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TEXTS SHOW HAWAIIAN GARDENS CITY EMPLOYEES WERE INVOLVED IN THEFT OF HMG NEWSPAPERS FROM CITY HALL

STAFF REPORT

In June of this year, Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News published an exclusive story about Hawaiian Gardens employee and former AFSCME President Fred Licon who was accused of misusing thousands of dollars of union funds.

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The June front page article, which was based on a hearing document exclusively obtained by HMG-LCCN, was deemed “offensive and dirty” by Licon and his friends down at City Hall, which included current Mayor Myra Maravilla.

So offensive that City Hall personnel resorted to lies, petty theft, defamation, and a violation of free speech and the First Amendment in a misguided attempt to bury the story from the public by stealing newspapers from City Hall.

Along with weekly home delivery, HMG-LCCN delivers 200 papers to Hawaiian Gardens City Hall reception area and to the Recreation Center next door to City Hall every Friday for free as a courtesy to City employees and local residents.

When the Licon story published on Friday June 14, HMG-LCCN delivered the papers at approximately 10:30 a.m.

Later on in the day, HMG-LCCN received several calls from readers asking for the papers; it was discovered later they were stolen. 

HMG-LCCN learned later that both buildings had video surveillance equipment and sent a public records request June 19 to City Clerk Lucie Columbo and City Manager Ernie Hernandez asking for the video between Friday June 14 and Tuesday June 18.

But the City dragged their feet in what now looks to be an obvious attempt to cover-up the theft, answering the June 19 request forty-two days later, which is a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

Best, Best, and Krieger attorney Megan K. Garabaldi sent a letter stating, “after a diligent search and inquiry, the city has discovered that, due to inadvertence in its internal procedures and practices, the requested video footage is no longer available. It was automatically overwritten by the default settings of the system.”default settings of the system.”

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A few weeks passed, then HMG-LCCN received an email with an attachment that shows the papers were stolen by AFSCME District Council 36 members to bury the Licon story and that officials in the City could have been complicit in the theft.

The attachment was a screen shot of text messages received by 1562-xxx-4589. HMG-LCCN called the number and confirmed it belonged to AFSCME District Council 36 member Glynn Cornejo, Supervisor of the Hawaiian Gardens Recreation Department.

“Cornejo said he could not remember the text,” said HMG-LCCN Publisher Brian Hews, “I told him it was his number and he hung up.” 

Hews continued, “I have called and texted Amaro, who is the AFSCME local Vice President several times, but apparently he does not want to talk about the text.”

The text clearly implicates Amaro and others in the scheme to steal papers, valued at $400, and bury the Licon story.

The text read, “hey this is Frank Amaro, Brian Hews is dirty he’s trying to bribe Freddy [Licon] so he can get money from the arch [sic] City and we got a leak from one of our members telling him stuff this story is not true.” 

Amaro continued, “and that’s why all the papers he sent to our recreation or to our city has been disposed of.”

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Texts between Hawaiian Gardens AFSCME D-36 members Glynn Cornejo and Frank Amaro.

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“Not only did Amaro admit to stealing the papers, but he defamed my company and me,” said Hews, “who knows how many people that text was sent to.”

Text and calls into Amaro went unreturned as did texts to Mayor Maravilla, Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado, and Council persons Hank Trimble and Luis Roa.

HMG-LCCN texted Monica Rodriguez, who shockingly resigned her City Council position this past Tuesday, she did not respond. 

HMG-LCCN also emailed AFSCME 36 President Andreas Jung without response.

“This is the level of the city has hit with Maravilla at the helm, as chronicled in my newspaper,” said Hews. “Crooked union members, nepotism inside City Hall, pay-to-play politics, hiring corrupt City contractors, taking unnecessary trips on taxpayer’s dime, demeaning residents at public comment, and now a cover-up of a theft facilitated by AFSCME 36 union employees that the City knew about.”

“Former Mayor Rey Rodriguez was right, the City is turning into Bell.”  

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MISSING SEMINARS?: (l-r) Hawaiian Gardens Mayor pro tem Jesse Alvarado, Hawaiian Gardens employee Juan Serrano, Mayor Myra Maravilla, and Anna Rodriguez at the Contract Cities Convention in Palm Springs this past May. Rodriguez, a good friend of Maravilla, recently stated at a City Council meeting, that “spending on City senior programs was ‘excessive’ and why spend the money, we all die anyway.”

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When asked what actions the City will take, City Manager Ernie Hernandez emailed, “The City of Hawaiian Gardens takes allegations of employee misconduct seriously. Upon evaluating the allegations raised against City employees, the City will determine whether an investigation is warranted. If an investigation is warranted, given the confidential nature of any internal employee investigation, the City will not be providing additional comment.” 

“If you have additional information that should be considered, please provide a detailed complaint/correspondence to the City so that our Human Resources staff can process as appropriate.” 

Hews responded, “Yes, I HAD evidence but the City inadvertently erased the video that showed the theft. And as far as Hernandez saying the investigation is confidential, that’s not the case in a court of law.”

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