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Commerce Seats Two New Council Members

Citadel Outlet Mall owner Steve Craig gave $40,000 for council seat taken by Oralia Reballo. Her campaign was run by ex-felon Angel Gonzales.

By Brian Hews

In front of a packed council chamber, the City of Commerce welcomed two new councilmembers Oralia Reballo and Hugo Argumedo at this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Argumedo garnered 599 votes, the most votes in the election.

Rebollo was sworn in by Commerce City Clerk Lena Shumway, while Argumedo was sworn in by Pico Rivera City Councilman Bob Archuleta.

In her speech, Reballo thanked the residents and said that she would “move the city forward” with an ambitious 30 day plan, that some in the audience scoffed at.

In reference to her “running mate” John Diaz, she called her council victory “only half a victory.”

As first reported in this newspaper, Reballo and Diaz’ campaigns were managed by convicted ex-felon in Angel Gonzalez, and both were the recipients of unprecedented financial support from two independent expenditure committees.

Gonzales also ran the campaigns of Central Basin Water Directors James Roybal and Leticia Vasquez, along with Commerce employee Jason Stinnette.

Working with ex-felon Gonzales, Citadel Outlet Owner Steve Craig donated an astonishing $40,000 to one of the committees, the California League of Voters, to support Diaz and Reballo, and oppose Robles and Argumedo.

The $40,000 from Craig worked, as Reballo beat Denise Robles by 49 votes.

But some residents in Commerce are questioning whether the absentee ballots were counted correctly.

Campaign irregularities marred the council election.

Once again, campaign finance laws were violated as $6,000 was given to Reballo by two people, Brian and Tabitha Dror, in $1,000 increments. Records show that Brian Dror is a Certified Public Accountant based out of Los Angeles and Tabitha Dror is a homemaker.

Sources tell HMG-CN that Dror is Craig’s accountant for all his business ventures.

The 6 $1,000 donations were marked as “individual” on the campaign statements, which is a violation of Commerce’s Municipal Code.

No action was taken by the city even though HMG-CN reported on the irregularities on Feb. 12.

Connection of Steve Craig to Commerce Council

It is well known that current councilmembers Lilia Leon, Ivan Altamirano, and Tina Baca Del Rio are very good friends with Craig, with Craig paying off campaign debts of some of the councilmembers.

The three recently voted to provide a huge benefit to Craig by amending the current City Sign Ordinance that would allow his illegal billboards, illegal according the Commerce’s current ordinance, in front of the Citadel to remain.

Sources told HMG-CN that is was payback to Craig for the $40,000 donation that helped Reballo win her seat.

The ordinance code actually states that the Citadel is the only business in the City to be exempt from most sign requirements. The proposed code will give digital billboard permits to the Citadel despite a rule that has been the law in Commerce for over 30 years.

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Argumedo thanked his family and especially his mom for their support. He also thanked the residents for their overwhelming support saying,  “I am here to represent the residents and I’m looking forward to working with all city council members.

Argumedo said he wanted to bring back services that were canceled in the past three years including restoring senior programs, the senior rent subsidy program, bringing back the neighborhood fix-up program, reintroducing Sheriff’s stations at each park, and starting a conversation about community-based policing.

Tina Baca Del Rio then spoke and first talked about “how great a man John Diaz was” and that, “I would run with him again anytime.”

This despite a story first published in this newspaper that John Diaz was arrested for domestic battery in 2006.

Commerce Mayor nominations

After council speeches, the council moved to nominate the city’s new Mayor, with Argumedo nominating Lilia Leon. The nomination was seconded and Leon took her seat.

The mayoral seating was followed by a surprising and unusual move for the Mayor pro tem nomination. Leon nominated outgoing Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio for the position that was quickly seconded by Altamirano to the surprise of many in the chamber.

99% of City Councils in Los Angeles County rotate the Mayor position.

During public comment, resident Leonard Mendoza chided the council for five minutes and especially for ignoring Commerce residents who live east of the 710 freeway.

“They are being ignored,” he said, “since you gave yourselves a 35% raise last month I figured you would work a little harder, but I guess not.”

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