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LYNWOOD MAYOR ACCUSED OF ATTEMPTING TO MANIPULATE AWARD OF TRASH CONTRACT

By Brian Hews and Randy Economy

 

Is the City of Lynwood heading down the same path that catapulted the municipality into national headlines 10 years ago with the arrest, conviction, and a 17 year jail sentence of its mayor?

During the past several weeks, several Lynwood residents are beginning to replay in their minds the scenes that haunted them when ex-Mayor and now Federal Prisoner Paul Richards orchestrated a scheme that resulted in his arrest and being given “the longest sentence of an elected official in United States history.”

Richards was convicted of steering city contracts to a front corporation he secretly owned.

The scheme could have netted Richards more than $6 million, except Federal agents caught him.

During his period in office, Richards caused problems inside Lynwood City Hall wherever he went. He would publicly berate employees, secretly threaten others, and even go so far as make up charges to get city employees fired.

In August 2003, just prior to his recall, he orchestrated the placement of an item on the council agenda regarding a seven-year trash contract that Richards and two other councilmen were pushing.

People questioned the selection because he city’s potential partner was Kosti Shirvanian, owner of one of the largest waste management companies in Los Angeles.

Federal authorities had investigated Shirvanian in the past for suspected political corruption and bribery.

Fast-forward ten years to August 2013, and it appears to many that the city is experiencing a case of “déjà vu” all over again. Shirvanian appears to be playing every political card in the book to win the contract over at least five other waste hauling companies.

Shirvanian background

In 1992 there were rumors of Shirvanian influencing the Mission Viejo contract vote; he denied it. But Bernard Nash, who served as a member of the company’s board of directors for 16 years, said Western Waste (Shirvanian’ company) made those political contributions specifically to win over Mission Viejo City Council members.

In 1994, Compton City Councilwoman Patricia Moore confessed to government agents that she received monthly payoffs from Waste Resources (Shirvanian’s company.) According to a federal agent who testified at her trial, Kosti Shirvanian, and Shirvanian’s sister, Savey Tufenkian, was aware of the payoffs. Both of them denied the allegations.

In 1996, Western Waste made $150,000 in extortion payments to a Louisiana legislator to secure permits for operating a garbage dump near Baton Rouge. The executive, Vernon Hizel, who supervised operations outside California, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Again the company and family denied any wrongdoing.

In late 1996, FBI agents filed subpoenas for the personal and office records of three members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in a political corruption probe of Western Waste Industries. The company again denied any wrongdoing.

The LA Times caught wind of Richard’s 2003 Shirvanian trash contract agenda item, published an article two days before the meeting, and Richards and the two councilman backed off and awarded the contract to Consolidated Disposal Service.

Now, ten years later, it looks like “the second coming of Paul Richards” has surfaced in the City of Lynwood.

Consolidated’s contract is now up for renewal and, like Richards, weeks before a city election, sources tell HMG-CN that Mayor Sal Alatorre and Mayor pro-tem Ramon Rodriguez want to award the contract to Shirvanian.

 

Lynwood City Council Member Maria Teresa Santillan-Beas said in a phone interview on Tuesday that “I don’t want to think that this is a repeat of the exact thing that took place here 10 years ago under Paul Richards, but my suspicion is that we are heading down that same road, and it troubles me deeply.”

Santillan-Beas, who works in a Downtown Los Angeles high rise for a well-known insurance company and served as Mayor of Lynwood for four years, lamented that Alatorre is earning a reputation for not being honest.

“I have been on the city council for 10 years, and I don’t like what I see right now from Alatorre,” she said.

 She was candid in her beliefs that Alatorre has made up his mind on awarding the massive trash contract, and for all the wrong reasons.

elected_treasurer_sal_alatorre

Lynwood Mayor Sal Alatorre

Alatorre background

Alatorre has taken a similar path to power as Richards. He was elected Treasurer of Lynwood in November 2006. During his period in office, he reportedly got so out of control that the city council was forced to implement new policies and procedures to control him and the position.

Elected to the City Council in November 2011, Alatorre immediately began to push employees around, much like Richards. “He is a little Napoleon, if he did not like you, you were gone,” said one source inside City Hall who did not want to be identified.

In recent weeks, HMG-CN obtained a 72-page confidential document that outlined in great detail the results an administrative investigation that was conducted by Irvine Attorney Jeffrey B. Love out of Orange County.

The private investigation concluded that Alatorre violated various city laws and ethical standards against City Manager Roger Haley after the two individuals engaged in numerous racially related exchanges.

Haley recently resigned from his $220,000 per year job “to pursue private sector jobs.”

City Councilwoman Aide Castro said in an interview that City Manager Haley  “was railroaded out of office by Mayor Alatorre. Let’s be real, Haley was forced to resign, he didn’t retire.”

“I will not talk about the specifics of the report, but I will go on the record as saying that Roger Haley was the best city manager Lynwood has ever seen. He did not deserve to be treated this way,” Castro said.

Now that he is Mayor, like Richards, it appears Alatorre will attempt to award the lucrative trash contract to Shirvanian, to help his own cause.

HMG-CN sources say it is well known in certain Lynwood circles that a meeting took place between Shirvanian, Alatorre, Lynwood Mayor pro-tem Ramon Rodriguez, Bill Hernandez (an associate of Shirvanian) and current Lynwood Treasurer and City Council candidate Edwin Hernandez regarding “possible financing of Hernandez’ campaign.”

One source told HMG-CN that Hernandez declined the offer.

“Ramon Rodriguez, ally of Alatorre, is retiring, so Alatorre is in jeopardy of losing his three vote majority,” said the source.  “The only way to keep his majority was to offer to get Edwin’s campaign completely financed, which Alatorre tried to do at the meeting. It looks like Edwin declined so now Alatorre is freaking out.”

City Councilwoman Aida Castro said in an interview that she has concerns and that the city council is acting too fast and is “rushing to make a decision.”

“There are rumors flying around Lynwood that promises have been made regarding this contract,” Castro continued. “We need transparency, especially during these days when members of the media are watching.”

“You can’t run to the (Los Angeles County) District Attorney’s Office based upon rumors,” Santillan-Beas said in reference to rumored back ground deals that are being made “under our own noses.” “The people need to be aware of what’s going on right now, and right here at Lynwood City Hall.”

 

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