Friday, March 28, 2014

Arsonist On Parkwood Place

A Hispanic male, shaved head, 40, shirtless, tattooed up, with a dirty Sanchez mustache knocked on my window at 11pm.  I was in my pajamas, on the phone, when I thought: What the hell is happening?

He said, "Help me!  Help me!"  He looked terrified, like an animal was hunting after him.

I said, "No.  You gotta leave.  I'm calling the police."

"No.  No.  Don't do that.  Please.  I've been burned badly."

I dial 911 on my cellphone.  I walk to the living room, where my mother was watching television.  I wanted to make sure he didn't come through the backdoor.

He ran to the backyard wall.  He climbed the wall.  And he fled South.

My mom was screaming, "Why are you calling 911?"

And in five minutes, a Baldwin Park Police Officer was at my door. 

He said, "There's a fire at the end of your block."

I walked outside to see three firetrucks, about 15 firefighters, and three police officers.  One of the officers greeted me and said, "Mr. Cook, I just saw you a few hours ago."  I was at a protest earlier that day, making sure that the peace would be kept with a group of lawyers.

I said, "I guess you just can't get enough of me."

The abandoned house was charred.  It had a large burnt hole right through the roof.

I had a suspicion that my neighbors were involved.  The 17 year old has stopped going to school.  He was hanging out in the abandoned house everyday, doing drugs, smoking, and drinking.  In fact, I think I've seen that arsonist before hanging out with those neighbors.

My mom said, "Maybe we should get a dog."  I was happy to hear this.  I want a rottweiler, which I would train to be the most vicious creature to others and kind to my family and friends.  Of course, she'd have to take care of it.

Before sleep, in bed, I remember thinking, Why does this stuff always happen to me?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Boxers Sue City of Palm Springs

Yesterday, at 7pm, Julian Casas, Baldwin Park head boxing coach, handed a manila envelope to James Thompson, Palm Spring's City Clerk.  During the public comments period, Paul Cook, attorney at law, stood at the podium.  Thompson opened the envelope.  He saw it was a lawsuit.  He tossed it to the side.

Cook stated at Public Comments, "Palm Springs is an unethical city that violates California Constitutional rights.  Now, they have to pay."

The Baldwin Park boxers sued Palm Springs because it wouldn't release records on its former Finance Director, Craig Graves.  Craig Graves has been caught cooking the books and engaging in creative accounting at least twice, while he's been working in Baldwin Park.  Read about it here: Craig Graves Cooks the Books

He left Palm Springs for unknown reasons.  The boxers want to know, and in fact, they have the right to know under the California Constitution.

The City Manager was squirming all night in his seat, knowing that Cook came to address the City Council for its Public Records Act violation.

Originally, the City of Palm Springs wouldn't release records.  Cook threatened to sue.  James Thompson agreed to release the records.  Then he lied.  Then he went back on his agreement.  Then he sent a letter through his City Attorney that he wouldn't release them.  

Cook stated, "They have to release the resumes at the very least.  They didn't even do that.  So, they've already lost.  You don't have very bright people running Palm Springs."

He added, "When government agencies behave this way, they violate our democratic rights.  People begin losing faith in the integrity of local government."

To be sure, the public officials felt offended to be served at their own Council Meeting.  In turn, the boxers felt offended that the City of Palm Springs failed to comply with our California Constitutional Rights.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Latino Mechanic Accuses the City of Los Angeles For Persecuting Him Because He Won't Sell His Property

[Well, my client's case (and the Boxing Lawyer) made it on the front pageof City on La Opinion today.  It made it as the internet cover story for some time. 

You read it here first.  Local governments are running out of money.  Under pressure to fill their coffers, and some times even the pockets of public officials and administrators, cities are taking property from the common citizen.  For several years, I worked on how the City of Los Angeles and several other cities took personal property from Latino immigrants: mainly their cars.  Now, it looks like the City of Los Angeles wants real property.  Read more.]

"Owning a mechanic garage has always been my American Dream, but the City of Los Angeles has turned my dream into a nightmare," said Mr. Gonzalez.

Francisco Gonzalez said that the city of Los Angeles is hounding him to sell his land, which it needs for a construction project in Lincoln Heights.

Photo: Ciro Cesar
By: IsaĆ­as Alvarado
Translated by: Paul Cook 
Published: Mar. 10, 2014

A mechanic in Lincoln Heights is certain that the City of Los Angeles has harassed him for seven years because he does not want to sell the City his property, which interferes with a road project.
It involves an outdated scheme, which erected a bridge on Soto Street, in order to improve traffic flow for the communities of El Sereno, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights.  Now, in its place, at the intersection of Soto St. and Mission Road, the City wants to put in traffic lights and a garden.  The work's been already undertaken, despite the fact that the city has not purchased all the property it needs, such as the mechanic garage of Francisco Gonzalez, where it plans to replace his shop with an access street.  At first, the City wanted only 9% of the lot, but it is now interested in the whole plot.

"Since we started the business [in 2007], we've been inspected certain times of the year, and the detectives, have made at least 25 inspections," says Gonzalez, who alleges that during this time, the city has not visited other workshops in the area.

The mechanic stated that during every Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) search by detectives, they look for stolen car parts or any technicality, something that he considers to be a part of the plot to persecute him. "Because while I'm here, the City is setback, which costs them lots of money," he stated.

His lawyer, Paul Cook, stated that these searches were illegal because they were conducted without search warrants. "The City is doing all this because they want his property; it is ridiculous," said the lawyer.

Gonzales served a demand against the City Hall to prevent it from acquiring his place by state power or below the market value.  Although he's been offered $200,000, he claims that similar types of businesses in the area are worth at least one million dollars.

The city attorney declined to comment until the issue was resolved.

According to the Department of Public Works, who oversees the project, the costs are estimated to be more than $13 million to demolish the Soto Street Bridge, which was built in 1936, but that it is necessary to enhance public safety and expedite traffic and beautify the area.

This week, a few steps away from the workshop of Gonzalez, a team of builders were initiating the demolition of the overpass.  "Another improvement for your convenience and safety," the sign indicated.

Gonzalez said that two weeks ago, an engineer entered his property to paint an "X" in his parking lot, and explained to him that where the X was, a bench seat was going to be built.  "He told me that I needed to get all things out of the area, and that they were going to remove my fence, which cost me $20,000," he said.

"Owning a mechanic garage has always been my American Dream, but the City of Los Angeles has turned my dream into a nightmare," said Mr. Gonzalez.

[The original article can be read in Spanish here: ].

Saturday, March 8, 2014

From The Desk Of Paul Cook

When I first started writing this blog, it had nothing to do with Baldwin Park, corruption, and making a point to tell and expose the truth.

A long, long time ago, in a kingdom by the sea, which you know as New Zealand, I wrote about my adventures of taking on sea, sky, and land.  One of my favorite memories was when my brother and I found a treasure map and followed it to the edge of the world.  There, we were in a land forgotten by the winds.  We saw the wind whip the waters, churning the ocean into a series of roaring waves.  We saw the cliff ridges that looked like a row of dragon's teeth stretch to the South far as eye could see.  We saw much, much more.

When I returned back to Los Angeles, I didn't want to leave my New Zealand friends behind.  So, I wrote what it was like to be a law student in one of the best law schools in the world, which also happened to be in my hometown - LA.

So, when a number of you and my mentors told me that my best writing had to do with travel and my own personal stories, I wanted to share about what's going on in my personal life.

Almost every weekday morning, I have a meeting for an hour and a half with my friends, guests, and advisers.  We've had special guests - all who are small business owners.  Now - at first - I thought this might seem like a lot of time to devote to a meeting.  But the outcome has been really productive.  We share about our business problems, me as well.  I share about the strategy of my cases.  And all of us give our input on helping out these business owners.  It's been so good that all of our guests have wanted to come back.  It's been so good, I realize that the upfront planning meetings help the rest of my projects sail a lot smoother.

It's so easy, as a business owner, to head down the wrong path, put a lot of time into executing the wrong stuff, feel like you're working, only to realize too late you wasted time and money and might go under.  I had a friend tell me he almost went out of business a few months ago.  That's when I was so grateful that I have good people there in my corner to help me see the right road to walk down.  And best of all, there they are, walking with me on it.

I also went to an oped seminar in Beverly Hills - not too long ago.  It was really fantastic.  Everyone was so talented there.  There was a Princeton Professor who had published over 100 papers on statistics and mathematics.  We had an award winning journalist; a doctor from John Hopkins, who was an expert on changing diet to avoid heart disease; and many, many more.  I knew I was close to having my opinion published by a major newspaper, but I needed to know the business trade secrets.  And they certainly provided them.

It's my goal to get an oped published soon.  I have something to say and have a conversation to start in America.  It's not only for me, but I'm pushing my team to get their opeds published too.  Everyone is an expert in something.  Everyone has something to say.  And currently, the American conversation is controlled by a group of privileged white males.  In fact, 80% is published from this group.  Another fact, 90% of this group is the only one who submits.

Now, not that there's anything wrong with this group, but I'd like to think that America and the problems in this country are a little more diverse than that.  We only need to look at Baldwin Park to see this.

Anyways, I haven't got published yet.  But it's exciting I'm getting personal feedback from the biggest newspapers in the world.  Wow!  In fact, I was in shock when one of the top newspapers in the world wrote to me to tell me they liked my writing and to submit another time.  I really couldn't believe it!  I thought - I'm only 31 and people like my stuff already?

Anyways, I wanted to end by saying I still get discouraged too.  Like all of us, I have my setbacks and problems .  It usually results from working with people.  But, it's like the advice my mom gave me when I was a kid: "You just keep going, Paul."  And on that note, I'm still running my seven miles (11.2 km) every other day to put her advice into practice.

Every dusk, my mother catches the chickens.  She needs to put them into their cage to protect them from the night predators.  When I'm home, she holds them close to her breast and asks me to pet them.  They've learned to know who we are.

From the desk of Paul Cook,


Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Fate of the Greedy Parks and Recs Director

 (Manuel Carrillo Jr. on the left.)

Dear Readers,

I wanted to update you on what's happened to Manny Carrillo, the Parks and Recs Director.  A number of you wrote to the Council Members.  I found it disheartening that Council Member Pacheco stated to many of you that Julian refused a raise.  He defended his pet Carrillo.  And he said that Julian made up a lot of the facts that we spoke of.

Council Member Pacheco is correct that we were incorrect about one fact.  We stated that Carrillo got a $15,000 a year raise and Julian - the boxing coach got a 40 cent raise after 14 years.

Yes, we were wrong.  In fact, Carrillo got a ONE TIME $40,000 raise in one year.  Julian got a 40 cent raise after 14 years. But SHHHH - the Council Members don't want you to know.

Here, take a look: at his paycheck at the end of the year of 2009.  It ends with $126, 891.52

Then at the end of the year of 2010, he made: $167,089.70.

See, $167,089.70 - $126,891.52 =  $40,198.

But when you look at what they claim to pay Manny Carrillo on the Baldwin Park website, it's all a lie, and more lies.

On the website, it states that they only pay $140,000.  LIES!  The statement says, "The E-Team does not receive deferred compensation, housing allowance, bonuses or additional stipends or compensation. E-Team contracts do not include any automatic raises or increases either."

His current pay is over $193,000.  That's a $6,500 raise every year for the last four years.  What does the website mean that there's no automatic raise?!  Just because it's not in the salary pay.  It would be better if it was in the salary pay instead of his perks because he's not even paying taxes on the perks!

Did you notice that administrative leave?  This guy gets 7 weeks of leave a year!  And two company cars.  And the gas to fill up. He doesn't even work 12  months a year.  He works only 10!  Council Member Pacheco says he has a college degree.  I've never seen it in Carrillo's office.

Lies.  Lies.  And more lies.

Remember, they gave our boxing coach ONE 40 cent raise after 14 years.  Council Member Pacheco defended Carrillo's decision. 

There's a reason why.  And I'll tell you guys soon.  Carrillo revealed all.

Manny Carrillo is on stress leave after the boxers publicly stoned him with our testimony.  How could the City of Baldwin Park justify paying this guy so much, if he can't handle hearing the truth from the kids?

The leak report, however, tells me that Carrillo's been asked to look for another job.  Council Member Pacheco wants to give his job to Maria Moreno.  She's currently Manny's second in charge and another underperformer without a college degree.

In Baldwin Park, we tell our boxing kids, if you want to get a high paying job with the city, don't get a college degree, learn to be lazy, and learn to not perform.

Baldwin Park is the shame of the San Gabriel Valley.

Pacheco hates receiving emails on this subject.  So, please send him more:

You can also email Carrillo about what you think about how he is bleeding our city dry and how he treats employees.

Join the fight.  Share the story.  End the corruption in Baldwin Park.


From the desk of the boxing lawyer,

Paul Cook

Saturday, March 1, 2014

On Courage - Letter To My Boxers

Dear Christian and Lyle (both of you are back),

This letter is long overdue.  I'm sitting right now at Denny's at 12:39 am on Friday night because this letter is important to write.

About ten days ago, you and I and the rest of boxers went to a City Council Meeting.  In fact, there were 21 of us.  18 of us were made up of high school students.

I'm proud of all of you.  I know it must be tough to speak in public - at such an official meeting.  Many of the boxers told me it was nerve-racking to speak in front of so many old, white guys in suits.

But remember, as Winston Churchill said, "Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities . . . because it is the quality which guarantees all others."

Well you did it.  I did it.  And what we had to say was important.

My favorite part about that night was giving you the pep speech.  In it, I asked you, "How many of you thought this week that you could make a difference?"

No one answered.

So, I responded, "I'm here to tell you - you can.  We have.  We got our boxing hours back.  We've made a change once.  We can do it now.  We'll do it again.

"I know that someone here this week was told they were stupid.  They were useless.  I'm here to tell you - that's not true.  You are somebody.

"I don't just say that.  We've been here before.  We spoke.  We were heard.  We made a difference."

And anyone who has been following this blog - know that's true.  The boxers have earned their space and place in the City and in the hearts of the people.

All 21 of us spoke.  I think the most powerful message that was given was by Michael.  He said, "I don't even know why we're here.  We're here in front of the Council Members to ask that our head boxing coach get paid more than 40 cents for being here for 14 years."

As usual, I ended our public stoning of the Parks and Recreation Director.  I had a lot of questions about the competency of this guy.

Why would anyone ask the directors of an organization to approve a raise of a part-time employee?  Come on?  Is he really that stupid?

I guess he is because he put it on the agenda.  A director that gets paid over $200,000 a year had to ask permission from the board of directors if he could give a part-time employee a few dollars more an hour.  Can you believe it?

(Really, what he was trying to do was not give Julian his raise.  And he wanted the Council Members to say no so he could wash his hands clean of the decision.  Then tell us, it's not my fault.  It's the Council.  See what kind of person he is?)

Does that mean all 145 part time employees in Baldwin Park have to ask the City Council for raise?  Does it mean all the employees have to do this?

Even then, I heard Council Member Pacheco didn't want to give Julian a raise.  No doubt, the whisperings of the Director in his ear.

I find it hard to believe that over the 14 years the director has worked for the City of Baldwin Park and that during that period, the city paid him out over one million dollars.  Can you believe it? 

The whole thing is absurd and shows you what type of people run Baldwin Park.  The incompetent and the greedy.

But, that is beside the point.  You and I - we are the light.  We are the salt.  We are the truth.  And although individually, we have our brokenness and our weaknesses and our inadequacies, together as we spoke, united in a cause that went beyond us, we shone brighter than the stars of heaven.

Afterwards, we took you out to the best pizza place in Baldwin Park.  A small business owner actually paid for your meals, although Julian and I paid for your drinks.

You all looked so happy together.  You all looked so proud of yourselves.  You all had the right to be.

We're not finished yet.  The war against corruption wages on.  The truth and our love for our boxing gym will prevail against the present darkness.

Join the fight.  Share the story.  

Yours truly,

Paul "the boxing lawyer" Cook

PS: Your efforts work.  Rumor is that the Director had a mental breakdown.  Poor thing had to go on stress leave.  For $200,000 a year, you would think that he could handle some stress.

And as one person told me, "What?!  He's stressed for not being able to give an employee a raise."

I said, "I guess so."