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By Brian Hews
Cerritos College Trustee President and South Gate City Clerk Carmen Avalos recently survived a trumped-up recall in June from her College Trustee Area 2 Seat that sources said was a result of her abstaining on a vote to elect Cerritos College Area 6 Trustee Dr. Sandra Salazar as President of the Board.
Four of the 10 needed signatures on the “Notice of Intent to Circulate a Recall Petition” were declared “questionable” by the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder’s office.
The petition was brought into the June 3 College Board meeting by a woman who was never identified by local media, until now.
Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that the person who brought the petition into the boardroom is long-time Los Angeles political operative Sylvia Ortiz.
Ortiz, as first reported by HMG-CN, was accused by the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder of forgery and willfully adding deceased people to Commerce recall petitions in 2014.
In reviewing the Commerce signatures, the Registrar representative said, “we have never seen anything like this, it is about as bad as it gets in terms of willful forgery and we will call on the Los Angeles District Attorney to investigate Ortiz.”
Ortiz reportedly admitted to the forgeries and adding names of deceased people.
Ortiz has a long history of signature gathering in Los Angeles and is a colleague of convicted felon who pled down to a misdemeanor Angel Gonzales. Gonzales was involved in a high profile corruption case involving another convicted felon Rick Mayer.
Similar to Ortiz refusing to identify herself, the proponents of the recall have remained hidden.
But HMG-CN has been told by reliable sources that Dr. Salazar and her partner Enrique Aranda, in retribution of Avalos’ abstention vote to elect Salazar as President of the Board, are assisting in the recall.
And they are reportedly trying to recall Avalos again, this time from her position as Southgate City Clerk.
But this type of battle is nothing new for Avalos, who has been attacked in the past by politicians and their supporters for “doing the right thing.”
In 2001, Avalos beat Southgate Mayor Xochilt Ruvalcaba’s sister for the City Clerk’s office.
Ruvalcaba was incensed that Avalos defeated his sister. Just days after the election, Avalos found a teddy bear on her front lawn with its throat slashed and its arms torn off.
Eventually, Avalos found the corruption so rampant in Southgate that she complained to then Secretary of State Bill Jones.
After reviewing Avalos’ allegations, Jones declared South Gate “one of the most corrupt cities in the state.”
The allegations eventually sparked a movement to recall Mayor Ruvalcaba, Vice Mayor Raul Moriel, Councilwoman Maria Benevides and Treasurer Albert “Big Al” Robles.
The four were furious at Avalos and conducted a yearlong smear campaign that stripped away almost all of Avalos’ duties, including her right to oversee the upcoming recall election.
Avalos’ salary was reduced from $76,000 to $7,200. She was prohibited from attending staff meetings and her three-person staff was eliminated. They even took away her office.
But Avalos fought back, the four were eventually recalled in 2003, and Avalos’ rights and duties as City Clerk were restored.
“She is a fighter, and Ortiz is a long-time questionable operative who will help anyone to make a buck,” former Southgate Councilman Henry Gonzales told HMG-CN. “Avalos is honest as the day is long, anyone questioning her integrity does not know what they are talking about, or have other motives for their behavior.”
Former state Sen. Martha Escutia said of Avalos, “she maintains her integrity and honor while fighting corruption. She holds her head high, and does her job to protect the voters of South Gate.”
But now the same proponents, frustrated in their failure to recall her from Cerritos College seat, are mounting a recall of Avalos from her Southgate City Clerk position.
And it is reportedly the same cast of characters, Dr. Salazar, Aranda and Ortiz.
When contacted by HMG-CN and asked if they were behind the recall, Aranda said, “Avalos is not a good elected official and hence there appears to be a growing movement to recall her. I’m a steadfast advocate for transparency and accountability in local government, as you know.”
After several emails asking for her level of involvement, Dr. Salazar finally responded saying, “ I am not certain of that level of detail and all parties involved. I do know that there is a growing community movement in her city and district calling into question her leadership or lack of.”
Now, HMG-CN has obtained the Notice of Intent to Recall complete with names, addresses and signatures of Southgate residents who want to recall Avalos.
According the Avalos, the ten reasons outlined on the petition are exactly the same as those outlined on the Cerritos College petition. They include: inability to work with others, excessive tardiness to City Council meetings, inability to perform City Clerk duties, and disrespectful to voters and public speakers.
Long-time Southgate resident Virginia Johnson took issue when told about the Avalos accusations. “I have been going to almost every City Council meeting for over 14 years, Carmen [Avalos] has been there on time at every meeting and there is never an issue with the agenda or other items. She is very professional and carries that professionalism into the council chambers. Carmen has been the Clerk since 2001, her professionalism has never been questioned until now, it doesn’t make any sense. ”
If the recall movement is successful, it could end up costing the city $300,000 or more. City Manager Mike Flad told HMG-CN that he does not know how to operate a recall election, so the city would be forced to call in a consultant or the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorders office.
And Ortiz, with her signature gathering “company,” would be in position to land a lucrative contract to collect the signatures on the recall petition.
But, similar to Commerce, it is apparent Ortiz is once again her own worst enemy.
Several of the signatures on the petition were first deemed invalid and sources are telling HMG-CN that the proponent, Kelly Cory, does not live in the city and has a extremely questionable background.
Proponents of the recall must live in the city or the recall is deemed invalid.
In addition, the recall proponents did not publish the Notice of Recall in the local newspaper correctly and must re-publish.
When contacted by HMG-CN, Ortiz said, “ its too bad you choose to print gossip as opposed to the truth.” She went on in a threatening tone, “don’t abuse your privilege.”
“That’s how she reacts to the truth,” Southgate Councilman Henry Gonzales said, “Ortiz is dirty as hell.”
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