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By Brian Hews and Randy Economy
Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper has learned that Sylvia Ortiz, the leader of the signature gatherers involved in the recent recall attempt against four current Commerce City Council members, was accused by the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder of forgery and willfully adding deceased people to the recall petitions, and that the Registrar Recorder will ask the Los Angeles District Attorney to investigate.
Sources are also telling HMG-CN that others are involved in “a scheme to discredit the entire recall campaign.”
In conversations with HMG-CN, Ortiz attempted to lay blame on anyone she could after hearing that the Registrar invalidated many of the signatures.
Ortiz, a longtime political consultant in Los Angeles, and a person who once bragged to HMG-CN about her “dumpster diving for documents of a certain Central Basin Water District Director,” was accused of malfeasance after over 40% of the signatures she was responsible for collecting on the recall petitions against current Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio, and Councilmembers Joe Rivera, Ivan Altamirano and Leila Leon were deemed to be invalid.
The percentage of signatures deemed invalid in a recall campaign usually average 10%-12%, not the 40% that were eliminated for Commerce.
The Registrar representative said, “We have never seen anything like this, it is about as bad as it gets in terms of willful forgery and we will call on the Los Angeles District Attorney to investigate Ortiz.”
The attorney for the proponents, who oversaw the review of the signatures, stopped the review after only 40 minutes, saying that the signatures, “were a joke, I do not want to waste any more time or your (the proponents) money.”
In the meeting, Ortiz reportedly admitted to forgeries and adding names of deceased people. HMG-CN has learned that after the meeting, a visibly shaken Ortiz immediately retained an attorney to represent her.
Ortiz has been involved in several high profile campaigns in Southeast Los Angeles County for the past number of years and came “highly recommended” to oversee the signature gathering process in the Commerce City recall campaign.
“She oversaw the recall against then Lynwood councilwomen Leticia Vasquez, and was very efficient in collecting signatures, so we hired her,” said Mike Alvarado, a proponent of the recall campaign. “She has completed many successful recall campaigns, this is a complete aberration, and it’s very suspicious, especially since she lied to us for three weeks about the gathering process.”
Ortiz has a long history of signature gathering in Los Angeles and was a former colleague of accused felon Angel Gonzales. Gonzales was involved in a high profile corruption case involving another convicted felon Rick Mayer, and plead down to a misdemeanor.
Mayer has been working in the water industry throughout Southeast Los Angeles County for years.
Other sources are telling HMG-CN that Gonzales had a hand in the signature fiasco. “Look, everyone in Commerce can spot when Gonzales is involved in seedy political work around here. This latest debacle stinks and the smell has to be coming from Angel,” said the source who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution.
When Tina Baca Del Rio ran successfully for election, Gonzales was her campaign manager. Sources are telling HMG-CN that after the campaign, Baca Del Rio owed Gonzales a substantial amount of money that she could not pay back.
In exchange, sources are saying Gonzales demanded Baca Del Rio hire his good friend and current city attorney Eddie Olivo, which they did.
In November of last year, Olivo attempted to stop the recall by saying that the newspaper the city has published its public notices in for nearly two decades did not qualify as a newspaper of general circulation as required by state election law, therefore disallowing three of four recall campaigns to, including Baca Del Rio’s, to move forward.
The notices were eventually re-run in other newspapers and accepted by Olivo.
“We were set up, no doubt about it,” said Commerce resident and activist Mike Alvarado. “Ortiz lied to us for two weeks saying she did not know why the signatures were invalidated. Then at the meeting with the Registrar she admitted the forgeries, this stinks of typical Commerce politics.”
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