Friday, April 13, 2007

As if on cue, the LA WEEKLY and the LA TIMES published stories of local political corruption right after the issue was raised here in connection with gang cops and disclosing their personal finances. The Weekly story focuses on Bell Gardens Councilman Mario Beltran, his connection to the 740 Club's owner Ralph Verdugo and La Puente City Councilman John Solis. According to the accompanying piece in the Weekly, Beltran is a protege of State Senators Gil Cedillo and Ron Calderon.

In the Times piece, Lynwood Mayor Louis Byrd and Councilman Fernando Pedroza were charged by LA DA Dave Demerjian with misappropriating city funds by taking personal trips on Lynwood's dime. Pedroza apparently even charged lap dances in Guadalajara to the city. A year ago, Paul Richards was sentenced to 16 years in the Feds on charges of public corruption. Former Lynwood council members Armando Rea, Arturo Reyes and Ricardo Sanchez are also named in Demerjian's filing.

The Weekly story was written by the same Jeffrey Anderson who wrote the pieces on corruption in Cudahy and the Marroquin/No Guns scandal.

There's obviously a pattern of illegal behavior and corruption in these little cities. It looks like they're being run like Medieval fiefdoms with the guys in the castle raking in the booty and the Dukes in Sacramento backing their play. While it appears that the legal system is working to put these bandits in suits out of business, the big question is, "Where's the public outrage and the big media coverage?" The Weekly's coverage, while excellent, isn't exactly big media. Where's the call for Federal supervision of these towns? Maybe we need another Christopher Commision to ride herd on these people complete with compliance certification from Kroll just to make sure the lap dances aren't paid for with public money.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gang cops are apparently showing no inclination to have their personal financial information open to public scrutiny. On the other side of the issue, the opposition also shows no indication that they'll abandon efforts to require that gang cops reveal their financial records. A number of veteran gang cops have already asked for and gotten reassignment and the rest are ready to do the same if they're ordered to reveal their records.

This looks like a classic standoff with neither side willing to compromise. This also appears to be a case of double, triple and quadruple standards. The rationale for revealing a gang cop's records is the suspicion that they may be more likely than the average patrol officer to be corrupted by access to dope and large quantities of cash in the course of their daily work. As we've said before, that rationale of potential corruption could apply to thousands of civil servants, elected officials, recipients of public funds and virtually any private entity that does business with local, state or the Federal government.

Why focus on gang cops for this selective scrutiny? The simple answer is Rafael Perez. While on the face it it appears to make sense, you can also point to dozens of cases of corruption and nefarious backscratching much further up the food chain. Just to review, there's the DWP and cozy deals with PR firms and massive overtime fraud, elected officials hiring their girlfriends who have no campaign experience as campaign advisors, others exchanging guns for dope with known street gangsters, others getting hit with huge fines for illegal campaign financing, flying around the country on private planes owned by companies doing business with the city, others buying cocaine and using it in their own offices, others looking the other way when pet intervention programs are infiltrated by an organized criminal enterprise -- need we go on?

If you aren't going to trust cops because they "might" get corrupted conducting their business, then we shouldn't trust anybody who might be exposed to the possibility of corruption. Whether they do it with a gun screwed into a drug dealer's ear or by cutting a purchase order for a new construction project, using the yardstick for the pontential of corruption is a huge club that could be swung at a lot more people than gang cops.