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Commerce Councilwoman Robles Files Complaint with District Attorney Citing City Attorney, Councilmembers

Recall campaign in Commerce takes new turn.

Recall campaign in Commerce takes new turn.

City Attorney Olivo counters: ‘There were no threats, as a matter of fact, it was a friendly meeting, and it lasted around two minutes.’

By Brian Hews

Political tensions in Commerce continued to rise this week when it was learned that City Councilwoman Denise Robles has formally asked that an investigation be launched into the activities of several current officials that includes the city administrator, city attorney, and at least three other current city council members.

Back on November 6, Robles sent a formal complaint to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey asking that a probe be launched into Mayor Joe Aguilar, Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon, Councilman Ivan Altamirano, Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, City Attorney Eddie Olivo and City Administrator Jorge Rifa.

Robles, in her one page letter to the Public Integrity Division, is claiming that a recent recall campaign being waged against Baca Del Rio, Leon and Altamirano was illegally ruled ineligible in a “back room deal” by Olivo on behalf the three officials.

Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper has obtained a copy of the complaint request sent to the District Attorney from Robles.  The six-paragraph complaint was hand typed by Robles on her own personal computer and was dated November 6.

One week later, on November 13, Robles received an acknowledgement from Lacey that confirms that they District Attorney’s office was “in receipt” of the complaint request, but that the “reply should not be construed that an acknowledgement that our (Public Integrity) Division has commenced an investigation.

In her complaint to the District Attorney, Robles states that “on October 8, 2013 at approximately 2:15pm, at the City of Commerce City Hall, I was asked by Council Member Ivan Altamirano, to join him, Mayor Joe Aguilar, Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon and City Attorney Eddie Olivo for what I thought was going to be a continuation of the closed session meeting.”

“Instead Ivan Altamirano demanded that I make (recall organizer) Jaime Valencia stop the recall effort against him, Lilia Leon, and Tina Baca Del Rio. I explained to all of them that I had nothing to do with the recall efforts against them and had no control over Mr. Valencia,” Robles stated.

She goes on to write in her complaint: “At that time I felt intimidated by Mr.  Altamirano’s agitated state and his insistence that I stop their recall. I again tried to explain to them that I have nothing to do with the recall efforts against them. During the discussion City Administrator Jorge Rifa walked in and asked the city attorney if that meeting should be going on, and was assured by the city attorney that it was within the law, the City Administrator urgently walked out.”

Then Robles, who is in her first term as a member of the Commerce City Council states: “It was then that Council Member Altamirano turned towards me and gave me an ultimatum and proceeded in telling me, ‘If you do not get Jaime to stop the recall against us, a recall against you will happen on October 15th.’”

Robles said that she “was intimidated by the fact that I was not only being threatened by Council Member Altamirano but by the fact that my colleagues Joe Aguilar, and Lilia Leon with the support of our City Attorney, Eddie Olivo, agreed with the threats being made against me.”

Robles then claims that after she left the meeting, “I realized that I had walked into a trap. Now I find it puzzling and I’m trying to understand why all four of them had to be present for such a meeting. My only conclusion is that they were there to support the threats against me.”

She also charges in her letter to the District Attorney that “Council Member Altamirano carried out his threat and on October 15, 2013. I was served with recall papers.”

Robles also states that “in the last few days I have reflected on that event and feel that I was a victim of an illegal “meeting” that was planned by three of my City Council colleagues with the support of our City Attorney Eddie Olivo.”

Robles said that she feels that the meeting constituted a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, also known as the California Open Meeting Law.

Robles concluded her letter stating: “I would like to formally make a complaint and ask for an investigation into the legality of the mentioned meeting and to the threats made against me at that meeting.”


Olivo told HMG-CN late Thursday night that the allegations levied by Robles are “completely false,” but acknowledged that a discussion did take place between the parties that “started out as a hall way chat, that moved into the Mayor’s office.”

Olivo said that Altamirano, Leon, Aguilar and City Administrator Rifa’s discussion with Robles was “not confrontational at all.”

“There were no threats, as a matter of fact, it was a friendly meeting, and it lasted around two minutes,” Olivo said.

Olivo said that Robles even gave Leon “a friendly hug” and provided Altamirano with a “nice warm handshake.”

“It just didn’t happen like Councilwoman Robles contends.  End of story,” Olivo said.


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