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Commerce City Attorney Eduardo Olivo Slammed by CalPERS for Enrolling in Vernon Retirement Benefits

Commerce City Attorney Eduardo Olivo was denied over 15 years of CalPERS benefit retirements.

Commerce City Attorney Eduardo Olivo was denied over 15 years of CalPERS benefit retirements.

By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained 2012 documents that show current Commerce City Attorney Eduardo Olivo, while working for the scandal-plagued city of Vernon from 1994 to 2005, applied for and was subsequently denied 15.265 years of questionable service membership into the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, as it is more commonly known.

The May 2012 determination letter was written while he was City Attorney for Commerce and likely would not have been discovered, while Olivo cashed in on over 15 years of retirement benefits, had not Vernon come under the auditor’s microscope after the city’s corruption was exposed.

The correspondence cited improper credit and ordered “reimbursement and credit to be effectuated in accordance with Federal and State law.”

The scathing ten-page letter blasted Olivo for accepting membership starting on July 28, 2002.

The determination letter also rebuked Olivo’s request that was subsequently granted, for Additional Retirement Service Credit (ARSC) going back 7.7 years to November 1, 1994.

The letter stated, “CalPERS has concluded that you were not eligible for membership for your services rendered with the City, your arrears service was approved in error, and the purchase of ARSC on April 15, 2005 was improperly granted.”

The letter continued, “CalPERS has determined you (Olivo) were an independent contractor or were providing professional legal services and not an employee of the city from Nov 1, 1994 to Dec. 31, 2004.”

CalPERS auditors cited four positions Olivo held during his tenure with the City of Vernon that were classified as an independent contractor position: Deputy City Attorney, Assistant City Attorney, City Attorney, and Special Legal Counsel.

The letter cited a number of disqualifying items as to why Olivo should not be included in CalPERS pertaining to every position he held while at Vernon.

All of the items Olivo, as a seasoned municipal attorney, should have recognized as disqualifying events, yet Olivo seemingly ignored the evidence.

The letter line-itemed the discrepancies position-by-position starting with Olivo’s Deputy City Attorney post from Nov. 1, 1994 to April 1, 1999.

CalPERS auditors did not find any documentation relating to Vernon’s Deputy City Attorney position and they could not verify something as simple as hours worked. Documents such as a job description, job duties, full or part-time designation, or even rate of pay could not be produced by the city or Olivo.

The auditors did find documents related to the Assistant City Attorney position including an Employment Agreement but, similar to the Deputy City Attorney post, no personnel or job duties were provided.

Also, the City never established the Office of Assistant City Attorney as required by City Ordinance.

And in what looks like outright CalPERS application fraud on Olivo’s part, the aforementioned Attorney Employment Agreement stated the city did not know the number of hours to be worked and actually granted a monthly retainer, placing Olivo in a position consistent with an independent contractor and not eligible for CalPERS.

On Nov. 1, 1999, Olivo was appointed to City Attorney documented by a City Resolution.

Once again CalPERS auditors did not find any documentation relating to the City Attorney position and they could not verify something as simple as hours worked.

In addition, City Officers, including the City Attorney, are required by statute to take an oath prescribed by the California Constitution before entering office. The auditors did not find a signed statement indicating Olivo took the oath, declared the office vacant, and affirmed Olivo ineligible for retirement benefits as Vernon’s City Attorney.

On Oct. 16, 2003, the City appointed Olivo as Special Counsel. Similar to all other positions, auditors did not find any documentation relating to Special Counsel and disqualified all benefits under that position.

The letter concluded by saying, “based on these determinations you are not eligible for membership for your services rendered with the city. Due to our determination that you are not a member and not eligible to have purchased service credit or receive arrears service credit you are not eligible to receive a monthly retirement benefit from CalPERS.”

The letter went on to indicate that the items listed are the major concerns identified by CalPERS, but indicated that the issues identified are not exhaustive, meaning CalPERS had additional legal, technical, and administrative issues that they could bring up later.

Commerce Mayor Tina Baca Del RIo

Commerce Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del RIo

HMG-CN e-mailed  Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio,  a staunch ally of Olivo, for comment. HMG-CN recently revealed in a two article expose that Baca Del Rio was paid $2,500 in car allowance money while still using the city-owned vehicle, a violation of the city’s Vehicle Use Policy (VUP) and a misuse of public funds which is prosecutable as a felony and up to 3 years in prison.

The payments to Baca Del Rio were obtained through a public records request.

Prior to the first article publishing, in an angry email to HMG-CN,  Baca Del Rio denied receiving the $500 car allowance and threatened to sue HMG-CN for “slander.”

Read story, click here.

The second article once again caught Baca Del Rio lying about using the city-owned car when a second public records request revealed Baca Del Rio never signed the city-owned car out or back in to the city’s Transportation Department, another violation of the VUP and misuse of public funds.

HMG-CN sent a letter to Olivo asking him to investigate the misuse of public funds, but fearing for his job, Olivo has done nothing about it.

Read story click here.

It was Baca Del Rio that got Olivo hired. Angel Gonzales, the convicted felon who plead down to a misdemeanor for mail fraud, ran Baca Del Rio’s last city council campaign. As compensation for the win, Gonzales demanded Baca Del Rio hire his good friend Olivo as the City Attorney, which she eventually did.

During that campaign, the unemployed Baca Del Rio was hit with a  $26,000 fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission for violating the Political Reform Act by: 1) failing to timely file three semi-annual campaign statements, for the reporting periods from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008 and from October 19, 2008 through December 31, 2008, 2009; 2) failing to timely file two pre-election campaign statements, for the reporting periods of July 1, 2008 through October 18, 2008; and, 3) failing to timely file two pre-election campaign statements, for the reporting periods from January 1, 2009 through February 14, 2009.

It was Olive who got together with Citadel Outlet Mall owner Steve Craig and had a “fundraiser” to successfully pay off Baca Del Rio’s fine.

After learning and inquiring about the violations, HMG-CN found that Baca Del Rio is once again under investigation for similar violations and could face additional massive fines.

The new FPPC investigation commenced October of 2013.

Baca Del Rio was recalled from Commerce City Council on November 2008 and was subsequently reelected to the City Council in March 2009.

According to officials at the FPPC, in 2011 Baca Del Rio was slammed with seven counts of failing to file pre-election and semiannual campaign statements for her candidate controlled campaign committee Friends of Tina Baca Del Rio.

HMG-CN also contacted Olivo, Commerce Mayor Lilia Leon, and Councilmembers Ivan Altamirano, Oralia Reballo and Hugo Argumedo for comment.

Argumedo did not want to comment given the potential litigation that Olivo initiated in regards to a letter sent to the City Administrator.

Councilman Ivan Altamirano, an Olivo ally, told HMG-CN, “hello Brian [Hews], don’t email me with your nonsense.”

Olivo sent a comment blasting HMG-CN for “biased reporting,” and refused to comment on the CalPERS issue other than saying, “I have properly dealt with all Vernon matters, including the PERS determination letter.”  Olivo then threatened HMG-CN with a lawsuit.

 

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