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Judge Slams Commerce Council and City for Filing Lawsuit Against Councilman Argumedo


Hugo Argumedo

Commerce Councilman Hugo Argumedo.



By Brian Hews

Hews Media Group-Community News has obtained documents that show Superior Court Judge Henry Barela slamming the city of Commerce and Commerce City Council for filing a lawsuit against Councilman Hugo Argumedo.

The lawsuit centers around a closed session meeting  on April 21, 2015 between Mayor Lilia Leon, Mayor pro tem Tina Baca Del Rio, and Councilmembers Ivan Altamirano and Oralia Reballo who voted 4-0 to use a little known law to initiate a lawsuit against the recently elected Argumedo.

The lawsuit was a culmination of several back room deals that included City Attorney Eduardo Olivo classifying a public letter, written by former Commerce Council candidate John Soria, as a closed session item to keep the lawsuit discussion away from public scrutiny and outside of the City Council chambers.

The letter basically asked for a change in the city’s theft and fraud policy. Olivo and Council applied their own interpretation to the letter, agreed the policy should be changed retroactively to include Argumedo, and initiated the “litigation. ”

In doing so, the Council violated the Brown Act by not adequately describing the Argumedo closed session item contained in the Council Agenda that was posted online.

Soria was a bitter rival of Argumedo and came in last place in the Mar. 3 election. HMG-CN first reported that Soria lied on his campaign materials claiming he was a “law enforcement professional” when in reality he is a police dispatcher.

Soria had good reason to write the letter as sources are telling HMG-CN that if Argumedo loses the lawsuit, Soria would be endorsed by all City Councilmembers to take his place.

HMG-CN requested the “report out” of the Apr. 21 closed session meeting that stated, “in regards to [the Argumedo issue], pursuant to the advice of the City Attorney [Olivo], Councilmember Argumedo recused himself from participating in the matter due to potential conflict of interest regarding the subject matter to be discussed and the potential initiation of litigation action by the City; Councilmember Argumedo left the room. ”

The document went on to say, “Mayor Pro Tem Baca Del Rio moved, seconded by Mayor Leon, to direct City Attorney to initiate communication with the California Attorney General (AG) regarding the initiation of a “quo warranto” matter.

Councilmembers Altamirano, Reballo, Mayor Pro Tem Baca Del Rio and Mayor Leon all voted yes to initiate the costly litigation.

According to the AG’s website, the term “quo warranto” is Latin for “by what authority, ” or “by what authority does this person hold this office? ”

Quo warranto is a special form of legal action used to resolve a dispute over whether a specific person has the legal right to hold the public office that he or she occupies. For example, a quo warranto action may be brought to determine whether a public official satisfies a requirement that he or she resides in the district; or whether a public official is serving in two incompatible offices.

Interestingly and pertinent to Councilman Argumedo, quo warranto is not available to decide whether an official has committed misconduct in office.

The statement would be in direct opposition to the meaning of the Soria letter as interpreted by the City Attorney and Council, that is, to retroactively apply a fraud and theft policy so they can remove Argumedo.

Based on the vote, City Attorney Olivo will likely earn some hefty fees during litigation, as the process is very detailed.

Barela, at the May 19 hearing, was obviously angry saying, “this motion is misplaced there’s no reason why I should be hearing anything here. I sentenced Mr. Argumedo to probation, it was clear that he could not hold office during the period of probation, which as far as I was concerned, meant that once he successfully completed probation, if he wanted to run for office that was his business.”

Barela then questioned the attorneys asking who was trying to keep Argumedo from holding the office.

“Was it the city?”

Argumedo’s attorney Carlos Ramirez said yes was the city of Commerce

Barela then said, “everything is clear, probation was for three years, he finished the probation, as far as I’m concerned he properly ran, he won, he should be allowed to take the (Council) seat.

You (referring to Argumedo) should sue the City.”

  • P.O. Commerce Resident says:

    After reading this article I too thought that City of Commerce attorney Eduardo Olivo took this case to court not because he knew he could win. In my opinion he took it to court because of the money he could make out of the case. Mr. Olivo is milking the City of Commerce, ( No fun intended to the big fat BACA that serves in council). This current city council has opened the door to many lawsuits. First with their HARSH mentalities that they have a majority and can do as they please. They have abused their power on city staff and are currently about to lose a case that can cause the city millions. As a resident I feel that this 4 council majority are on a power high and need to be removed from office. Mr. Soria, ( councilwoman Oralia Rebollo”s boyfriend) was innocently used for this scam. As a former supporter of Mr. John Soria, I cannot believe he was stupid enough to fall for such a scam. Personally, I think Councilmember Hugo Arguedo should sue the city but also the 4 council members for their reckless actions. Please do not forget to include John Soria, in the lawsuit it is his letter that is going to cost the city of Commerce hundreds of thousands are maybe millions.Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio recently was found to have violated 24 political laws, she is facing $125,000.00 in fines. I think the District Attorneys Office should force her out of office before she causes our city more embarrassment. She took over $18,000.00 from her political; account and transferred it to her personal bank account. How much money has Mrs. Baca Del Rio taken from consultants? She has been seen at Bandini Market cashing checks many times. Could this be bribes for votes on projects, I”ll leave it up to readers to form their opinion. Mrs. Tina Baca Del Rio has become the Robert Rizzo of Commerce ( Former city Administrator of the formerly corrupted City of Bell). Mrs. Baca Del Rio is in many ways milking the city. Since when do Baca”s milk cities? Should”t it be backwards and the Baca should be the one being milked. #commercedeservesbetter#currentcitycouncilmajorityhastogo#bacadelrioshouldresignandstopbringinhgshametoourcity#Soriayourarecostingthecitymillions#