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Questions remain over Downey and Norwalk newspaper deal

Email describes secret meeting held at Outback Steakhouse between Kelley, Mendez, Egan, Norwalk Chamber Executive Director Vivian Hansen, President Joe Derthick, Board Member Rob Cazares, and Downey publisher.

By Brian Hews

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show a concerted and covert effort by Norwalk personnel, Norwalk Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vivian Hansen and the publisher of the Downey Patriot, Jennifer De-Kay Givens to bring another newspaper into Norwalk so that new newspaper could secure the city’s legal advertising. Documents show Ms. Givens initiating contact with then Mayor Mike Mendez’ secretary June 29, 2011. This continued monthly until a Dec 2011 meeting. In late October 2011, NCN requested that the city begin publishing their legal notices with the paper since the NCN was adjudicated for the county. Following the request, on Nov 4, 2011 a memo from City Manager Mike Egan to Mayor Mike Mendez and all council-members, Egan informed them ìwe do not have an adjudicated paper in the cityî. So at that point all city council members and the Mayor knew there was no adjudicated paper in the city and that NCN had requested legal advertising from the city. On Dec. 9, 2011, Hansen sent an email to Mayor Cheri Kelley, Councilman Mike Mendez, President of the Norwalk Chamber Joe Derthick, Board Member and Norwalk Outback Steakhouse Manager Rob Cazares. Hansen reminded everyone of their noon meeting with Ms. Givens at Outback to discuss the new newspaper. She told Kelley to ìlet Mike know because we definitely want him in on the discussion.î Cazares had to open the Outback as a special favor because Outback is not open for lunch for any day of the week. In line with the special meeting, on Jan, 2012 the NCN received a letter from Hansen stating the Chamber will no longer publish the newsletter with NCN and that they were giving it to Ms. Givens. On March 8, 2012 Hansen sent an email to Egan stating ìwe signed the agreement with Ms. Givens to sell the Norwalk Chamber Masthead (name of the paper)Öshe is moving forward with publishing the ìnewî paper starting next weekî. Coincidentally, Egan was the featured in the inaugural edition with a story top right column one, including a picture. Ms. Givens then filed a ìNotice to Publish Legal Advertisingî with the L.A. Superior Court for the city under Government Code Section 6000. Under that code there are several requirements to attain legal status in Norwalk: publish the paper in the city of Norwalk for over a year, possess a paying subscriber list of at least 2,000, and have an office in the city. The paper also had to be reporting on Norwalk (at least 25%) for over three years. The notice is signed under penalty of perjury. Questions about this deal need to be answered. Why did Kelley, Mendez, and others meet with Ms. Givens to discuss bringing in another newspaper to the city? (Sources tell us that Kelley did pull the same scheme with Jay Johnson and the Norwalk Tribune.) Why did Hansen allow the new paper to use Chamber offices? (This could be a violation of the Chamber’s non-profit charter.) Kelley, Mendez, and Egan knew the legal adjudication was open in Norwalk, why did they not tell the NCN, the only newspaper reporting local news in Norwalk at the time? Did Kelley, Mendez, and Egan know the requirements for a newspaper to file for legal status? Did they know Ms. Givens was going to fabricate facts on that filing notice? Were financial ramifications of gaining legal status discussed at the secret Outback meeting? How can the city, knowing the facts presented in the NCN this week and last, publish notices in the ìnewî paper? I think our readers would like to know. I certainly would. So I invite all involved in this ìplanî to write a letter answering these questions. All letters can be sent to [email protected].

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