Hate crime in Covina. Where’s that investigation?

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Supervisor Michael Antonovich is calling for a ‘hate crime investigation’ into a West Hollywood display depicting Sarah Palin hung and John McCain emerging from a fiery chimney. If he is commenting on this ‘hate crime,’ which some are still debating whether it is in fact a hate crime, he should be calling for an investigation into a hate crime that occurred a week ago in unincorporated Covina.

Amanda Baumfeld reports that an African American woman last week discovered that someone spray-painted the n-word on her car.

The house is located in unincorporated Covina, a section of the county that is represented by Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Baumfeld’s story will appear in tomorrow’s paper.

‘Harassed’ West Covina City Hall employee asks for $3 million

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One year after the Community Development Commission Director Chris Chung filed a harassment claim against Councilman Roger Hernandez, Chung is now asking for $3 million from the city, according to a letter sent by his attorney dated Sept. 23.

“This amount is reasonable in light of the Tennie Pierce case where a firefighter was awarded over $2 million for eating dog food and retaliated against for complaining about the incident,” according to Chung’s attorney, Victor Jacobovitz.

Chung is also asking for agreement to protect him from future retaliation and termination by ensuring continuous employment through the retirement age of 60, which will also include 4 percent annual cost of living adjustments.

Chung alleges that he was subject to a hostile work environment as of March 20, 2006, when Hernandez allegedly berated and belittled him, as well as used profanity and disparaging remarks. Here is the story that we initially reported when the claim was filed:

Claim of harassment targets councilman
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) – Friday, September 28, 2007
Author/Byline: Alison Hewitt , Staff Writer
Section: News

WEST COVINA – A city staff member filed a claim against the city that accuses a councilman of “continuous retaliatory and harassing acts,” according to a document obtained Friday.

Community Development Director Christopher Chung filed the claim Wednesday naming Councilman Roger Hernandez, according to the documents.

On Friday, Hernandez denied the allegations.

A city-commissioned investigation reported in December that Hernandez verbally attacked several city employees, and Chung was among those identified after the report came out. Chung accused Hernandez of retaliating against him for participating in the investigation.

“It’s not something that I want to get public, and it’s been a hard decision to make,” Chung said. “I was hoping that it would stop, and I don’t see it stopping. It’s just been very difficult.”

Hernandez denied taking any action against Chung, just as he had originally denied harassing any employees.

“I haven’t spoken to Mr. Chung in more than a year, probably,” Hernandez said. “He works very closely with the city attorney and any attempts they make to attack my character is strategically timed with the current election cycle we’re going through.”

Hernandez, who is frequently a lone opposition vote on the council and has had disagreements with the city manager and city attorney, is one of two council members running for re-election in November.

Chung’s claim accuses Hernandez of damaging Chung’s health and reputation, causing physical and mental stress, “stress-induced diabetes” and damage to his future employment prospects.

In the claim, Chung accuses Hernandez of naming him as one of the city employees complaining of harassment when his name was supposed to remain confidential, and of making “statements which (implied) that I and the city attorney were doing something unethical.”

The amount Chung is seeking was marked “unknown/unlimited.”

Hernandez called the claim “just another repeated attempt” to destroy his reputation. Hernandez was investigated by the District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Division regarding complaints that he improperly accepted a steep discount on a car and that he misused employee time to create a video that was used by residents at a council meeting. He was not prosecuted in either case.

Councilman Michael Touhey said he was deeply concerned about Chung’s claim.

“We’ve warned Councilman Hernandez that his temper tantrums could cost us money,” Touhey said. “That’s what we were concerned with all along. Some (employees) have been badgered at meetings, and that’s where we’ve warned (him) that they have rights.”

Catching up…

Sorry about the lack of blog posts today. I’ve been chasing down a ouple of West Covina City Hall stories, went down to Montebello Unified School District to review Del Terra documents, and have also been working on a story about the opening of the lower level of Shadow Oak Park.

There was a grand opening for the 10-acre parcel on Saturday, and the preservation of the land is a victory for many a resident who wanted to keep the land from being developed. The price tag is $1.3 million, and construction began in January, according to a past article by Alison Hewitt.

Have you checked out the park yet? What are your thoughts?

Pasadena smokers beware


Smoking bans in cities have become pretty popular over the last several years.

The latest city to join the club: Pasadena.

According to reporter Dan Abendschein, the City Council approved the new smoking ban Monday.

It takes effect in November, would prohibit smokers “from lighting up in outdoor restaurant patios, at bus stops, in ATM lines and within 20 feet of the entrance to any commercial building.”

It doesn’t look like enforcement is going to be very rigorous though.

But exactly how the smoking ban will be enforced — and whether the city will actually issue citations to violators — is still up in the air. And given the city’s past history with a previous no-smoking law adopted in 2004, an aggressive crackdown seems unlikely.
Enforcement will be primarily the responsibility of several employees at the Health Department, not the police.

Health Department employees will not be out patrolling for smokers, said Wilmore. But like Calabasas, they will respond to complaints from businesses and individuals, he added.

Pasadena police will be trained about the new law, but enforcement will be a low priority, Chief David Melekian said. Don’t expect a cop to show up if you complain about illegal smoking, he added.

Other valley cities that also have smoking bans include South Pasadena and Baldwin Park.

Look for Dan’s story in tomorrow’s paper.

Whittier feels the economic crunch

The economic crisis is hitting home in the San Gabriel Valley, particularly Whittier, where officials are planning to slash $2 million from the budget to offset the loss of some major retailers.

Mike Sprague reports that City Manager Steve Helvey “is asking all of his department heads to come up with a 5 percent cut to make that happen.”

Apparently, in December 2007 Board Ford shut down, followed by the closures of a Chrysler dealership and Whittier Mitsubishi. A Mervyns retail store will be the next to go.

“Helvey said he will let the department heads come up with their own budget “hit list.” Those have yet to be developed.

But he wants to slash entire programs, not just diminish them.

“I’d prefer to stop things we do than doing things halfway,” he said.

Helvey said the cuts may affect personnel, but it’s too early to say if there will be layoffs.

Look for the full story in tomorrow’s paper.

Education or scare-tactic?

You know it’s election time when those mailers start showing up in your mailbox.

And in Pico Rivera, not everyone is happy about a particular mailer backing Measure P — a 1-percent sales-tax increase initiative the voters will be asked to approve come Nov. 4.

Whittier Daily News reporter Airan Scruby has a story running in tomorrow’s paper about the issue.

Here’s a brief look at the story:

According to Public Information Officer Bob Spencer, the City Council allotted $35,000 for an “educational outreach program,” and so far about $30,000 has been spent, mostly on glossy mailers sent to voters.
The mailings assert that money to fight crime may dry up, recreational programs will disappear and staff will be fired if the tax measure fails, leaving a $4.8 million budget gap.
Mailers have also announced the support of four of five council members, Sheriff Lee Baca and the El Rancho Unified School District.

Opponents to Measure P, including Councilman David Armenta, say the campaign by the city to educate is really about fear mongering.

“It’s not an information program,” Armenta said. “It’s a scare tactic campaign.”
No formal complaints have been filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission, organization spokesman Roman Porter said.

According to Porter, materials put out by the city could seem to lean in favor of the tax, but would not necessarily violate the law.

Have any of you guys seen these mailers? What do you guys think: is this educational or propaganda?

LP meeting preview

I was just checking out the agenda for Tuesday’s La Puente City Council meeting, and it seems they have some very interesting items on there.



***Hmm, City Attorney James Casso told me last week he would be discussing several *options* with the City Council in regards to recouping $500,000 in missing tow fees from La Puente coffers. Could a lawsuit against the County and the Sheriff’s Department be brewing?



****Wow, that was quick. A week after the theft of nearly $500K in impound fees from La Puente went public, Councilman John Solis is requesting consideration of a towing service agreement, according to a city staff report.

I wonder if he’s looking to Bob’s Towing again for the job? Last August, Bob’s Towing submitted an unsolicited bid to the city for an exclusive franchise agreement. Solis said the agreement would bring in more dough for the city, but the council didn’t buy into it.

Haven’t had a chance to ask Solis about the item – ever since the tow story dropped, he’s failed to return about a dozen of my calls.



A boo-boo on Temple City’s part may cost the city $50,000 and may earn City Manager/City Attorney Charles Martin a raise, according to Star-News reporter Alfred Lee.

TEMPLE CITY – When city manager-city attorney Charles Martin revealed earlier this month that the city had been flagged by the IRS for improperly hiring full-time employees as independent contractors, he attributed it mostly to Temple City’s contracting of parks and recreation workers.

Turns out, Martin himself was part of that problem.

Since taking over the dual roles of city manager and city attorney in 2005, Martin has been paid as an independent contractor, rather than as a city employee.

That has allowed Temple City to avoid providing medical, dental or retirement benefits to Martin, and to pay him less than it might otherwise have to.

The city also does not have to pay or withhold taxes on Martin’s behalf, as he gets paid on a 1099 tax form instead of a W-2. Such contractors are responsible for paying their own income taxes.

The city, which may be fined up to $50,000 by the IRS for such hiring practices, plans to comply with the audit by changing the wording of some contracts, and also by converting some contractors to regular employees.

Martin will be reclassified as a full-time employee as of Jan. 1, and he might receive a pay increase at that time, Financial Services Director Monica Molina said.


David Dreier, death threats and women’s underwear


I read this story from the Daily Bulletin and nearly fell of my chair:

POMONA – A Santa Monica man accused of threatening to kill Rep. David Dreier in June was sentenced Friday in Pomona Superior Court to spend one year in a mental-health facility.

Thomas Aaron Brothers, 41, was suspected of repeatedly calling the Republican House member’s district office in San Dimas to complain about being harassed by the government for wearing women’s underwear.

During a conversation on June 13 with a staff member at the office, Brothers reportedly became irate and threatened to kill Dreier and the staff member.

Brothers pleaded no contest in August to one felony count of threatening a government official.

As part of Brothers’ plea bargain, prosecutors withdrew two additional felony counts.

At a July preliminary hearing, Dreier staff member Richard Rea testified that Brothers left three “very colorful” phone messages on the district office’s answering machine late June 12 and early June 13.

In the messages, Brothers made numerous vague references to “purple and pink” and complained of government harassment for wearing women’s underwear, Rea said.

Hope this guy knows he’ll have a very limited wardrobe in his lockdown facility…..