HUNTINGTON PARK — It was the most contentious City Council meeting since Luis Hernandez took office last April after a hard-fought campaign.
The words "liar" and "fool" punctuated the exchanges on Monday between Hernandez and the city's three longtime councilmen--Thomas E. Jackson, Jack W. Parks and William P. Cunningham.
The catalyst was a $337,000-a-year street-sweeping contract awarded by the council on a 4-1 vote to MAG Sweeping of Walnut Park.
Hernandez protested that MAG was a company formed just six months ago by an owner with little street-sweeping experience. Hernandez noted that the city usually requires five years' experience.
He also accused Jackson, Cunningham and Parks of favoritism in awarding the contract to the firm owned by Al Perez, who worked nine years for the city as a code enforcement officer and a community relations representative.
"We see the . . . foolish manipulation of contracts," Hernandez said.
Jackson fired back. He repeatedly called Hernandez a liar.
He and the other councilmen noted that MAG Sweeping submitted a bid that was more than $60,000 a year less than that of the city's current street sweeper, California Street Maintenance Co. of Gardena.
Jackson said he trusted MAG Sweeping to do a good job because Perez was an outstanding employee when he worked for Huntington Park. Perez, who oversaw street sweeping for Huntington Park, among other duties, resigned his position in 1988. He went to work for another city as a code enforcement officer, and was later employed by a local trash hauler, H.P. Disposal, as a salesman and community relations officer. Perez formed his own company last January.
MAG Sweeping will take over on Aug. 1, if the council approves a final contract as expected later this month.
"The decision tonight was by no means an easy decision, but I think the city will be cleaner," Jackson said after the meeting.
Throughout the meeting, Hernandez sparred verbally with the three longtime incumbents before an audience of about 40 people. Councilman Raul Perez, who also was elected last April, largely stayed out of the fray.
Just before the meeting ended, Parks took one final opportunity to strike out at Hernandez for violating state law by failing to file statements that disclose who contributed to his campaign.
"We are elected to make the laws for the city," Parks said. "We have one who is breaking the law."
Hernandez already has been fined $940 by City Clerk Marilyn Boyette, who is expected to levy other fines once the freshman councilman submits outstanding statements.
Additionally, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating Hernandez's campaign, FPPC spokeswoman Sandra Michioku said.
In addition to failing to submit the statements in a timely fashion, Hernandez reported that he accepted more than $1,000 in a fiscal year from a company.
State law prohibits contributions of more than $1,000 from an individual or company in a year.
Hernandez's first campaign disclosure statement, which was submitted 94 days late, said he received a $2,500 contribution from G/L Veneer, a Huntington Park firm. He also received $1,000 from Leslie Levin, the president of the firm, and another $1,000 from Levin's wife.
Hernandez said he would pay whatever fines were levied.
He called the apparent violations "bad administration on my part."
Levin did not return calls for comment.