the employee for, according to sources, not filing sexual harassment charges against embattled CBMWD Board Director Robert “Bob” Apodaca. HMG-CN exclusively reported on a separate harassment claim against Apodaca brought by Sigrid H. Lopez and filed
See APODACA page 8
By Randy Economy Brace yourselves Downey residents because this weekend you might want to take a little extra time getting around town. Residents in Downey will be facing temporary lane closures on eastbound and westbound Stewart & Gray Road and at the Brookshire Avenue intersection until Tuesday, September 3. Left-turn movements onto north bound Brookshire Avenue have been restricted and traffic delays are expected. Motorists are urged to use alternate routes during the Labor Day Weekend holiday period. “The outside lane on westbound Impe-
Hews Media Group Exclusive:
LYNWOOD MAYOR ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO MANIPULATE AWARD OF TRASH CONTRACT By Brian Hews and Randy Economy Is the City of Lynwood heading down the same path that catapulted the municipality into national headlines 10 years ago with the arrest, conviction, and a 17 year jail sentence of its mayor? During the past several weeks, several Lynwood residents are beginning to replay in their minds the scenes that haunted them when ex-Mayor and now Federal Prisoner Paul Richards orchestrated a scheme that resulted in his arrest and being given “the
longest sentence of an elected official in United States history.” Richards was convicted of steering city contracts to a front corporation he secretly owned. During his period in office, Richards caused problems inside Lynwood City Hall wherever he went. He would publicly berate employees, secretly threaten others, and even go so far as make up charges to get city employees fired. In August 2003, just prior to his recall,
See LYNWOOD page 7
rial Highway at the Brookshire Avenue intersection has been closed and right -turn movements onto Brookshire Avenue “More improvements to an already great city,” said Downey Mayor Guerra. Beginning Tuesday, September 3, 2013, Brookshire Avenue from Imperial Highway to Davis Street will be temporarily reduced to one traffic lane in each direction for the pavement rehabilitation work. City officials also wanted to remind residents of Downey that ongoing updates regarding street improvement projects are updated on a regular basis on the Downey website. The site is located at http://www. downeyca.org/.
After an unsatisfactory response from Mayor Bruce Barrow demanding removal of Cerritos’ Gandhi statue, a coalition of local citizens promised to continue the protest to have the statue removed from the front of Chugh Law Firm. The Organization for Minorities of India, OFMI, a Central California-based human rights group, is organizing local families and business-owners for a campaign seeking legal removal of the statue. The disdain for the statue is palpable in Cerritos. The statue located at the corner of Carmenita Road and Alondra Boulevard has been a target of vandalism. Recently, officials bolted the statue down to help deter future theft attempts. Ricky Pal, owner of a Cerritos deli, said, “the statue of a pervert does not belong anywhere.” “The City of Cerritos has rejected our initial overtures, but this is only the beginning of our conversation,” said Arvin Valmuci, Coordinator at OFMI. “If they will not answer us, we will speak louder and more frequently. We are organizing locals opposed to the statue to speak at upcoming city council meetings and demonstrate on the streets so the city cannot fail to hear us.” Mayor Barrows’ e-mail to OFMI basi-
See CERRITOS page 9
Imperial Highway Construction to Cause Headaches
Recall Campaign Launched Against Commerce City Council
By Randy Economy
By Randy Economy
NORWALK – Residents and motorists who live and travel through Norwalk will be facing new traffic challenges during the next several weeks due to heavy construction work at a freeway undercrossing at Imperial Highway at Interstate 5. Caltrans will begin a two-week construction schedule - during daytime and nighttime – by utilizing partial closures and full closures in both directions along Imperial Highway.
Three Commerce City council members have been served with official recall papers this week from a group of community residents who claim that city hall has “grown to benefit its elected leaders instead of doing the work of the people.” On Tuesday and Wednesday, Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, Mayor Pro Tem Lela Leon, and Councilman Ivan Altamirano where served recall petitions from a group of residents who have been
See NORWALK page 8
See RECALL page 9
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Continued from page 1 he orchestrated the placement of an item on the council agenda regarding a sevenyear trash contract that Richards and two other councilmen were pushing. People questioned the selection because he city’s potential partner was Kosti Shirvanian, owner of one of the largest waste management companies in Los Angeles. Federal authorities had investigated Shirvanian in the past for suspected political corruption and bribery. Fast-forward ten years to August 2013, and it appears to many that the city is experiencing a case of “déjà vu” all over again. Shirvanian appears to be playing every political card in the book to win the contract over at least five other waste hauling companies. Shirvanian background In 1992 there were rumors of Shirvanian influencing the Mission Viejo contract vote; he denied it. But Bernard Nash, who served as a member of the company’s board of directors for 16 years, said Western Waste (Shirvanian’ company) made those political contributions specifically to win over Mission Viejo City Council members. In 1994, Compton City Councilwoman Patricia Moore confessed to government agents that she received monthly payoffs from Waste Resources (Shirvanian’s company.) According to a federal agent who testified at her trial, Kosti Shirvanian, and Shirvanian’s sister, Savey Tufenkian, was aware of the payoffs. Both of them denied the allegations. In 1996, Western Waste made $150,000 in extortion payments to a Louisiana leg-
islator to secure permits for operating a garbage dump near Baton Rouge. The executive, Vernon Hizel, who supervised operations outside California, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Again the company and family denied any wrongdoing. In late 1996, FBI agents filed subpoenas for the personal and office records of three members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in a political corruption probe of Western Waste Industries. The company again denied any wrongdoing. The LA Times caught wind of Richard’s 2003 Shirvanian trash contract agenda item, published an article two days before the meeting, and Richards and the two councilman backed off and awarded the contract to Consolidated Disposal Service. Now, ten years later, it looks like “the second coming of Paul Richards” has surfaced in the City of Lynwood. Consolidated’s contract is now up for renewal and, like Richards, weeks before a city election, sources tell HMG-CN that Mayor Sal Alatorre and Mayor pro-tem Ramon Rodriguez want to award the contract to Shirvanian. Lynwood City Council Member Maria Teresa Santillan-Beas said in a phone interview on Tuesday that “I don’t want to think that this is a repeat of the exact thing that took place here 10 years ago under Paul Richards, but my suspicion is that we are heading down that same road, and it troubles me deeply.” Santillan-Beas, who works in a Downtown Los Angeles high rise for a wellknown insurance company and served as Mayor of Lynwood for four years, lamented that Alatorre is earning a reputation for not being honest. “I have been on the city council for 10
years, and I don’t like what I see right now from Alatorre,” she said. She was candid in her beliefs that Alatorre has made up his mind on awarding the massive trash contract, and for all the wrong reasons. Alatorre background Alatorre has taken a similar path to power as Richards. He was elected Treasurer of Lynwood in November 2006. During his period in office, he reportedly got so out of control that the city council was forced to implement new policies and procedures to control him and the position. Elected to the City Council in November 2011, Alatorre immediately began to push employees around, much like Richards. “He is a little Napoleon, if he did not like you, you were gone,” said one source inside City Hall who did not want to be identified. In recent weeks, HMG-CN obtained a 72-page confidential document that outlined in great detail the results an administrative investigation that was conducted by Irvine Attorney Jeffrey B. Love out of Orange County. The private investigation concluded that Alatorre violated various city laws and ethical standards against City Manager Roger Haley after the two individuals engaged in numerous racially related exchanges. Haley recently resigned from his $220,000 per year job “to pursue private sector jobs.” City Councilwoman Aide Castro said in an interview that City Manager Haley “was railroaded out of office by Mayor Alatorre. Let’s be real, Haley was forced to resign, he didn’t retire.” “I will not talk about the specifics of the report, but I will go on the record as saying that Roger Haley was the best city
AUGUST 30, 2013
manager Lynwood has ever seen. He did not deserve to be treated this way,” Castro said. Now that he is Mayor, like Richards, it appears Alatorre will attempt to award the lucrative trash contract to Shirvanian, to help his own cause. HMG-CN sources say it is well known in certain Lynwood circles that a meeting took place between Shirvanian, Alatorre, Lynwood Mayor pro-tem Ramon Rodriguez, Bill Hernandez (an associate of Shirvanian) and current Lynwood Treasurer and City Council candidate Edwin Hernandez regarding “possible financing of Hernandez’ campaign.” One source told HMG-CN that Hernandez declined the offer. “Ramon Rodriguez, ally of Alatorre, is retiring, so Alatorre is in jeopardy of losing his three vote majority,” said the source. “The only way to keep his majority was to offer to get Edwin’s campaign completely financed, which Alatorre tried to do at the meeting. It looks like Edwin declined so now Alatorre is freaking out.” City Councilwoman Aida Castro said in an interview that she has concerns and that the city council is acting too fast and is “rushing to make a decision.” “There are rumors flying around Lynwood that promises have been made regarding this contract,” Castro continued. “We need transparency, especially during these days when members of the media are watching.” “You can’t run to the (Los Angeles County) District Attorney’s Office based upon rumors,” Santillan-Beas said in reference to rumored back ground deals that are being made “under our own noses.” “The people need to be aware of what’s going on right now, and right here at Lynwood City Hall.”
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Continued from page 1 on July 3 of this year. The SAGR dictates a payment of $1,700 in vacation and sick leave, standard payout when an employee leaves an organization. It also paid $1,500 for one month of medical premiums and $4,300 for the amount the CBMWD would have paid to CalPERS for one year. But on the last line of the payment agreement, a 37-day salary-the “Severance Pay”- amounting to over $18,000 is listed. Total payout was $25,500. “A SAGR is typically a “gotcha” that specifies the terms of your termination, to your employer’s advantage,” says Jeff Ward a labor lawyer in Norwalk. “The agreement is a contract in which you relinquish your legal rights, while the severance is effectively a bribe to influence you to sign it,” Ward said. The document states, “if you do not enter into this agreement you will not be entitled to Severance Pay described above.” The second page defines the “Terms of the Agreement” and states, “this agreement shall not be in anyway construed as an admission by the district that it has acted wrongfully with respect to you.” It goes on to say that, “in exchange for the promises contained in this agreement the district will pay you the Severance Payment. You acknowledge that you would not be entitled to the Severance Payment but for the execution of this agreement.” “It is exactly what I said,” Ward commented after reviewing the document, “the person would not have received the severance unless they signed the document which released the District from all claims.”
TO ADVERTISE CALL 800-901-7211 One clause in the SAGR states that the employee will “irrevocably release, acquit, and forever discharge the District and its employees against any claims. The clause specifically mentions “claims including but not limited to discrimination and harassment, based on race, religion…sex.” The agreement goes on to say, “you shall not bring any administrative or legal action and the employee waives and releases any rights they might have to recover in any lawsuit or proceeding brou3ght by them.” It also states that the employee will not disclose the agreement to anyone. “The employee agreed that the consideration set forth in the SAGR, which is in addition to anything of value to which they might otherwise be entitled, constituted a complete and final settlement of any and all causes of actions or claims they had,” said Ward. “The employee has no recourse.” Several calls into Apodaca for comment went unanswered.
Continued from page 1 Imperial Highway jets through Norwalk in an east-to-west direction and has been heavily impacted by the massive freeway expansion project that is expected to continue for at least the next three-plus years. Jeff Hobbs, Public Information Officer for the City of Norwalk told Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that “residents are growing frustrated” with ongoing construction work during the past several weeks.
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“We get lots of calls from our residents. People are frustrated, but they also understand that when all of the work is done, we are going to have an amazing new freeway that will be solving a lot of our problems for years to come,” said Hobbs. Hobbs said that city officials are kept abreast by Caltrans authorities regarding construction schedules. “We are hopeful and optimistic, but this has been a painful process in many ways. We are committed as city officials to help keep our residents informed day in and day out,” Hobbs said. The work will begin on Friday, August 30, and will continue until mid-September. Caltrans spokesperson Maria Raptis said that the work involves drilling in the center median on Imperial Highway for large 80-inch diameter and 100-feet deep cast in Drill Hole (CIDH) foundations for the new Imperial Highway off-ramp bridge. The work includes drilling, excavating earth, setting rebar and pouring concrete. Caltrans officials announced the details of the closures this week in a statement to members of the media. “For the safety of the public and for work crews, full street closures are necessary during this work at this location,” said Raptis. The schedule is: Daytime: Partial Closure on Imperial Highway from 8:30 am-3:30 pm Friday, August 30 and Tuesday through Friday, September 3-6 (one of two lanes will be closed in each direction). Nighttime: Partial Closure on Imperial Highway from 8 pm-10 pm, Tuesday through Friday, September 3-6, (one of two lanes will be closed in each direction). Overnight, Full Closure on Imperial Highway from 10 pm-6 am Sunday through Friday, September 8-13 (two of
two lanes will be closed in each direction) During the overnight full closures, emergency services will have access. Residents throughout Norwalk can expect noise from truck back-up alarms, large drills, work crews and other equipment and additional lighting will be used to ensure safety of the public and the crews. Water trucks will be on-site and used to minimize dust during working hours. The northbound I-5 Off-Ramp at Imperial Highway will permanently close beginning Monday, Sept. 9. The work is part of the $302 million I-5 HOV Imperial Highway and Pioneer Boulevard Project to widen nearly two miles of freeway by adding one HOV lane and one regular lane in each direction from Silverbow Avenue to Orr and Day Road. The bridges at San Antonio Drive, Imperial Highway, and Pioneer Boulevard will be rebuilt to accommodate the wider freeway. In addition to the new off-ramp at Imperial Hwy, other improvements include new sound walls and frontage roads. The contractor is Security Paving, Inc.
Continued from page 1 long time critics of the current city council majority that also includes Mayor Joe Aguilar. Jamie Valencia, who has run for city council on four different occasions told Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that the recall effort has been in motion for the past several weeks. “The residents are tired that the city has not progressed. We have had enough of the political games, and now we need a city council that will represent the best interests of the community and not their
personal lives,” Valencia said in an interview. Another supporter of the recall is longtime Commerce resident Mike Alvarado, who said that he has “grown tired of the lack of leadership” coming from the current city council. “There is a lot of unhappiness that I have witnessed in being active here in Commerce,” said Alvarado, who previously served as a city commission for four years under the appointment of Leon who is one of the recall targets. Alvarado said that he was given “an ultimatum” to support Baca Del Rio, Altamirano, and Leon during the campaign this past March in which all three were narrowly reelected over three underfunded candidates including Valencia, Art Gonzalez, and Joanna Flores. Baca Del Rio and Altamirano were served with the “intent to recall” papers after the conclusion of a heated city council meeting (see additional article) on Tuesday. Leon did not attend the city council meeting because due to a previously scheduled hip replacement surgery she underwent this week. Leon was served with by recall organizers at City Hall late Wednesday afternoon. Valencia said the recall process will take at least the next three months, and claims to have at least twenty residents involved. “My biggest concern is that the residents, businesses, and employees have been neglected by this current city council,” Alvarado said.
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Continued from page 1 cally said the Chugh Law Firm chose the statue and that the Fine Arts and Historical Commission and the City Council “received and approved” the statue.” Barrow’s e-mail tersely concludes, “your comments have been noted.” Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper was provided a copy of the email. “It claims the controversial statue belongs to the Chugh Law Firm on Carmenita Road, but also states both the City Council and Fine Arts and Historical Commission approved the statue after first requiring the law firm contribute to the “Art in Public Places” program,” said Valmuci. “So it is clear the FAHC and the City Council approve of the statue.” The statue, donated to the program in 2012, is drawing harsh censure from many local South Asian minorities who claim to suffer psychological damage from its presence. Among their detailed reasons for opposing the statue are that Gandhi promoted racial segregation in South Africa shortly before Apartheid, that he sexually abused his underage grandnieces Manu and Abha at the height of his popularity, and that he entrenched caste, a system of social division, in India. “It seems, due to their support for the Gandhi statue, Cerritos and its City Council are destined to receive a history lesson on the struggle for human dignity halfway around the globe,” said Valmuci. Emails sent to all Cerritos City Council-members for response went unanswered.