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Scandal-plagued Cudahy facing more upheaval

July 22, 2013|By Ruben Vives
  • Community activists protest at a 2012 Cudahy City Council meeting.
Community activists protest at a 2012 Cudahy City Council meeting. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Just months after three former Cudahy officials were convicted of extortion and bribery, the Southeast L.A. County town is facing more upheaval.

A longtime councilman has stepped down and a second may not return after having a stroke, according to city officials and sources.

Frank Gurule, who had served on the council for 14 years, submitted his resignation Friday, citing “familial commitments and responsibilities” as a reason for his departure.

“I have enjoyed my tenure on the city council and wish all of you the best in every endeavor,” Gurule wrote.

Juan Romo, another political veteran, recently had a stroke and it remains unclear whether he will return to the council, according to sources familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak about the councilman’s health.

Gurule’s exit will likely be welcomed by residents who feel he and the previous council are responsible for the city’s troubles.

“I don’t think there’s anything positive he contributed to,” said Luis Garcia, a resident and longtime critic of the previous council.  "Whether he didn’t do anything wrong or pretended he had no knowledge of what was happening, he will always be part of that sad history of Cudahy."

Gurule was part of the old political regime that had long dominated the city. Romo and former councilmen David Silva and Osvaldo Conde were also members of that faction.

Earlier this year, Silva and Conde were sentenced to prison for a bribery and extortion scheme. A third official, Angel Perales, former head of code enforcement, was sentenced to five years of probation.

The three officials were convicted of taking $17,000 in bribes from a marijuana dispensary owner who was working as an FBI informant.

In their plea agreements, the three portrayed Cudahy as a town where corruption was rampant, elections were rigged and where drugs were used at City Hall.

Court documents made repeated references to a top official identified as “G.P.” as orchestrating much of the alleged wrongdoing. The federal court documents showed that "G.P." was allegedly getting high on pain pills that he shared with others at City Hall.

"G.P." and Perales also allegedly tampered with absentee ballots and allegedly ordered Perales to enlist non-residents to register and vote in the city, according to court documents.

Two law enforcement sources have told the Los Angeles Times that the initials stood for George Perez, the town's former city manager. Perez has denied any wrongdoing.  

Gurule and Conde were part of the council that voted on a key resolution that helped Perez, a janitor and councilman, qualify for the city manager position in 2000. A few months later, the council appointed Perez to the post. He did not have a college education or management experience.

The council’s actions sparked a two-year investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office into possible violation of conflict-of-interest laws. The investigation was later dropped for lack of evidence.

Perez's reign as city manager ended two years ago when the council fired him without explanation. 

Last June, just weeks before the FBI raid, county prosecutors launched an investigation after The Times reported that he may have illegally given himself cost-of-living raises meant for rank-and-file employees. 

In March, residents elected new leaders who promised transparency and better government practices.

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ruben.vives@latimes.com

Times staff writer Jeff Gottlieb contributed to this report.

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