Sunday, September 18, 2022

LA Times Reports on How Baldwin Park Council Members Solicited $250,000 Cash in Paper Bags; Reform Required to Put Corruption in Check.

The LA Times reported on how Baldwin Park city officials asked for $250,000 in cash bribes to be put in paper bags to approve marijuana licenses. Regarding Baldwin Park, here's what the Times says:

Baldwin Park leaders saw cannabis as a financial boon for their struggling community in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley.

But from the start, pot licensing stirred allegations of corruption.

One of the licenses approved by Baldwin Park gave the exclusive right to distribute cannabis in the city to a local business, Rukli Inc. The city required other licensed weed businesses to use Rukli as their sole distributor. The arrangement prompted another cannabis business to file a lawsuit accusing Rukli of engaging in a conspiracy to secure an illegal monopoly and racketeering, including bribery and kickbacks. Rukli denied wrongdoing. The lawsuit was eventually dropped after Rukli pulled out of its exclusive deal.

Before the end of Rukli’s exclusive arrangement, a Baldwin Park police lieutenant visited the firm’s distribution center to make sure it was complying with the city’s requirements for securing the property. Lt. Chris Kuberry told The Times one of the firm’s partners mentioned paying $250,000 in cash to city officials.

Kuberry said that the comment was “certainly suspicious” and that he had heard the FBI was investigating possible corruption in the city. But he didn’t inquire further, file a report or contact the FBI. He said his department of about 50 officers was rife with complaints of retaliation and he feared for his job if he raised any questions.

 “To be honest, [it was] out of self-preservation,” said Kuberry, who retired shortly after.

In a lawsuit the city brought against its former police chief, Kuberry said in a sworn declaration that pot operators complained to him about “questionable business practices which included paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.” His declaration did not name the firms or their owners, but Kuberry told The Times he was referring to Rukli.

Scott Russo, an attorney for one of Rukli’s partners at the time, said the company never paid a bribe. He declined to comment on whether any city officials solicited bribes, citing an ongoing federal investigation.

“There’s a process [the FBI] would appreciate I respect,” he said.

A source who is cooperating with the FBI told The Times he was present when Ricardo Pacheco, then a member of the Baldwin Park City Council, asked that Rukli pay him $250,000 in cash to ensure the city would approve a license for the firm. . . . [And you can read the rest on the Times].

The Times argues that legalizing marijuana "unleashed corruption in California." I don't know if it unleashed corruption as it just ramped up what was already there.

50% of California cities declined to open their cities up for marijuana businesses. An analysis should be done as to the demographics and average income of residents as to which cities engaged with marijuana and which ones didn't.

Also, if you haven't noticed, corruption appears rife in Californian government. Not only does the Times article point to a number of politicians that solicited bribes for cannabis licenses, but the Times just reported on a pay-to-play scheme with a USC Dean and a current LA City Council Member.

The question is, how come are checks and balances are not working? Why is that only the federal government, and not the Sheriff, or other local law enforcement agencies pop these cities? 

Long time readers of my blog will know that I've often had to take Baldwin Park to court for open records. But the City then lies to the court and says - "We gave out everything." Or, "We don't have anymore records." And then the judge just believes them. In short - the public records act doesn't work. If it did, would our residents and citizens be cheated this much by our politicians?

As I've been saying over and over again, our law needs reform, so that it's easier for citizen journalists to investigate and hold accountable these politicians. Are current checks and balances are failing.

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