Monday, September 9, 2013

The City of Baldwin Park Illegally Extends Waste Management Contract

On Wednesday, September 4, 2013 the City Council and Mayor of Baldwin Park unanimously voted to extend Waste Management's contract illegally for ten years.

Although the local paper, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that this extension was met with "the applause of many residents," this is far from the truth.

The overwhelming majority of people in attendance at this Council Meeting was made up of Waste Management Employees, union representatives, and friends and supporters of Council Member Marlen Garcia, Mayor Pro Tem Raquel Monica Garcia, and Mayor Manuel Lozano.  Most of these friends, as well, are not residents of Baldwin Park, like the historian Bob Bimbo or librarian Rafael Nunez, both of whom expressed their approval of the City Council.

The boxers, however, went to the Council Meeting and are residents of Baldwin Park.  They did not clap for the illegal ten year extension of this contract.  In fact, Julian Casas, head boxing coach of the gym once again demanded that the City Council and Mayor vote for firing the Director of Parks and Recreation because it was a local business owner who paid for their new boxing equipment and not the City.  He asked why the City took the program from the Boys and Girls Club, when it couldn't afford to manage it and neglected it for ten years.  Mr. Casas pointed out how the City is running the boxing program to the ground, just like Mayor Lozano had filed bankruptcy in his personal life at one point.

Paul Cook, attorney at law and boxer at the local gym, once again demanded the resignation of Mayor Lozano, Council Member Marlen Garcia, and Mayor Pro Tem Raquel Garcia for engaging in corruption with Royal Coaches Autobody and Towing, who paid for the new boxing equipment.

Although the boxers' grievance against this towing company doesn't appear to be related to the extension of Waste Management's contract extension, the similarities are actually many.  Both companies donate thousands of dollars to the political contribution of each Council Member and Mayor.  Both companies are attempting to have their contracts illegally extended before the November election.  The contracts of both companies cost the residents of Baldwin Park much for the profit of the few, which includes the businesses and the council members and the mayor.

Finally, both companies engage the Council Members and the Mayor in creating an illegal contract extension.  The importance of competitive bidding stems from the California Constitution (art. XI, section 10) and more than 140 years of California Supreme Court precedent.  Also, Specific provisions applicable to cities are set forth in §20160-§20175.2 of the Public Contract Code.  Furthermore, Baldwin Park's own municipal code §34.26-34.39 states the requirements of bidding.  All these laws are in place to "eliminate favoritism, fraud and corruption; avoid misuse of public funds; and stimulate advantageous market place competition." Miller v. McKinnon, 20 Cal. 2d 83, 88 (1942). 

Therefore, the City of Baldwin Park cannot illegally extend a contract that costs the citizens of Baldwin Park over $3.3 million a year without going out to bid.  But it just did, with the approval of City Attorney Pannone and City Manager Vijay Singhal.  It not only did so, it did so for 10 years.  Therefore, over 10 years, Baldwin Park will pay out $33M in gross to Waste Management.  In exchange, Waste Management will give $1M back to the City.  So, in net, Baldwin park pays Waste Management $32M instead of $33M.

The boxers expressed their concern about the unethical journalistic practices of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune when it stated that "[a] string of residents took the microphone at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to praise the company[.]"  It's just not true.  It didn't happen.  And even after the reporter Rebecca Kimitch interviewed Mr. Cook, an attorney at law, for twenty minutes the day before the article was published, she failed to write about the illegality of Baldwin Park's contract extension.

At the Council Meeting, Mr. Cook aired his concerns that Baldwin Park was looking more and more like the City of Maywood and the City of Bell.  The Mayor responded to Mr. Cook's comment that, Mr. Cook was fabricating a story.  But as a politician, he has to take such fake attacks.  He said the City of Baldwin Park was nothing like Maywood or Bell.  

Really, the City of Baldwin Park and the City of Bell have much in common.  According to John Chiang's November 2010 Bell Audit Report, The City of Bell "could not provide any evidence suggesting the services were acquired through competitive bidding processes in accordance with the  . . . City Charter requirements, this practice raises questions about possible favoritism[.]"  The report states on the first page: "Essentially, the city’s former Chief Administrative Officer was able to select vendors without approval and without competitive bidding, which raises serious questions about possible conflicts of interest, favoritism, and other improprieties." 

It appears that the public officials and management team will do what they want, instead of following legalized procedures and process.  Thus, it's true what they say.  One man's trash is another man's treasure.  In this case though, Baldwin Park gets trashed and the public officials, one business, and the mayor gets the treasure.

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