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By Brian Hews
A Hews Media Group-Community News investigation has found that Commerce City Councilman Ivan Altamirano has violated Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and conflict of interest laws by participating in several Washington Blvd. Construction Project votes while owning property within 500 feet of the boulevard itself.
The Washington Blvd. project, one of the flagship renovation projects in the City, has recently come under a microscope by officials looking at the contract bidding process, payments to vendors, and the mysterious resignation of City employee Wendell Johnson who, as first reported by this newspaper, worked for the city for four months yet received a severance of $35,000.
The severance was approved by Mayor Lilia Leon, Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio, and Councilmen Ivan Altamirano and Joe Aguilar, with the support of City Attorney Eddie Olivo by hastily adopting a new City Ordinance that approved the large severance payment to Johnson.
Altamirano’s properties are located at 2566 Kurt, 5532 and 5534 Jillson in the City of Commerce.
HMG-CN has confirmed that all three properties are within 500 feet of Washington Blvd, with some as close as 200 feet.
Under FFPC laws, an official who owns real property within 500 feet of a property that is the subject of a “government decision” – for example approving the Washington Blvd. project – is presumed to have a conflict of interest and may not vote in the decision unless the official obtained a favorable FPPC advice letter stating the official does not have a conflict of interest.
If Altamirano wanted to vote on the project, and knowing his property was within 500 feet of the project, he should have obtained a FPPC advice letter stating he did not have a conflict of interest or recuse (excuse) himself from the vote.
Altamirano did not obtain the FPPC letter and did not recuse himself actually voting on the project several times, placing him in violation of FPPC 18704, which carries substantial monetary penalties.
“It’s just politics as usual in Commerce,” said one resident. “I have seen (Commerce Councilman Hugo) Argumedo follow the rules and recuse himself from voting. Leon, Baca Del Rio and Altamirano do not care about this city or any penalties because they have their Sugar Daddy (Citadel Outlet Mall owner) Steve Craig to hold fundraisers and bail them out. Craig bailed out Baca Del Rio a few years ago with a $26,000 fundraiser and he will probably do it again for Altamirano.”
FPPC spokesperson Jay Wierenga told HMG-CN, “any violation of the Political Reform Act can lead to a fine of up to $5,000. Penalties are generally based on a number of criteria, such as any previous violations by the respondent, complexity and type of case, cooperation of those involved, similar cases and the penalties imposed on those similar cases.”
Emails into Councilman Altamirano went unreturned.
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