In the spirit of the New Year, this week’s Leftovers column looked at the “Top 5” news stories based on reader comments and interest on the blog:
It’s 2009 and there’s no telling what tidings the new year will bring our local cities. But before we dive in, let’s take a look back.
Here’s a list of five stories that garnered the most comments and interest from blog readers in 2008 (in no particular order):
*In May, accusations surfaced that El Monte Mayor Ernie Gutierrez showed up at a sister city event drunk and shouting vulgarities. The allegations kicked up a whirlwind in City Hall, and criticism from residents who questioned Gutierrez’s ethical standards as an elected officials. An in-house investigation cleared Gutierrez of the allegations.
But soon after, the mayor was arrested on allegations he was involved in a domestic argument with someone he was dating — and not his wife. Charges weren’t filed, but some City Council members expressed disappointment over the incident. Gutierrez eventually was removed from a commission over the arrest.
*Three Valleys Municipal Water District member Xavier Alvarez was found guilty in July of violating the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which makes it a crime to lie about receiving certain medals.
He was sentenced to three years probation, and was fined $5,000 for falsely claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient.
Alvarez continues to sit on the board and faces more legal trouble. He faces three felony charges for grand theft of personal property, insurance fraud and misappropriating public money.
*South El Monte Mayor Blanca Figueroa recently received international acclaim when her colleagues voted to ban her from working in her City Hall office past 11 p.m.
Figueroa has a habit of working late — sometimes as late as 3 a.m. — and some of her colleagues have accused her of living her in office.
She’s denied those claims, but does admit to making the office her own. She decorates it with accolades, photos, beta fish, plants, a plasma television and snacks.
*A Montebello trash contract dispute that already was getting a lot of attention took an interesting turn when a group leaked documents detailing City Councilman Robert Urteaga’s criminal history on the Internet.
In 1998, he pleaded no contest to grand theft of personal property totaling $30,000, according to court documents.
Urteaga said his conviction dated back to his years as a UCLA student when he was 21. Putting himself through school, he took up sports gambling to make extra money. He said he was remorseful.
*Baldwin Park school board member Sergio Corona is serving three years probation for a misdemeanor charge stemming from his May arrest.
The board’s youngest member pleaded guilty in October to resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer. He was sentenced to one day in jail, fined $150 and was ordered to pay $100 in restitution fees, she said.
Corona, 34, was Tased and arrested on May 22 after allegedly breaking the windows of a home on Sandstone Street while shirtless and sweaty.
Following the incident, Corona then faced a myriad of criticism from parents and City Council members, especially over initial police reports that said Corona admitted he had smoked methamphetamine and marijuana the night he was arrested.
Subsequent toxicology reports did not support those allegations and Corona denied the claims. He did, however, say he took “full responsibility” for the arrest.