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Did Cerritos Councilmen Barrows, Solanki, and MPT Vo Violate the Brown Act?

 

 

 

Order Cerritos City Manager to stop advertising in HMG-LCCN? This paper has recently exposed all Councilmembers in exposés; Barrows (right) has been documented several times and has threatened to cut all advertising, holding the funding of the city’s police helicopter in 2017 if the city “did not cut all HMG-LCCN advertising.” Now the city, after more than 24 years, has cut Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts advertising in HMG-LCCN, the city’s only community newspaper. (l-r) Chuong Vo, Naresh Solanki, and Bruce Barrows, who was appointed after Jim Edwards’ death.

 

April 1, 2022

By Brian Hews

Opening Statement:

It’s coming up on 20 years since this paper switched hands from founder Elizabeth Gadbois, and in that time, the majority City Council, which was 90% of the time Republican-dominated, didn’t like our investigative reporting. 

The Cerritos Republicans think the paper is one-sided; ask Cristina Garcia or other corrupt Democrats in L. A. County if we are one-sided.

It did not matter; during the bulk of those 20 years, they have slowly pulled city advertising out of HMG-LCCN in retribution, abusing their power while in office.

Evidence:

Exhibit 1: The city did not congratulate its own Cerritos High School on its 50th Anniversary in a special edition HMG-LLCN published last week. Yes… we asked.

Exhibit 2: For many years, this paper published a four-page special for the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts highlighting the entire year, but after an investigative exposé on extravagant travel by the majority of Republicans, the Council pulled the advertising.

Bruce Barrows was one of the main culprits; one year threatening to cut the city’s police helicopter Skyknight if the city didn’t “cut all the advertising in HMG-LCCN.” 

Exhibit 3: Since then, the Cerritos TV3 listings advertisement, the Shop Cerritos Christmas campaign and other advertisements have been cut in the city’s only community newspaper.

Exhibit 4: Then, the late Melinda Kimsey started her “newspaper;” the Republican majority on the City Council immediately cut HMG-LCCN’s budget and gave half to Kimsey the first week her paper was published.

This was after Barrows had further cut the budget, yet somehow they managed to find money for Kimsey.

This paper always helped residents fight City Hall, the latest reporting on the truck traffic going through Cerritos. Eventually, the Council voted to move the truck route to accommodate residents.

That is the mission of this paper, to help others.

LCCN has always accommodated the city too, publishing press releases, events, community stories, and reporting on the City Council.

Exhibit 5: HMG-LCCN, after a frantic phone call from CM Art Gallucci, defended the city in the case of the USA Today story about alleged cancer-causing companies in Cerritos.

Spurred by HMG-LCCN’s report, the LA Times later found the report from the EPA was wrong and the EPA issued an apology.

But the Republicans continue on, methodically cutting all city advertising; the latest action, which can only be perpetrated by Barrows, Solanki and Vo, smacks of a Brown Act Violation.

Last year the CCPA advertised once with this paper to begin the delayed 2022 season, with management stating, “we will likely be advertising twice a month, with a banner ad on the site.” The city, prior to Kimsey’s newspaper, advertised every week with a banner ad.

That, of course, did not materialize.

Meanwhile, the city spent over $100,000 mailing CCPA brochures all over SoCal.

The mailing is necessary, but to completely cut off HMG-LCCN from all CCPA advertising is not; no one in Cerritos or surrounding communities attends the CCPA?

Exhibit 6: A recent HMG-LCCN public records request for all CCPA print advertising showed that for December 2021 and January & February 2022, Cerritos spent over $8,000 in the Los Angeles Times and $10,000 in the OC Register. The city is still placing ads in the papers, likely spending even more. The city has never advertised that amount of money in print or online with other newspapers.

HMG-LCCN advertising? $0, zip, zilch, nada. 

 

 

Invoice from So Cal News Group obtained via a FOIA request showing CCPA advertising in the OC Register.

 

 

April 2, 2022 ad in the OC Register, indicating the city is spending additional thousands in the paper. Note the third performance is sponsored by George and Bev Ray. Mr. Ray lives in Cerritos and is a former Republican Mayor of Cerritos, HMG-LCCN informed Ray of the situation and he did not respond either. Ray is CEO of LeFiel Manufacturing off the 5 freeway. HMG-CN introduced Ray to the owner of Bulletin Outdoor Advertising, the two then cut a deal for a billboard on Ray’s property, earning thousands per year in advertising revenue for Ray. Ray receives HMG-LCCN  every week on his driveway, free.

 

Exhibit 7: City Manager Art Gallucci has always been fair to HMG-LCCN; he knows our mission and has witnessed LCCN help the city first-hand.

To Gallucci, cutting the CCPA budget would be off the table.

That is unless three City Councilmembers, the number it takes to force him to quit or retire, told him to cut the HMG-LCCN advertising off.

That would be a Brown Act Violation and abuse of office.

Closing statement:

The Ralph M. Brown Act is California’s “sunshine” law for local government. In a nutshell, it requires local government business to be conducted at open and public, if three or more members meet. 

Barrows, Solanki, and Vo have been exposed by this newspaper several times; the latest with Vo fleecing Cerritos taxpayers, pocketing $780 monthly in cash from the city for healthcare he already had.

So extreme is their hatred of this paper that the three likely went into Gallucci’s office and told him to cut HMG-LCCN’s CCPA budget.

Several emails into the three have gone unanswered; no denial of the question, “Did you order Gallucci to cut HMG-LCCN’s CCPA budget?”

It’s easy to email back with a simple no, but none of them did.

They did this in the middle of a pandemic while HMG-LCCN published information about local medical services, the location of food banks, stories of brave first responders, all of us out in the community risking the possibility of contracting COVID while they conducted their meetings via Zoom.

Hedge funds are buying newspapers and cutting newsrooms, community newspapers are closing at an alarming rate due to the rush to advertise on the internet, while that same internet makes money lifting our articles without payment; all this leaving cities without local reporters and investigative reporting, “news deserts” as they are now called.

But those papers that closed didn’t have to deal with petty, vindictive City Councilmembers who’s mission during the past few years is to close the city’s only newspaper by choking off revenues, thus depriving the residents in Cerritos and other cities a community newspaper.

This business is tough enough without having to fight City Hall, yet Barrows, Solanki, and Vo continue their scheme to close HMG-LCCN; and their actions are blatant and out in the open.

Once again Councilmen…..”Did you order Gallucci to cut HMG-LCCN’s CCPA budget?”

 

Here’s to the Fourth Estate and Quality Community Journalism. 🗞 📰

Let the Councilmembers know how you feel about this:

[email protected] 

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