|Michael Taylor, Chief of Police of Baldwin Park|
& Board Member of West Valley Water District
(c) Los Angeles Times
For 2017's West Valley Water Board Election, challenger and current Chief of Police for Baldwin Park, Michael Taylor, received at least $10,000 to run for office from Sharone Bershatski. Although Taylor lost the 2015 election, with the injection of at least $17,7000 of drug money, Taylor won this time.
But what did the Bershatski receive?
Bershatski is business owner of Rukli, Inc. - a marijuana growing and distribution business. Not only did Mayor Manuel Lozano, Council Member Cruz Baca and Council Member Monica Garcia vote to grant Rukli, Inc. a marijuana license, it also granted Rukli, sole distribution rights of marijuana within the city- which means in simple English - all those who are going to be selling marijuana in Baldwin Park will have to go through Rukli and pay it a fee. And that in turn, means, that Bershatski and his partner(s) will be making more money, because the city, in effect, gave Rukli a marijuana monopoly in the city.
But here's the latest scoop. Rukli has another alleged partner named Greg Kilbanov, the CEO of American Cab and Yellow Cab. But Yellow Cab also does business as Rykal, LLC, which corporationwiki.com states is owned by Greg Kilbanov. (Notice the similarity to the name Rukli.) But Rukli doesn't want this knowledge to be publicized. And why not?
Kilbanov may have been convicted of fraud and perhaps, even other felonies. According to the Los Angeles Superior Court website for case number SA020394, on May 9, 1995, Kilbanov pled to fraud under California Penal Code 502.7(a) in Beverly Hills Court. A common form of this fraud is when fraudsters call senior citizens to get their bank account numbers. Though the details of the fraud case are not know, such as if Kilbanov pled to a misdemeanor or felony, the court website also makes it clear that Kilbanov also violated this parole conditions and was held to answer for it at the West Field District under the same case number.
(The court's website, under case no BA201048, also says that on May 24, 2000, Kilbanov was charged under California Penal Code Sections 211, 459, 487(a) & 487(c), which respectively are robbery, burglary, grand theft for over $950, and grand theft of an automobile or firearm. The final judgement of the case has not been posted on the website.)
Kilbanov's past triggers the questions of whether Rukli should have even received a marijuana license from Baldwin Park. According to Baldwin Park's policy requirements for receiving a marijuana license, the applicant must disclose his entire criminal history. Also, the applicant "must certify, as a condition of maintaining the permit, that it will not employ any person with any type of violent or serious felony conviction(s) as specified in Sections 667.5 and 1192.7 of the Penal Code or any felony conviction involving fraud, deceit or embezzlement."
Here, although it's not certain whether Kilbanov pled to a felony or misdemeanor, it's clear that he's been convicted of fraud. And even if Kilbanov's pled only to a misdemeanor, did Taylor exercise sound and unbiased and good judgment in passing Rukli's application forward to the City Council for a vote?
And let's not forget one of the players who voted to give Rukli a monopoly and Taylor his new contract: Monia Garcia. Conveniently enough, Monica Garcia's senate donation forms state that Kilbanov also contributed $4,400 to support her campaign, which really means Garcia received at least $8,800 in drug money, all from the Rukli owners. The final sum of all the drug money Garcia received to run for state senate is still pending investigation by The Legal Lens.
Although a ten year old can even understand that something looks wrong here, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Bershatski said this about his $10,000 contribution: "We understood that [Taylor] was a good man". And, good, how?
The picture is becoming clearer regarding the in-your-face corruption amongst the public officials and administrators in the City of Baldwin Park. In December of 2017, the LA Times reported on how Baldwin Park's City Council granted Taylor an unusual contract, which the city attorney Robert Tafoya drafted.
The contract says that Taylor could only be fired if he was convicted of a felony, such as rape, murder, or grand theft. (And think about this - who would file such charges? Taylor on himself? How about the city attorney? A subordinate cop - who would get fired?)
In light of all the alleged graft and expectations to follow through with questionable ethics and unsound conduct, is it probable that Taylor needed such a contract to secure him from being fired? Perhaps. Even likely.
To conclude, both TaylorGate and MonicaGate (who are both accepting large sums of drug money to enter and stay in politics) are only proving the current and dysfunctional state of democracy. The question which arises is: What can the common citizen do to hold these players accountable for betraying the public's trust to enrich themselves by auctioning their vote and duty to the highest bidders?
Taylor's choices and conduct clearly threaten the very existence of a democratic order. It's also sad that prosecution of these players is so difficult and almost non-existent. Personally, it makes me wonder if we're coming to the end of America's democratic age. After all, democracy is supposed to be designed for our elected officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people - not for themselves and not for those who could pay the most. But as Indian, woman, author and activist, Aurndhati Roy said, "A system is corrupt when it is strictly profit-driven, not driven to serve the best interest of the people."