Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Corruption in Baldwin Park? Residents ask to investigate suspicious management - La Opinion Piece

Ugly City of Baldwin Park
By: La Opinion Aracelia Martinez Ortega
Translated by: Paul Cook

September 21, 2016

Alleged conflicts of interest, charges by council members that have not been accounted for, and suspicious contracts have generated great dissatisfaction amongst residents of Baldwin Park, who are asking for answers, an investigation, and even the resignation of Councilman Ricardo Pacheco.

"Councilman Ricardo Pacheco voted in favor of granting contracts for public services to two companies that he works for in South El Monte. Not bad that he works for South El Monte and is a Council Member of Baldwin Park at the same time," said Danny Damian, entrepreneur in Baldwin Park.

The companies in question are AAE Inc., known as Infrastructure Engineers and Advance Engineering and Applied Gentry Brothers Inc.

According to Damian, Pacheco was hired in 2015 by South El Monte's project manager, part time. However, he still appears to be working in his capacity to date, or until recently. 

"I have three receipts: February, March and April this year, where Pacheco's name appears on invoices for the AAE Inc. company [which South El Monte uses]," he said.

Baldwin Park is located in the heart of San Gabriel Valley. The 2010 census reported a population of 75.390 inhabitants, 80.1% are Latino. It is estimated that 64% are low income. The city of just less than seven square miles has five members of the Council: Mayor Manuel Lozano, Deputy Mayor and Aldermen Monica Cruz García Baca, Ricardo Pacheco and Susan Rubio. Lozano has been in office for over 18 years; Pacheco, 22; Garcia, 12; Rubio eight, Baca three.

The Council Member Says There's No Explanation

The Council Member Baca said that the decision needs to take were voted by Pacheco, Lozano, and Garcia [sic Rodriguez], as only three votes are needed to pass a decision. 

"Susan Rubio and I have no explanation. We have seen many irregularities. So we want the State Comptroller, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, and the FBI to launch an investigation into their finances and see if Pacheco has been benefiting his re-election campaign in exchange for the city hiring those companies," said Councilwoman Cruz.

Armed with documents proving that the City paid AAE Inc. large sums, Damian said that when an elected official fights for corporations, rather than his constituents, it shows that the official is getting something out of it. 

"They do what they want with our money and make fun of us. In January, three councilors - Pacheco, Lozano and Garcia - gave authority to the directors of city departments to approve, without the consent of the Council, contracts of up to $120,000," explained Damian.

"We have a department of Public Works with highly trained staff, but the City gave a contract to AAE to do that kind of work and they charge for everything, even to go to monitor their own works and those of the city," said Baca.

AAE is owned by the contractor Sid Mousavi. In 2011, Mousavi was investigated by the FBI in a case of bribery for allegedly collecting $ 2.5 million in Montebello in a year for supposedly assigning itself contracts and received city money for monitoring their own work. However, that investigation came to nothing.

In an audit of that year, the state controller, John Chiang, determined that it was likely that the city of Montebello had violated a local ordinance to assign contracts to AAE without a bid. An ordinance of 2008 mandates that all contracts over $ 50,000 must undergo a bidding process.

 La Opinión continues to wait for the reaction of Councillor Pacheco on accusations that he benefited from certain companies and the financial irregularities discovered. Messages were left on his cell phone and questions were sent to him to his official e-mail as a councilor, but he has not responded.

The Mayor Responded

Manuel Lozano, mayor of Baldwin Park, said his main accusers are angry people. He noted that Damien is upset because he lost the election for council member and Cruz was angry because the city didn't pick the companies she favored.

"I have not seen anything illegal, but above claims, myself two weeks ago publicly asked the Attorney of Los Angeles County do an investigation, and if someone did something wrong because it comes to light. We do not know if it's conflict (of interest) for Alderman Pacheco work with certain companies and then vote to give services in the city. That will have to investigate. I will not tolerate corruption, "he observed.

"I have not seen anything illegal, but regarding the accusations, I, myself, publicly asked the District Attorney to investigate, and if someone did something wrong that it comes to light. We do not know if it's conflict (of interest) for Council Member Pacheco to work with certain companies and then vote to award it by the City. That will have to investigate. I will not tolerate corruption, "he observed.

Regarding the accusation that public officials receive money for their reelection campaigns of companies the official favors with their vote to give them contracts, Lozano said that was legal, and all politicians do it.

"Everything we received in election donations is reported, down to a meal that costs more than 50 dollars," he said.

And to justify that the directors are now authorized to approve contracts up to $120,000 for each service without the authorization of the council, Lozano said "[we did it] because they are the experts and it gives attention to speedier services."

Lozano defended the employer Mousavi and said the FBI found nothing. "He works as a contractor for cities like Montebello and Glendora. In Baldwin Park there is nothing illegal. Our accusers must prove these claims, before launching baseless accusations, "he said.

More Information

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