LYNWOOD — Two long-feuding elected officials have demanded investigations of each other by both county and state agencies, including the grand jury, the district attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission.
The latest quarrel between Mayor Paul Richards and Councilman Robert Henning is being fueled by two mysterious letters, which arrived recently at City Hall, that accuse the council and other elected officials of wrongdoing.
As a result of the first letter, which arrived April 10 and claimed that Henning and other city officials were guilty of misusing funds associated with the Miss Lynwood contest--Richards and two other council members have requested investigations by the district attorney and the grand jury.
A second letter, dated April 15, accuses Richards of a "crooked scheme to take over" Lynwood. After that letter was received, Henning asked the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate Richards' campaign finances.
Although Henning and Richards have sniped at each another for months, the letters have triggered another round of finger pointing by the two political opponents. But both sides claim that they do not know who wrote the letters, which were found in council members' message boxes at City Hall.
The first letter bore the name of Mary Beth Goldstein; the second that of Mary Beth Goldsmith. Inquiries by both city officials and The Times uncovered neither the letter writers or organizations they claimed to represent.
Richards said he is calling for investigations because, "This is just not Henning . . . but the entire council (that) is under attack by this letter. It also takes a swipe at the city clerk and the city treasurer."
Richards last week voted with Councilmen John Byork and E. L. Morris for the investigations. Henning and Councilwoman Evelyn Wells were opposed.
In the first letter, the author and the "Lynwood Citizens for Justice" imply that city money given to the Miss Lynwood Scholarship Pageant was "ripped off" by Henning and other elected officials on the pageant's board of directors. Henning, Wells, City Clerk Andrea Hooper and City Treasurer Mary Wright are all directors of the nonprofit pageant. All deny wrongdoing.
The letter also alleges that a Henning fund-raising event, which the letter writer implies was somehow connected to the pageant, netted $25,000. "What happened to the $25,000?" the letter writer asked.
The charges are "ridiculous and it is belittling to the council to ask for (an investigation)," said Henning, who is one of 11 members of the pageant board of directors.
The council gave the group $3,000 to help sponsor the March pageant, Henning said. Five winning contestants received scholarships in different increments, with the first-place winner receiving $1,000 and the fifth-place finisher getting $100, Henning said.
He said he held a campaign fund-raiser in December that netted less than $5,000. It was not related to the scholarship pageant, Henning said.
In his request to the Fair Political Practices Commission, Henning charges that Richards, who was elected to the council last November, did not disclose all of his campaign spendings nor fully reveal all of his contributors.
Henning charges that Richards failed to report a $600 full-page ad in The Lynwood Journal newspaper and the cost of potholders sent to the city's nearly 16,000 registered voters. He also questions the authenticity of the ONYX Society of Santa Ana, which Richards reported as the donor of a $3,500 campaign contribution.
"I was expecting something like this," Richards said. "They have been trying to find something. But I have no problems. I'm in compliance with the law."
He said the ONYX Society is a group of aerospace engineers who held a fund-raiser for him at a private home in Santa Ana. He said the fund-raiser was held at the home of Richard Calhoun, who Richards described as an engineer and entrepreneur. Calhoun could not be reached for comment.
Richards' campaign last year was history making for Lynwood in that the $30,000 he reported spending was more than any council candidate has ever spent in the city. He was not supported by any of the incumbent council members. But on many council votes since then, Richards has formed a majority with Byork and Morris, with Henning and Wells voting in the minority.
The April 15 letter directed against Richards says it is from Goldsmith and "Lynwood Citizens Against the Compton Mafia." The letter writer stated that "Paul Richards and the Lynwood Journal are part of a crooked scheme to take over the city of Lynwood."
The letter said that the Journal, a Compton-based weekly, receives $160,000 from the Compton Redevelopment Agency. Richards is identified in the letter as the director of the agency.