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By Brian Hews
At least seven current and former local elected officials met in private on Wednesday night under the behest of Cerritos Mayor Pro-Tem Carol Chen to begin mapping out a strategy that could derail a $235 million dollar general improvement bond for the ABC School District.
Chen, a successful real estate executive, set up the meeting by sending out a private email to several key area officials and influential decision makers urging them to attend.
Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper obtained a copy of that email and published it on line just hours prior to the commencement of the 8 p.m. meeting in a third floor conference room at 183rd Street and Gridley Road real estate office owned by Chen.
Cerrito’s Mayor pro tem Carol Chen sent a personal email with addresses obscured from her individual Yahoo email account on Monday June 30 calling it an “urgent meeting” to seek input on the proposed ABCUSD $680 million Facilities Master Plan and $235 million Bond Measure.
When asked, Chen indicated she did not want the press at the meeting.
HMG-CN confronted Chen at the meeting and was repeatedly denied access. Chen on several occasion during the heated interview denied sending out the email or deflecting any and all questions surrounding the meeting.
The ABC School Board will be discussing both of these issues at the July 8 meeting and voting on them at the July 15 meeting.
In her email Mayor pro tem Chen said, “Given the facts I know of current(ly), if the bond passes it will impact/increase your property tax bill hundreds of dollars annually. ABCUSD School Board members Lynda Johnson and Soo Yoo both have reached out to me to get this information out to the public.”
She asked email recipients “to share their viewpoints with Johnson and Yoo tonight 8 PM at 11306 E. 183rd St., third floor in Cerritos. It is an office building between Big Five Sporting Goods and Sears Automotive.”
Chen ended the email by saying I do appreciate your reply by email if you can attend this important meeting.”
Based on the statement by Chen in the email where she said, “I wanted to get this information out to the public,” HMG-CN contacted Chen by email to attend the meeting.
Chen’s terse one-line reply was, “no media, invited guests only.”
Chen Confronts HMG-CN Reporter
Cerritos City Manager Art Gallucci, who was not in attendance, was informed about Chen’s meeting on Wednesday in an email from HMG-CN. Gallucci said, “The city was not aware of the meeting until you (HMG-CN) emailed the information to me. This is not a city meeting therefore the city will not be participating in any official capacity.”
Attending the meeting with Chen and nearly 20 other individuals was Cerritos City Councilman Bruce Barrows, as well as former Cerritos Mayor Grace Hu. Hu is running for city council in 2015 and is expected to have Chen and Barrow’s full support.
With a cell phone video rolling, HMG-CN captured both Yoo and Johnson arriving at the meeting at the same time. Chen greeted the two ABC School Board Members with open arms and hugs before they went into a private elevator that took them to the third floor meeting in the Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate office.
Johnson, when asked if members of the media could attend, responded that she was there as a “guest.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Johnson told the newspaper that she was attending. “I am attending and will take input from attendees, but I am there as an observer only.”
One Cerritos resident who wanted to remain anonymous and who sent the email to HMG-CN said, “I’m guessing she (Chen) and the city probably doesn’t want it (the Bond Measure) because the city has wanted to raise water rates and maybe a utility tax. This could cause conflict between the district and city hall. If she is against it, in my opinion this meeting is an attempt to sabotage funding for schools, while considering taxing residents to pay for council perks and lifetime benefits for her and her colleagues. We rank 46th in the nation in education, this is absolutely wrong, secret meetings are undemocratic.”
HMG-CN Online Editor Randy Economy attempted to enter the meeting and was personally blocked by Chen and her longtime supporter Gordon Hom, who is a key member of the Cerritos Republican Club.
Several other residents of Cerritos wanted to attend the meeting and were turned away including former California Assemblywoman Sally Havice.
Havice made her way into the third floor meeting and was asked to leave the room immediately. Havice is a former ABC School Board member and outspoken critic of several past policies and project by both Cerritos city officials and ABC School Board members. Also turned away was Cerritos residents Jay Gray, and Jim McMahon. At least 10 other local residents gathered outside the meeting in the parking lot after been denied as well.
Also attending the meeting was Cerritos Public Safety Committee Member Matt Kauble, Cerritos Republican Club Member Joan Plyman as well as Cecy Groom a former ABC School Board member who was censured in the past for make racially charged remarks to former school board member Louise Dotson who is an African American. Sources tell HMG-CN that Groom is contemplating a run in next year’s ABC School board campaign for a seat on the Cerritos City Council.
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