- Around Town
- City News
- Crime Summary
- Downey Community News
- Letters to the Editor
By Brian Hews and Randy Economy
Examination of the Attorney Francisco Leal’s contract reveals pricey loophole. The contract can be found at the end of this article.
Huntington Park – Los Cerritos Community News has obtained the Huntington Park City Attorney contract between the law offices of Leal and Trejo-and taxpayers in this cash starved city could be on the financial hook to legally defend LA County Assessor John Noguez in any possible criminal charges he may face in the future, including the ongoing massive political corruption probe at the LA County Assessor’s office.
Francisco Leal, who is the main legal counsel with the firm, came under public scrutiny Monday night after angry residents served formal recall notices on all five city council members.
The contract between the City of Huntington Park and Leal & Trejo for city attorney services appears to be fairly standard in describing the scope of the firm’s work, duties, billing, and other rates.
The multipage contract that was published by LCCN on Tuesday, reveals that Leal & Trejo’s legal services range from $180 per hour not to exceed $30,000 per month, and “special legal services” that shall be billed at $250 per hour with no limitation on a monthly amount.
A closer inspection of the scope description reveals possible loopholes that can allow Leal to defend Noguez, who is a former city councilman and mayor. Noguez is on a formal paid leave of absence from his responsibilities as Assessor of Los Angeles County and is the central figure in a massive criminal probe that is centered on bribery, forgery and money laundering allegations.
Buried in the “scope description” of the contract is the following directive, “(Leal and Trejo) law firm shall….represent and appear for the City, and City officers or employees, or former City officers or employees, in any or all actions and proceedings in which the city or any such officer or employee…. is a party.”
Many observers say the former City officer or employee loophole gives Leal permission to defend Noguez in any possible future criminal trials. Noguez was a Huntington Park City Councilman and Mayor between 2005-2010.
Residents claim Leal was paid a $500,000 salary for a city of more than 60,000 people.
“The contracts are being given without bid systems. High contracts. Mr. Leal is just an example. $600,000 a year. He makes more in one month than our residents do in one year,” said recall leader Marilyn Sanabria.
Leal said the city pays a retainer for legal work done by his law firm and he’s an outside consultant, not a paid city employee.
“My salary is not $700,000, it’s not $600,000, it’s not $500,000. It’s $37,500 a month. And it’s not my salary,” Leal told CBS News Reporter Dave Bryan on Monday night.
LCCN also confirmed on Tuesday that Leal and his firm were paid an additional $3,000 per month under the guise of a firm called the “Legislative Advocacy Group.” City officials apparently dropped those services as part of his current city contract.
“It is the amount of money the firm earns for legal services. The rumors are malicious, they’re not authentic and they want to paint me as an employee with benefits, which I am not,” Leal commented to CBS News.
But Leal and city council members were blasted by recall organizers for his remarks. “These people are so tied in with John Noguez, he still has control here. He says who comes in and who doesn’t come in. A lot of these contracts don’t come out to bid. They’re just approved because the contractors give large contributions to their council campaigns,” said Linda Guevara a former Huntington Park City Councilwoman.
Recall supporters tell LCCN that they have no doubt that they will gather the 3,100 signatures put the item on the ballot.
“This is about taking back our city hall once and for all. The people are fed up,” said recall organizer Sanabria.
Huntington Park City Clerk Rosanna Ramirez told LCCN on Tuesday that recall proponents have seven days from today to officially file legal intent of removal documents with her and then Mayor Andy Molina, Vice Mayor Elba Guerrero, Councilman Mario Gomez, Councilwoman Ofelia Hernandez, and Councilwoman Rose Perez will be given an additional seven days to formally respond.
“This is just the early stages of the process,” Ramirez said. “We will make sure that this entire process is done legally,” Ramirez said.
“The City of Huntington Park is currently facing a $9,000,000 budget deficit due to financial mismanagement and lack of leadership,” said Sanabria. “Huntington Park and Bell residents are paying 30% more in property taxes than Beverly Hills or Downey. The City Council has approved higher taxes and fees including an over 30% increase in the water bill recently. The City lacks transparency and the residents are demanding to know where their money is. The current City Council granted questionable historical designation to John Noguez’ home to stop foreclosure proceedings and avoid paying his fair share of taxes.”
Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Republishing by Attribution given to “Los Cerritos Community Newspaper Group.” 2012. www.loscerritosnews.net.
Powered by Facebook Comments