Montebello City Councilman William M. Molinari and Treasurer Thomas C. Wong lost their bids for reelection after a political action committee headed by a local developer attacked them with a barrage of mailers days before Tuesday's election.
Molinari's defeat is expected to clear the way for a more unified City Council that will spur more rapid development in this city of about 59,000 people.
Incumbent Art Payan easily won reelection to his third term, while Kathy Salazar, a registered nurse who owns a nursing service, won Molinari's seat. Phillip M. Ramos, a former city councilman, scored a landslide victory over Wong, who spent his campaign trying to convince voters he was not responsible for bad investments that cost the city $4.4 million in 1984.
In other Southeast municipal elections, city council incumbents dominated the results--two out of three won in Bell Gardens, another won in Norwalk and another in Lynwood. While voters in Bellflower firmly refused to raise transient occupancy and business licenses taxes, those in La Mirada did the opposite, overwhelmingly approving increases in both types of taxes.
But the political landscape that seemed to change most by Tuesday's results was in Montebello.
Molinari, a council member since 1982, said he was targeted for defeat because he voted against a proposal to expand a restaurant and discotheque on the north end of the city. The $2.5-million expansion of the Quiet Cannon was approved in August by a split council over the objections of residents, who said it would bring more noise and rowdy youth to their neighborhood. Payan voted for the measure.
Wong, who publicly opposed the expansion, also was vehemently attacked in mailers from Concerned Citizens for Honesty in Government. The PAC is headed by Montebello developer Michael Minasian, who wants to build a hotel next to the Quiet Cannon.
The group's mailers accused Molinari of excessively spending taxpayer money on trips, of failing to properly report campaign expenses, and other improprieties Molinari says are false. Wong was accused of costing the city $4.4 million in bad investments. Wong maintains the City Council is responsible for the loss because it decided to sell too quickly when the value of its securities plummeted. Wong was elected in 1982.
Minasian also requested that the district attorney's office investigate Molinari's campaign, but no decision has been made, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven A. Sowders said Wednesday.
"They pulled out all the stops," said Molinari, who added he would not run for public office again. "I think (any investigation) will bear out that the accusations were untrue."
Concerned Citizens, which was formed to oppose Molinari and Wong, reported receiving just $500 in contributions as of Oct. 17. However, the cost of its numerous mailers has not been reported.
Molinari noted that Minasian has been involved in negotiations with Montebello and the Quiet Cannon Montebello Inc. to build a hotel next to the restaurant and discotheque. Molinari opposed the proposed hotel. Minasian denied that he was promoting his own business interests when he opposed Molinari.
Wong could not be reached for comment after the election.
The addition of Salazar is expected to have a unifying effect on a council that often was split, with Payan and Arnold M. Glasman and Bill Nighswonger on one side, and Molinari and Edward C. Pizzorno on the other. For example, Salazar said she has generally supported the Quiet Cannon expansion.
"There's been so much discord on the council," said Salazar, 49. "we have to unify ourselves and concentrate on the business of the city."
Payan echoed Salazar's call for unity, and both said the council must concentrate on attracting more business to Montebello to increase city revenue.
Payan and Salazar said they were not contributors to the Concerned Citizens PAC, and acknowledged the last-minute blitz was an major factor in the election. Also important were endorsements of Payan, Salazar and Ramos by Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Matthew Martinez (D-Los Angeles).
Planner Runs 4th
Art Rangel, a city planner, finished fourth in the race for the two City Council seats.
Ramos said he would work to restore confidence in the office of treasurer, confidence that ebbed with the value of the city's securities in 1984.
"The majority of the City Council just lost confidence in the elected treasurer," said Ramos, 63, a division president for a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of aviation and electronics products. "No matter what suggestions he made, they were skeptical. My goal is to erase that image."
Nick Valdez Jr., a plumbing contractor, finish third in the race for treasurer.
City Clerk Andrew T. Lambo, 67, easily won reelection to his third term.
With three Bell Gardens City Council seats on the ballot, the shift in power that many of the 13 candidates hoped for did not materialize.