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Los Cerritos Community News and Hews Media Group went two-for two and captured two top honors at the 57th Annual Southern California Media Awards Ceremony sponsored by the prestigious Los Angeles Press Club this past Sunday night at the historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
There were over 1,000 entries this year, a record for the annual event.
Publisher Brian Hews took home first place in the category of Investigative Series for all print newspapers in the daily or weekly category in Southern California, including beating out the venerable Los Angeles Times, with the story about the La Mirada Football Booster Club entitled La Mirada Football Booster Club Under Scrutiny by Attorney General.
This was the second time in three years that HMG-CN won one of the Los Angeles Press Club’s most prestigious award.
The investigation revealed that the Booster Club violated several California laws and had little or no oversight on where and how hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent every year.
Even more alarming, the Booster Club indicated on all donation documents that it was a registered 501c3 non-profit organization, going so far as using an inactive and non-existent identification number.
The investigation also revealed that the organization did not have a California Franchise Tax Board number, and therefore did not remit taxable sales from fundraisers to the state.
Finally, no year-end or internal financial statements have been generated since 2006, and sources told HMG-CN that there are no bank statements available from the organization.
Given the lack of a registered 501c3, the booster club has also placed any person or organization that donated money to the club in a tax liability position.
As a result of this stunning mismanagement, the organization could be facing huge monetary penalties for failing to pay payroll taxes, failing to withhold taxes on independent contractors, and failing to pay sales tax.
The investigation also revealed that current and past Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District School Board members, ex-NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ruth Perez, La Mirada High School (LMHS) Principal William “Bill” Seals, Moschetti, and LMHS Athletic Director Armando Rivas knew what was going on and either took action to cover the mismanagement up or did nothing about it.
The Investigative Category Judges praised Hews and HMG-CN’s winning entry by stating that the work “demonstrated classic investigative reporting here in this examination of the La Mirada Booster Club. Hews’ work has led to results and possible reform. This should be the goal of all serious investigative reporting. Congratulations. Your work could become a model for others. Every school has a Booster Club and I suspect many fail to follow rules.”
LCCN and HMG-CN also took second place in the News Feature Under 1,000 words category for the riveting expose on former Central Basin Municipal Water District GM Art Aguilar and his expensive golf outings with top officials at Pacifica Services, Inc., including CEO Ernie Camacho and VP Mike Sisson, that Aguilar did not report on his Statement of Economic Interests For 700.
After the story published, the California Fair Political Practices Commission investigated Aguilar and eventually fined him $30,000.
Last year, at the 56th Annual Southern California Media Awards, HMG-CN took home three awards including First Place in the category of Best News Feature for the article “Undercover FBI Agent Rocky Patel Used Dal Rae in Pico Rivera to Stage Calderon Sting Operation.”
The judges of the category praised HMG-CN’s winning entry by stating that the work was “A colorfully written examination of an FBI sting operation that reads like a capsule version of the hit film, American Hustle.”
HMG-CN also took second place in the News category for their explosive expose on former California State Assembly Speaker John Perez Implicated in the Central Basin Water District Investigation.
The LA Press Club also honored HMG-CN with a second place certificate in the category of Best Investigative Series for “Dirty Water: Corruption Inside the Central Basin Municipal Water District.”
Two years ago, at the 55th Annual Southern California Media Awards, HMG-CN won First Place for Best Investigative News Series for the hard hitting work that led to the arrest of Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and three other individuals in what former District Attorney Steve Cooley called the biggest “political corruption scandal in the history of LA County.”
The 57th Annual Southern California Journalism Awards was dedicated to journalists Rick Orlov, Al Martinez and Stan Chambers.
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