Thursday, April 21, 2011

Municipal Corruption in Los Angeles County Claims Another Victim: Montebello

City of Montebello, come on down! You're the next blue-collar town in LA County to sink under the weight of a corruption scandal!

Well, you'll like it if you recently lived in Bell or Maywood.
Last week brought us a small news item that went largely unnoticed: the interim city manager of Montebello, a largely working-class, Latino city of 62,000 in the San Gabriel Valley, abruptly resigned in frustration at the city's unwillingness to address its budget crisis. In his resignation letter, Peter Cosentini suggested that the city council hire a manager "more in tune with your approach to municipal finance". Well, just as we were starting to wonder if all the dirtbag bureaucrats in the county were confined to small cities to the south, we're learning more about how Montebello's city council approaches municipal finance. According to this report in today's LA Times, state Controller John Chiang has launched an audit of the city's finances; apparently Montebello is very close to bankruptcy after years of (allegedly) falsifying its financial records. Chiang noted that the city is currently not compliant with state law, having failed to submit timely financial reports to Sacramento for the better part of 10 years.

For those paying attention, this is only the latest of Montebello's troubles, and hardly the most colorful. Since 2007, three council members have been recalled in two elections, and more recall votes are in the works. Last year, the inspector general of Housing and Urban Development found that the city had improperly drawn down $1.3 million in affordable-housing dollars, and is demanding the money back. Currently, the district attorney has two open corruption investigations in Montebello: one involving a 2009 allegation of election fraud, the other involving a 2010 bribery accusation against Councilwoman Rosie Vasquez. It's also not clear whether it was legal for the city to borrow from its own redevelopment agency to balance its budget.

Just another day in California government.


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