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Hawthorne councilman indicted on conflict charges

July 27, 2007|Ari B. Bloomekatz | Times Staff Writer

Hawthorne City Councilman Ludwig "Louis" Velez was indicted this week on charges that he used his elected position to trade favors with a developer.

Velez was indicted on felony charges and has surrendered to authorities.

Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Velez was accused of a "conflict of interest" but would not comment further because the indictment was sealed.

"We are shocked and saddened by the indictment today," read a public statement released by Hawthorne City Manager Jag Pathirana. "This is a horrible day for council member Velez, his family and the community of Hawthorne."

The conflict-of-interest allegations stem from Velez's dealings with a local developer and contractor, officials said.

According to Pathirana's statement, Velez rented his home from a developer who later came before Hawthorne's City Hall to bid on projects.

Pathirana's statement said that Velez is a "dedicated public servant" and that "his rental terms [with the developer] were and are consistent with the current rental market value."

Velez met with legal counsel and the Fair Political Practices Commission before voting on the contracts given to the developer, according Pathirana's statement. Velez "was told that there were no legal obstacles to his participation in city deliberations concerning the developer's proposals," the statement said.

The Daily Breeze reported that officials raided Velez's home in April with their guns drawn and later carried out a file case, a satchel and a box marked "special issues."

Velez was elected to the Hawthorne City Council in 2003 after serving two years on the city's Civil Service Commission.

The council elected him mayor pro tem in January.

He was released Wednesday on his own recognizance and will be arraigned Aug. 7.

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