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Questions remain over Downey and Norwalk newspaper deal

Email describes secret meeting held at Outback Steakhouse between Kelley, Mendez, Egan, Norwalk Chamber Executive Director Vivian Hansen, President Joe Derthick, Board Member Rob Cazares, and Downey publisher.

By Brian Hews

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show a concerted and covert effort by Norwalk personnel, Norwalk Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Vivian Hansen and the publisher of the Downey Patriot, Jennifer De-Kay Givens to bring another newspaper into Norwalk so that new newspaper could secure the city’s legal advertising. Documents show Ms. Givens initiating contact with then Mayor Mike Mendez’ secretary June 29, 2011. This continued monthly until a Dec 2011 meeting. In late October 2011, NCN requested that the city begin publishing their legal notices with the paper since the NCN was adjudicated for the county. Following the request, on Nov 4, 2011 a memo from City Manager Mike Egan to Mayor Mike Mendez and all council-members, Egan informed them ìwe do not have an adjudicated paper in the cityî. So at that point all city council members and the Mayor knew there was no adjudicated paper in the city and that NCN had requested legal advertising from the city. On Dec. 9, 2011, Hansen sent an email to Mayor Cheri Kelley, Councilman Mike Mendez, President of the Norwalk Chamber Joe Derthick, Board Member and Norwalk Outback Steakhouse Manager Rob Cazares. Hansen reminded everyone of their noon meeting with Ms. Givens at Outback to discuss the new newspaper. She told Kelley to ìlet Mike know because we definitely want him in on the discussion.î Cazares had to open the Outback as a special favor because Outback is not open for lunch for any day of the week. In line with the special meeting, on Jan, 2012 the NCN received a letter from Hansen stating the Chamber will no longer publish the newsletter with NCN and that they were giving it to Ms. Givens. On March 8, 2012 Hansen sent an email to Egan stating ìwe signed the agreement with Ms. Givens to sell the Norwalk Chamber Masthead (name of the paper)Öshe is moving forward with publishing the ìnewî paper starting next weekî. Coincidentally, Egan was the featured in the inaugural edition with a story top right column one, including a picture. Ms. Givens then filed a ìNotice to Publish Legal Advertisingî with the L.A. Superior Court for the city under Government Code Section 6000. Under that code there are several requirements to attain legal status in Norwalk: publish the paper in the city of Norwalk for over a year, possess a paying subscriber list of at least 2,000, and have an office in the city. The paper also had to be reporting on Norwalk (at least 25%) for over three years. The notice is signed under penalty of perjury. Questions about this deal need to be answered. Why did Kelley, Mendez, and others meet with Ms. Givens to discuss bringing in another newspaper to the city? (Sources tell us that Kelley did pull the same scheme with Jay Johnson and the Norwalk Tribune.) Why did Hansen allow the new paper to use Chamber offices? (This could be a violation of the Chamber’s non-profit charter.) Kelley, Mendez, and Egan knew the legal adjudication was open in Norwalk, why did they not tell the NCN, the only newspaper reporting local news in Norwalk at the time? Did Kelley, Mendez, and Egan know the requirements for a newspaper to file for legal status? Did they know Ms. Givens was going to fabricate facts on that filing notice? Were financial ramifications of gaining legal status discussed at the secret Outback meeting? How can the city, knowing the facts presented in the NCN this week and last, publish notices in the ìnewî paper? I think our readers would like to know. I certainly would. So I invite all involved in this ìplanî to write a letter answering these questions. All letters can be sent to [email protected].

  • Paul Martin says:

    Thanks Mr Hews.

    I appreciate the hard-nosed reporting your doing on this issue.

    Some have pointed the finger at you claiming a conflict-of-interest on your part.

    True as it may be, this issue calls into question concerns of public interest such as transparency at the city level, a possible Brown act violation, and questionable activities by the Downey Patriot.

    The LCCN being a publication of public record is obligagated to report on matters of public concern/interest regardless of it’s involvement and should do so as long as it’s coverage is factual and it’s interest in the matter is clearly indicated.

    The meeting involving several Norwalk elected city officials and a newspaper publisher seeking city advertising at the Outback is at best a poor judgement on the part of city officials. Since only those in attendence know if city business was discussed an investigation should be conducted by the DA’s office.

    The Brown Act is clear, any discussion about city business or city policy by a handful of council members must be agendized and held in public after 72 hours public notice.

  • Thomas Giddens says:

    The existence of this issue is amazing given how senior all the people involved are in their respective fields. Only inaccuracy I see is that in addition to the Southeast Cities Tribune, she cooked up similar plans with the Press Telegram and some outfit out of Paramount. Irony with the Press Telegram is that the conversation occurred in close proximity to her reelection effort some years ago. As is practice, the field of candidates went to the Press Telegram offices for an interview in hopes of garnering the paper’s endorsement. Kelley never attended any of these meetings and yet somehow received the Press Telegram endorsement. Anyone familiar with Kelley would come to realize her motivations in most matters are much less than honorable and she has a perfect City Manager in Mike Egan to facilitate her ambitions. Egan has shown a growing propensity to compromise professionalism for political expediency that guarantees his $200,000 plus annual salary. Ernie Garcia’s greatest strength was being able to reason with overly ambitious council members. Mike Eagan has no such skills which almost guarantees someone will get indicted. Ironic that Eagan sold himself as the City Manager candidate desiring transparency in government.

  • ernie nishii says:

    I don’t believe “knowledge” of the requirements to publish as an adjudicated paper is relevant. If that were the case, the ignorance would truly be bliss….

    It seems interesting that you would lobby 2 persons on the council to set up your paper and to use your publication. Normally it seems that staff would do a Request for Proposal (or qualifications) and pick the lowest bidder. Then the council would ratify this. This would take politics out of the decisionmaking and allow the public to get it’s notice distributed at the best price, regardless of their ability to know someone.

    And no. there is no legal conflict of interest. If the story were wrong– people would find out and punish the paper by not reading it.

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  • Sage says:

    Why has nothing been done with this publisher of the Downey Patriot, Jennifer De-Kay Givens she lies and commits a crime and gets away with it? I hope someone does something and holds her accountable for her crime!!!!