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Officials Tell of Threats From Bingo Applicants

January 19, 1989|LEE HARRIS and JAMES M. GOMEZ | Times Staff Writers

City officials in Cudahy and Hawaiian Gardens are complaining that a group of bingo applicants has used various pressure tactics--including heated confrontations and threats of legal action--to press its effort to open a bingo parlor.

In interviews in the past week, officials in both cities have described several incidents in which they claim they have been unduly pressured to issue bingo permits to Guide Dogs of the Desert Inc., a Palm Springs-based guide dog training center.

Some Report Threats, Abuse

Some officials have reported threatening phone calls, while others have said they have been subjected to verbal abuse.

"I'm used to people being aggressive. We deal with aggressive people all the time," Cudahy City Manager Gerald Caton said in an interview Friday after he and Assistant City Manager Jack Joseph cut short a meeting with Guide Dogs representatives. "But this was intimidation."

Caton said he was told that he would lose his job if he did not grant a bingo permit to the nonprofit organization. He said the threat came from longtime bingo promoter Frank Rose, who was hired by Guide Dogs as a consultant.

"I was told (by Rose), 'You're finished. You'll be terminated in three days. You'll be lucky if you get a job as a dishwasher,' " Caton said. Rose said that he had not threatened Caton.

Hawaiian Gardens officials said Guide Dogs representatives have telephoned council members at home and threatened to sue them individually if they did not approve a bingo license for the organization.

Guide Dogs is attempting to open a large bingo parlor in Southeast Los Angeles County to help raise money to expand the desert guide dog school. The school needs $1 million to fund its proposed expansion plan on a hillside north of Palm Springs, Guide Dogs officials said.

Guide Dogs' application to run a bingo parlor in Hawaiian Gardens was rejected in December when officials there placed an indefinite freeze on new bingo games. Three weeks later, Guide Dogs officials withdrew a bingo application in Cudahy after city officials objected to the proposed site for the game--a city-owned industrial building that houses the Cudahy Social Service Agency.

Guide Dogs officials deny that they have used intimidation and threats in an effort to force city officials to approve their bingo applications.

"Nobody has been intimidating anyone," Guide Dogs negotiator Edward Struthers said in a telephone interview. Guide Dogs officials, Struthers said, have been working hard to find a suitable fund-raising program and are growing increasingly frustrated with city politics.

"We're kind of caught in the middle," Struthers said, adding that he has faith in the integrity of his co-negotiators and that he does not believe the charges leveled against Rose or any other member of the group.

Struthers said the group has been negotiating in good faith with city officials and has completed all the necessary paper work. But, he contends, city officials have unfairly rejected attempts to open a bingo parlor.

Cudahy City Manager Caton said last Friday that Rose and Peter Figueroa, the organization's secretary-treasurer, came to his office and demanded that they be issued a license. When they were told that a city investigation on the application had not been completed, Caton said, Rose flew into a rage, shouted obscenities and made threats.

Rose apparently was angered because Jack Joseph, the assistant city manager, had questioned Guide Dogs Executive Director Christopher Corr about the application in a telephone conversation, Caton said.

Rose pointed his finger at Joseph and said: "Don't ever call a friend of mine again. You'll be in big trouble if you do," according to Caton. As he was leaving, Rose also challenged Joseph to "step outside," Caton added.

Joseph, who refused to go outside, said later, "They were acting like thugs."

Rose, in a telephone interview Monday, denied that he had threatened or shouted obscenities at either Caton or Joseph during the meeting. "There was no screaming on my part," Rose said.

He said that he had met with the city administrators under orders from Struthers, who told him that a bingo license was ready to be issued. Struthers, however, later said that Rose had visited Cudahy City Hall to work out details in acquiring a bingo permit.

"They (Caton and Joseph) did all the yelling," Rose said. Cudahy officials denied that they made any promise to issue a bingo permit.

Caton admitted that he yelled at Rose and Figueroa to leave his office, but only after Rose began shouting obscenities, he said. After the argument erupted, Joseph said he threatened to call the police if Rose and Figueroa did not leave.

Figueroa did not return phone calls to his Santa Ana office.

Trains 24 Dogs Yearly

The 14-year-old guide dog school trains 24 guide dogs a year and donates them to blind people. The center would donate an unspecified portion of its bingo profits to local charities, said Corr, the organization's executive director.

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