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New Light Shed on Corruption Probe

Investigation: Complaints from neighboring cities led authorities to look into political appointments in Cudahy, Bell Gardens.

July 07, 2001|RICHARD MAROSI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Authorities investigating alleged political corruption in Cudahy acted in response to complaints from managers in nearby cities concerned that such practices would spread throughout the region if gone unchecked, according to city managers and a search warrant affidavit.

The search warrant was one of two affidavits unsealed Friday that shed light on investigations in Cudahy and nearby Bell Gardens. The managers in both cities, both former city council members, are under investigation for voting for measures that cleared the way for their appointments.

Managers from other southeast Los Angeles County cities approached prosecutors because they feared the moves in Bell Gardens and Cudahy would be copied elsewhere and undermine years of reforms statewide aimed at keeping administrations free of political influences.

"It would be a step back to old machine politics," said Jack Joseph, deputy executive director of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments.

"If the profession were changed from essentially a professional lifetime manager [position] to a political appointment, it changes the whole nature of the council-manager form of government," Joseph said Friday.

Bell Gardens City Manager Maria Chacon, charged on suspicion of violating conflict-of-interest laws, was not available for comment. Nor was Cudahy City Manager George Perez, who has not been charged with wrongdoing.

The search warrant affidavits had been under seal since April, when authorities raided the city halls of both cities as well as the homes of Perez and Chacon.

The documents detail the ascendancy of both officials based largely on the testimony of former council members and officials. They also show that investigators believed the city attorneys in both cities played significant roles in the appointments of Perez and Chacon.

Cudahy City Atty. David Olivas was the alleged "brains" behind the council meetings where Perez was appointed, according to the testimony of William Davis, the city's former community development director.

Bell Gardens City Atty. Arnoldo Beltran allegedly orchestrated a meeting between council members and Chacon on the appointment issue, according to the affidavit.

Neither Olivas nor Beltran were available for comment.

Neither attorney has been charged with wrongdoing.

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