SAN GABRIEL — It didn't take long for the new slow-growth majority on the City Council to stir things up.
Within half an hour of being sworn in Tuesday night, the three newly elected councilmen had announced the resignation of the city attorney, hired an interim replacement and introduced a consultant who will help them with the transition. They also want the city to hire the consultant to investigate the Police Department.
Their actions apparently angered a large number of supporters, who had jammed the council chambers to celebrate a new era of "open and responsive government," as new Mayor John Tapp put it.
"It didn't look kosher to me," said Mary Cammarano, a charter member of the citizens group that led the successful campaign to oust three incumbents and create a new majority on the council, chiding the new councilmen for their rapid-fire series of actions.
She and others, speaking during the public forum part of the council meeting, questioned whether the three new members had violated the Brown Act, which prohibits a majority of a City Council from holding closed or private meetings.
"It's damned apparent that you've been meeting and deciding what you were going to do," said Don Brittingham, another citizen dissenter.
Both the interim city attorney and the consultant have ties to Irwindale.
The consultant, Xavier Hermosillo, described by Tapp as part of the "transition team," is a press representative for Irwindale and one of the principal negotiators in the effort to lure the Los Angeles Raiders to that city. The interim city attorney, R. Zaiden Corrado of Fullerton, represents Charles Martin, Irwindale's city manager and city attorney, who agreed last December to pay $400,000 in fines to avoid criminal prosecution on charges of conflicts of interest in business dealings in Irwindale.
Tapp and fellow Councilmen John Blaszcak and James Castaneda, working in what appeared to Cammarano as a "very, very well- orchestrated" fashion, quickly replaced Mayor Janis Cohen with Tapp on a 3-2 vote. Holdover council members Cohen and Sabino Cici voted against him.
Then, after announcing the resignation of controversial City Atty. Graham A. Ritchie, Tapp introduced Corrado and Hermosillo, saying the consultant will help the council during the "transition period, going from an old administration to a new administration."
Corrado, who was installed on another 3-2 vote, assured the audience that he had no interest in becoming the permanent city attorney. "All I am is part of a transitional team," he said, adding that his services would be "pro bono," or without fee, until a contract could be negotiated with the city.
Corrado, a former Los Angeles County assistant district attorney, said the new councilmen had not violated the Brown Act in meeting privately before they were sworn in. "It doesn't apply until they're council members," he said. "From here on, there would be a violation."
Hermosillo, president of a consulting firm in West Covina, said he would conduct management and fiscal audits of all city operations and lead an investigation of police services. The Police Department is in the midst of a debate between rank-and-file officers and Police Chief Don S. Tutich over whether the department is run effectively.
"At 8 o'clock tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, investigators from our firm will arrive at the San Gabriel Police Department to conduct an internal investigation," Hermosillo said.
Asked after the meeting what his mandate was from the council, Hermosillo said he was working "on the team concept." But the council did not vote on accepting his services, and Tapp appeared to withdraw his suggestion that Hermosillo would be the new council's official investigator. "He'll have to negotiate with the city just like any other consultant," Tapp said after the meeting.
By late Wednesday morning, neither Hermosillo nor his investigators had arrived at the Police Department.
Both Cohen and Cici objected to Corrado and Hermosillo, neither of whom had been introduced to them before the meeting. "You're asking us to vote on a gentleman (Corrado) whom we know nothing about," said Cohen, who also characterized the recent election as "the most opinionated, ill-mannered and vitriolic campaign ever."
Cici said after the meeting that hiring Hermosillo would be "totally against the law" because a consulting contract has not been advertised for bids. He said that if Hermosillo is hired, he would take the matter to the Los Angeles County district attorney.
Cici also expressed skepticism about Corrado's "interim" and "pro bono" arrangement with the city. He noted that the attorney sought meet with civic leaders for long-range planning and talked about negotiating a contract with the city. "Attorneys don't come free," Cici said.