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City of Montebello Covertly Using Taxpayer Dollars to Fund Campaign Supporting Local Sales Tax Initiative

City using newspaper that refuses to publish advertising against Measure S.

By Brian Hews

Another controversy has hit the city of Montebello and the Montebello Measure S sales tax proponent camp, this time involving City officials using a monthly local newspaper to influence residents to vote yes for the Measure S tax initiative.

If passed in November, Measure S will increase the sales tax in Montebello by 1% adding about $9 million annually to the city’s coffers.

The City placed advertisements and editorial content exclusively – and blatantly in support of Measure S – with the Montebello Reporter – using taxpayer dollars to pay for the advertisements.

Vanessa Delgado, Jack Hadjinian, Art Barajas and Mayor Vivian Romero all support the tax increase, Mayor pro tem Bill Molinari is adamantly against the measure.

HMG-CN obtained, via a public records request, documents that showed  923 Media Incorporated was paid $3,850 from June to August 2017. The documents included invoices, checks, and proof of publications.

 

City check register showing payments to the Reporter.

 

923 Media Incorporated in registered under Reporter Co-Publisher Sarkis Sandukhtyan.

The City paid $350 for three June advertisements, and placed two full pages, at $700 each, in both July and August for a total of $3,850.

And in a highly unusual move, the four full pages invoices sent in by the Reporter for $2,800 were approved by Montebello City Clerk Lillian Guzman.

 

Invoices approved by Montebello City Clerk Lillian Guzman.

 

 

 

 

Montebello residents are incensed that the City is placing advertisements with the Reporter using taxpayer dollars, which is known to avoid investigative reporting of the City Council in a city one resident described as “extremely corrupt.”

The residents are likely to become even angrier as Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that the Reporter has shunned all ethical principles, refusing to publish advertisements from residents who are against Measure S.

Montebello Mayor pro tem Bill Molinari, an outspoken opponent of Measure S, sent in an advertisement to be published in the Reporter.

Reporter Co-Publisher and Editor Gil Espino labeled the text only advertisement sent by Molinari as “too negative” and told the councilman he could not publish the advertisement.

HMG-CN emailed Espino asking for comment, finally reaching the editor by phone.

 

 

Rather than commenting on refusing the Molinari advertisement Espino wanted to “have lunch with HMG-CN and my business partner to talk things over about the refusal of the advertisement.”

In a later email, HMG-CN declined to have lunch and once again asked for comment, as of the time of publication, Espino has not responded.

Political advertisements for or against a measure are typically extremely negative in nature similar to negative advertisements against candidates.

If the ad is paid for by an organization or person, with very few exceptions, a publisher is not liable for the content of the advertisement.

The following is the content Molinari sent into the Reporter.

NO NEW TAXES!

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Every level of government is spending OUR money with no end in sight. The State of California has raised income, sales, gasoline taxes and car registration fees. We already pay $11,000,000 Tax for Employee retirement. Now City Council wants to raise sales tax because they’ve so BADLY MISMANAGED City finances that WE ARE BROKE. The Budget has NOT been balanced for 3 years with $10,000,000 in deficits.

Originally another $9,000,000 in sales tax would hire more Police Officers and Firefighters. Now they’re PROMISING EVERYTHING to everybody, far exceeding what $9,000,000 can actually cover. They’re promising repairing potholes, trimming trees, new parks and recreation programs, etc. HOW MANY TIMES can they spend the same dollars???

To predict how this money would actually be spent, just LOOK AT THEIR CURRENT TRACK RECORD:

Mismanagement includes paying a $4,000,000, 10-year old Garfield Financial Corp. claim, with no lawsuit filed, to accommodate politically connected friends. They also paid a Contractor who submitted fake bids (a felony) $500,000 for City work, yet City did nothing to recover this money.

Contracts are regularly awarded to politically connected vendors with automatic renewals and price increases with no competitive bidding. NO WONDER WE ARE BROKE.

The Mayor and other Council Members spent tens of thousands of our tax dollars on trips to resort destinations like Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Miami and other resorts. They also serve themselves restaurant meals at Council meetings. If they won’t control spending on their personal benefits, how can we possibly expect them to properly spend another $9,000,000???

In reality, this new tax money has already been spent! The current $5,000,000 budget deficit must be covered and City employees promoting this new tax, particularly public safety, have been promised raises.

NO NEW TAXES….

 

HMG-CN researched past editions of the Reporter and found several Montebello City Council, Montebello Treasurer and Montebello Unified campaign ads in its’ 2015 editions.

Some were negative, but they all showed Espino’s willingness in 2015 to run any type of campaign ad, even candidates competing against each other in the City Council and Treasurer races.

Except for anti-Measure S advertisements.

Montebello residents will go to the polls to decide the tax initiative’s fate on Nov. 7.

 

See a PDF of the advertisements, click here.

 

 

 

 

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