Intimidating tactics in Montebello

MONTEBELLO – Three council members attempted to attend a Montebello Police Officers Association meeting where officers rescinded an endorsement of Councilman Robert Urteaga, officials said.

On a 18-14 vote the MPOA voted Feb. 3 to revoke its political support of Urteaga as a result of a prior felony conviction.

Councilmembers Mary Anne Saucedo-Rodriguez, Kathy Salazar and Mayor Rosie Vasquez tried to influence the decision, according to three MPOA members. The MPOA members asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

Salazar and Saucedo-Rodriguez waited inside the Park and Recreation Center, where the meeting was held, but were asked to leave before the meeting started, the members said. Urteaga was also inside the meeting quarters though he was not near the two councilwoman.

Vasquez could be seen in her car circling the street several times, according to MPOA members.

“They (the council members) said they were there to show support for Robert,” an MPOA member said. “They wanted to intimidate all of us. I have never seen anything like this.”

Terry Francke, president of a government watchdog group Californians Aware, said the council members did not violate the Brown Act because they did not stay for the meeting.

“The problem would start when the actual presentation or discussion starts,” Francke said.

The MPOA’s decision to rescind its endorsement comes after Urteaga’s felony conviction became public in October. In 1998, Urteaga pleaded no contest to grand theft of personal property totaling $30,000, according to court documents.

The criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office in February 1999 accused Urteaga of five counts of check forgery and one count grand theft. In a July 1999 plea agreement between Urteaga and prosecutors, the forgery counts were dropped by the district attorney.