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Hawaiian Gardens Council Abruptly Fires City Attorney, Hires Firm With Questionable Past

 

Friday Dec. 28, 2018, 1:00 pm

BY BRIAN HEWS

The newly elected Hawaiian Gardens City Council wasted no time, calling a special meeting on Monday Dec. 17 to fire the city’s law firm of Alvarez Glasman-Colvin – hired barely two years ago – and replacing Arnold Glasman  with the former attorney for the city of Commerce, Eduardo Olivo.

Eddie Olivo

The vote, without a formal Request for Proposal or RFP, was 5-0, with Maravilla and Councilman Hank Trimble, along with newly elected Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado, and Council persons Luis Roa and Monica Rodriguez, all voting yes.

The appointment surprised many observers in Hawaiian Gardens, and left numerous others familiar with East Los Angeles politics scratching their heads.

Questionable Past

Olivo was fired from his City Attorney post in the City of Vernon in 2004.

Two years later, Olivo, disbarred attorney Cristeta Summers, and former Southgate treasurer and convicted felon “Big Al” Albert Robles, allegedly hatched a scheme in an attempt to take over the cash-rich City of Vernon.

The group registered three “candidates,” one of whom was found to be living out of his car.

Olivo was said to have bought a building for over $200,000 in Vernon and, working with Robles and Robles’ cousin Angel Gonzales, attempted to orchestrate a coup and take over the city.

Gonzales is a well-known political operative in East Los Angeles who owns Pyramid Press; in 2001 he was convicted of a felony but subsequently plead down to a misdemeanor. Gonzales has been known to assist many campaigns in East Los Angles and is rumored to have helped certain candidates in Hawaiian Gardens.

Angel Gonzales

Olivo, Robles and Gonzales brought in several “candidates” to “live” in the building Olivo bought, and set them up to run for Vernon City Council.

During the election controversy, city officials filed a voter fraud case to cancel  the election on their allegations that certain people — including Robles and Olivo — were behind the coup.

Olivo actually represented the “candidates” in the case, turning on Robles during the trial and calling him a “despicable character” who had a reputation for being “bombastic and rude.”

All three were blasted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Aurelio Munoz during the voter fraud trial.

Munoz said that he thought there were “too many coincidences” to believe that people moved into Vernon for “cheap rent” and then decided to run for office.

“I think this was all a scheme hatched out by Eduardo Olivo, Cris Summers and Albert Robles,” Munoz said. “Basically, they saw a chance to take over this city.”

See Los Angeles Times’ story

This district’s Court of Appeals went on to reject the City’s claim, but the judge said that nothing in his opinion should be read to endorse the conduct of Robles, Olivo and Summers, but merely that the City had failed to prove an illegal act.

Battle in Commerce

Olivo was subsequently hired by the city of Commerce in 2007.

But after only one year, the Commerce City Council voted 3-1 to terminate his contract, initiated by then-Councilwoman Rosalina Lopez.

It was reported in 2008 by Eastern Group Publishing that Olivo’s appointment helped spark a recall election of Tina Baca Del Rio and Robert Fiero.

Recall proponents alleged that not only did Del Rio and Fierro misuse funds, they also hired “an attorney with a questionable past.”

The recall proponents said Olivo’s past association with “Big Al” Robles, who had since been convicted of corruption, meant that he could not be trusted.

Fierro survived the recall, but Del Rio lost her seat to Lelia Leon.

After the election, Leon was appointed Mayor Pro Tem, with then-councilman Hugo Argumedo becoming Mayor.

They both voted with Councilwoman Lopez to fire Olivo and bring in Attorney W. Anthony Willoughby as the interim city attorney.

More Connections to Convicted Felons

After her recall in 2008, Baca Del Rio surprised everyone by winning her Commerce City Council election in 2009.

It was reported that Baca Del Rio was assisted by Angel Gonzales, the same Angel Gonzales who is friends with Olivo and was involved in Vernon.

In exchange for Gonzales’ help and campaign donations, Baca Del Rio’s led the fight to replace Willoughby with Olivo.

Just months after he was fired, Olivo was back in the City Attorney chair in Jan 2009.

 

 

 

 

The city saw several high-profile confrontations, power struggles, backroom deals, employee releases, and recall elections during Olivo’s tenure.

The City Council, led by Baca Del Rio, and under Olivo’s watchful eye, has also catered to Citadel Outlet Mall owner and campaign benefactor Steve Craig, whose taxes paid to the city are one-eighth that of the Commerce Casino.

In February of 2015, HMG-LCCN exclusively reported that Olivo and the City Council blatantly changed a city ordinance to directly benefit Craig and his billboards outside his outlet mall, which kept Craig from paying millions in potential penalties to the City and the state.

 

HMG-CN Exclusive: Citadel Outlet Mall Billboards Violate City And State Laws

 

 

Also, HMG-LCCN was told Olivo promoted himself to the Hawaiian Gardens City Council as “knowledgeable in casino gaming laws” but sources told HMG-LCCN Olivo never worked for the casino.

In fact, Olivo and Baca Del Rio led a council initiative to raise taxes on the Commerce Casino, including a massive 10% increase in the gambling tax.

Questionable Billing

In 2015 HMG-LCCN exclusively obtained records that showed Olivo had billed the City of Commerce nearly $2 million since 2011, averaging well over $47,000 per month in 2014 alone.

Documents were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act through public records request on the City of Commerce.

 

 

EXCLUSIVE: Commerce City Attorney Racking Up Huge Legal Fees, Averaging Over $47,000 Per Month

 

 

Olivo’s actual billings had been rising from a monthly average of $31,000 in 2011 to the $47,000 monthly average in 2014.

Olivo racked up $571,000 in fees in 2014, up from $378,000 in 2011. In 2015, the April and May billings were over $110,000; August and September he invoiced $106,000; and in November and December, Olivo billed the city a staggering $173,000.

The $173,000 for two months, at Olivo’s $180 per hour rate, was equal to billing over 24 hours per day.

The amounts were based on when Olivo submitted the invoices to the City.

In an email response to HMG-LCCN Olivo wrote, “ there may be higher amounts billed in certain months because of heavy trial preparation and work in a complicated case involving the City and a few significant property transaction issues involving the [Redevelopment] Successor Agency.”

Mayor Myra Maravilla

When asked for comment on the hiring of Olivo, Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Myra Maravilla  told HMG-LCCN, “We hired him because he has 13 years experience with Commerce, I talked to a councilperson there and got excellent reviews.”

Newly elected Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado commented, “Eddie has 28 years experience and worked for the Commerce Casino for 13 years and also has union experience.”

Newly elected Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez wrote, “I have yet to find out more about Eddie Olivo but from what I know, and what he has told us, he will be a great fit for the City.”

Newly elected Councilman Luis Roa did not respond to several messages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steve Sanchez
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Steve Sanchez

Come on, Hawaiian Garden?…is anyone really surprised?? Kickbacks are king and Slick Eddie will soon have the Casino paying royally or else. I’ll give the city one-year and the DA will be snooping and preparing early morning visits by men in Kevlar jackets. Let’s see how long till the City Manager is booted?

jas
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jas

Is this the same city we dumped that 1997 ABC school Bond in to? ABCUSD poured Millions into that school district, so now we’ve got educated politicians at helm. Wasnt this the same city, where former CM was fired and fired over and over again, at many of the cities he was employed at. HG could not even keep Wal-Mart going, so how should we expect anything better? Remember, time marches on, but corruption is soil born fungus, as HG was home to county dump, over century ago. Will be interesting, how fast the sales are for Dorado HOA, with… Read more »