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Commerce City Council Secretly Initiates Litigation to Recall Argumedo


Vote takes place while Commerce Mayor pro tem Baca Del Rio is committing fraud against the city herself, and while newly elected Councilwoman Oralia Reballo, who voted yes for litigation, is holding incompatible offices.  City Attorney Eduardo Olivo stands to earn hefty fees during litigation.

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned through a public records request that, during an April 21 closed session meeting, Mayor Lilia Leon, Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio, and Councilmembers Ivan Altamirano and Oralia Reballo voted 4-0 to use a little known law to initiate a recall attempt against recently elected Councilman and top vote getter Hugo Argumedo.

The movement is a culmination of several back room deals that included City Attorney Eduardo Olivo classifying a public letter, written by former Commerce Council candidate John Soria, as a closed session item to keep the recall discussion away from public scrutiny and outside of the City Council chambers.

The letter basically asked for a change in the city’s theft and fraud policy. Olivo and Council applied their own interpretation to the letter, agreed the policy should be changed retroactively to include Argumedo, and initiated the “litigation.”

In doing so, the Council violated the Brown Act by not adequately describing the Argumedo closed session item contained in the Council Agenda that was posted online.

Soria was a bitter rival of Argumedo and came in last place in the Mar. 3 election. HMG-CN first reported that Soria lied on his campaign materials claiming he was a “law enforcement professional” when in reality he is a police dispatcher.

See story click here.

Soria had good reason to write the letter as sources are telling HMG-CN that if Argumedo is recalled, Soria would be endorsed by all City Councilmembers to take his place.

Public Document

HMG-CN requested the “report out” of the Apr. 21 closed session meeting that stated, “in regards to [the Argumedo issue], pursuant to the advice of the City Attorney [Olivo], Councilmember Argumedo recused himself from participating in the matter due to potential conflict of interest regarding the subject matter to be discussed and the potential initiation of litigation action by the City; Councilmember Argumedo left the room.”

The document went on to say, “Mayor Pro Tem Baca Del Rio moved, seconded by Mayor Leon, to direct City Attorney to initiate communication with the California Attorney General (AG) regarding the initiation of a “quo warranto” matter.

Councilmembers Altamirano, Reballo, Mayor Pro Tem Baca Del Rio and Mayor Leon all voted yes to initiate the costly litigation.

According to the AG’s website, the term “quo warranto” is Latin for “by what authority,” or “by what authority does this person hold this office?”

Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies. For example, a quo warranto action may be brought to determine whether a public official satisfies a requirement that he or she resides in the district; or whether a public official is serving in two incompatible offices.

Interestingly and pertinent to Councilman Argumedo, quo warranto is not available to decide whether an official has committed misconduct in office.

The statement would be in direct opposition to the meaning of the Soria letter as interpreted by the City Attorney and Council, that is, to retroactively apply a fraud and theft policy so they can remove Argumedo.

Based on the vote, City Attorney Olivo will likely earn some hefty fees during litigation, as the process is very detailed.

Olivo must file an application pursuant to the rules and regulations issued by the AG and must include a verified complaint, a verified statement of facts, and a memorandum of points and authorities.

What “complaints” City Attorney Olivo and the Council will submit remain to be seen, sources are telling HMG-CN that the city will attempt to retroactively change the theft and fraud policy to include Argumedo.

The application must be properly served on Argumedo, and filed within five days of service with the AG.

Argumedo will be given 15 to 20 days to respond, and the City has 10 days to respond to Argumedo’s arguments.

After all of the papers are filed, the AG will evaluate the facts in order to determine whether or not to grant the City “leave to sue.”

If leave to sue is granted, then the City may file a quo warranto action in the superior court, if not, the matter is dropped.


 

 


 

Baca Del Rio’s Fraud

Commerce Mayor Tina Baca Del RIo

Commerce Mayor Tina Baca Del RIo

The initiation of the lawsuit takes place at a time when Mayor pro tem Baca Del Rio was found to be committing her own fraud against the city.

HMG-CN first reported Mayor pro tem Baca Del Rio’s violation of the city’s vehicle use policy, which is a misuse of public funds and is prosecutable as a felony.

See story click here.

Several public records request showed that Baca Del Rio has been paid $500, over $2,500 in car allowance, since Oct. 2014.

Del Rio was required to give the city owned car back to the city and use her own transportation but HMG-CN received several pictures months after Oct. 2014 with a city car in Del Rio’s driveway.

HMG-CN also found that Baca Del Rio attempted to cover up her use of the city car by not signing the car out of the transportation lot.

See story click here.

Both are outright fraud actions.

 

Oralia ReballoNow, in what makes the vote against Argumedo look even more suspicious, and one that casts Councilwoman Oralia Reballo as a Baca Del Rio crony, HMG-CN has received documents showing newly elected Reballo taking two paychecks from the city.

A public records request documents that Reballo received $1,307.41 as a City Council member and $1,409.01 as an employee of Commerce as the Recreation Leader.

 

 

Screenshot 2015-05-01 14.43.10

Under the AG’s own rules, the fact Reballo is taking a check from the city as an employee and taking a City Council check, places her in an “incompatible office” position.

Ironically, a quo warranto action could be initiated against her, and is actually a better litigation case than Argumedo’s.

Yet Leon, Baca Del Rio, Altamirano, and City Attorney Olivo chose to overlook Reballo’s obvious violation and sue Argumedo.

One attorney told HMG-CN, “a public letter is not a basis for a Closed Session unless Olivo believes, or wants to have people stupidly believe, the letter writer is going to sue the city.   In that case, I am not sure Argumedo is conflicted since the defendant will be the city and if Argumedo is named as a defendant, which many council members are often named, the Tort Claims Act give him automatic legal defense which the others cannot strip him of and he can sit in Closed Session since he is one of the clients.”

Several emails into Mayor Leon, Mayor pro tem Baca Del Rio, Councilmembers Altamirano and Reballo, and City Attorney Olivo went unreturned.

Councilman Argumedo did not want to comment given the impending litigation.

 

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