Leftovers from City Hall: La Puente reeling

Holy smoke.

Mayor Louie Lujan last week resigned from office and a day later pleaded guilty to felony perjury for lying on campaign-finance forms.

He faces three months probation, a $1,000 fine and a ban on holding public office.

After the plea, Lujan told our reporter he was “hungry” and declined to comment further.

The former mayor of a city with a bunch of marijuana dispensaries had a case of the munchies.

I guess I cue up a bunch more pot jokes here. But the litany of scandal and bad news coming out of La Puente isn’t funny, just sad.

Last summer La Puente and the surrounding unincorporated Valinda neighborhoods were rocked by a dozens of shootings. People were trying to blast each other in broad daylight in a park full of kids.

We tried to track the number of shootings, but we eventually lost count around 24.

In 2008, the city discovered $500,000 of towing fees was missing. Former sheriff’s deputy Joe Dyer and his wife have been indicted on suspicion of taking the money.

In late 2007, county investigators discovered that a woman was allegedly running a drug taxation and extortion operation from her La Puente home on behalf of her husband, Jacques “Jacko” Padilla, a Mexican Mafia member who was serving time for murder at Corcoran State Prison.

The City Council recently allowed about a dozen marijuana clinics to get business permits because it failed to renew a moratorium in 2008. Then last week they moved to outlaw all clinics, a tactic that will probably lead to the the city spending money on attorneys.

Meanwhile, redevelopment projects slated for the demolished bowling alley on Hacienda Boulevard and the downtown have gone nowhere.

At this point, should La Puente even bother trying something big – like an auto mall – since neighboring Industry will always have more cash and more space to do something bigger?

Can a ray of light crack through?

Some are calling for the return of Lola Storing, who lost a re-election bid in November.

But she is rehabbing from a car accident and won’t return calls from even her close friends.

There’s a saying that it is darkest before dawn.

Here’s to hoping it’s 5 a.m. in La Puente.

- Ben Baeder is the Deputy Metro Editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Lujan’s resignation letter

It’s a little late but here’s former Mayor Louie Lujan’s resignation letter. Lujan resigned hours before he appeared in court Thursday to plead guilty to one count of perjury. The letter is time-stamped 5:25 p.m. Wednesday.

City of La Puente:

For personal and professional, I hereby resign from the City Council effective today at 5:30 p.m. Thank you for the support and the opportunities that you have provided me during the last several years. I have enjoyed my time working with each and every one of you; you will all be missed.

Respectfully,
Louie Lujan

Lujan stricken from the records

Former La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan’s image has already been taken off the city’s Web site. Reminds me of when Moses get’s kicked out of Egypt in “The Ten Commandments” movie.
He resigned from office Wednesday and pleaded guilty to perjury Thursday.

Check it out with this link

The council has 30 days to appoint a council member or schedule an election.

Former La Puente Mayor Lujan pleads guilty to perjury

LOS ANGELES – Former Mayor Louie Lujan on Thursday accepted three years probation and a $1,000 fine when he pleaded guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court to one felony count of perjury.

Lujan was accused of lying on a campaign finance form.

If Lujan rejected the deal and was convicted of perjury, he would have faced up to four years in prison. Either way, Lujan is barred from ever holding elected office again, officials said.

Lujan resigned from his position Wednesday.

After the hearing, Lujan’s attorney, Glen Jonas said his client was singled out for a minor infraction.

“If there was ever a benign form of perjury, this was it,” Jonas said.

He also said Lujan, who is Latino, was singled out because of his race.

“If you’re Hispanic and you fill out a form incorrectly, that’s it,” Jonas said.

Lujan absent again at big marijuana vote

La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan was a no-show again at Tuesday’s council meeting.
In case you missed it, the council decided to create an ordinance to outlaw marijuana clinics.
The idea to ban them was from Councilman John Solis. It was a 4-0 vote.
By the way, the City Council chambers was packed.
We tried calling Lujan this morning with three different phones, but all we got was a message saying the person was unavailable.
Lujan last week was charged with perjury and has is scheduled for a plea hearing Thursday. He also missed Saturday’s special council meeting to set the goals for the year.

La Puente pot clinics to go up in smoke?

The City Council chambers were packed Tuesday as the council considered zoning laws to govern pot clinics:

From reporter James Wagner

LA PUENTE – After capping the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the city at six last month, the City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to draft an ordinance to push them all out.

The city was scheduled to consider an ordinance that would limit how close the dispensaries could be to schools, parks and libraries.

But with a number of residents expressing concerns over the dispensaries and their effect on children, the council took a different direction.

Councilmen John Solis
and Dan Holloway moved to rid the city of the dispensaries.

“The residents have spoken,” said Councilman David Argudo, who has also opposed the dispensaries.

The city attorneys will draft an ordinance that bans medical marijuana dispensaries.

DA offers La Puente mayor probation if he pleads guilty to perjury charge

LA PUENTE – Prosecutors have offered Mayor Louie Lujan a plea deal in a perjury case against him.

Lujan, who faces one felony count of perjury for filing an allegedly false campaign finance report, will appear Thursday in a court that officials said handles cases before they enter the traditional criminal court process.

“If he enters a plea on this count as charged, then that will end the case,” said Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division.

The plea offer consists of three years probation and a $1,000 fine, Huntsman said.

Thursday’s court date in Superior Court is for an early disposition hearing, where it is determined if a case can be “disposed of early,” Deputy Clerk Lorraine Valdez said.

There is no testimony or witnesses, she said.

The prosecution and defense must both agree to enter the early disposition hearing, Huntsman said.

A judge would have to sign off on an agreed plea deal, officials said.

Lujan and his attorney, Glen Jonas, did not return repeated calls Monday for comment.

Lujan, 33, is accused of failing to report money from a December 2008 fund-raiser. He also failed to report how his campaign account spent the money, according to the criminal complaint.

Lujan pleaded not guilty to the charge.

If convicted, Lujan would be removed from office and barred from ever holding elected office again, Huntsman said.

Huntsman declined to comment on what may come of the evidence if Lujan doesn’t agree to the deal.

Investigators had been investigating Lujan since last year in connection with a Dec. 4, 2008, fund-raiser at the home of city Planning Commissioner Charles Klinakis.

Lujan claimed that he collected no campaign money for the second half of 2008, according to a campaign finance report filed last February. He also claimed his campaign was $6,806.54 in the red.

The mayor later filed amendments in his campaign-finance reports dating back to 2007.

The revised filings showed Lujan actually had $5,907.42 in the second half of 2008.

Lujan has previously denied wrongdoing, claiming inadvertent errors on campaign contribution forms are common.

If Lujan decides against the terms of a plea deal, he could enter an open plea or a preliminary hearing would be scheduled, officials said.

The defense indicates they want an early disposition of the case, said spokeswoman Jane Robison of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors don’t request that a case go to early disposition court, she said.

“We don’t force a defendant to plead,” Robison said. “It’s up to a defendant to say, `Hey, I want to plea early.”‘

If Lujan were to step down, the city council would have to decide within 30 days whether to appoint someone to fill the position or call a city-run special election, City Attorney Rick Olivarez said.

Council members David Argudo, Dan Holloway and John Solis said they didn’t know about a plea deal.

Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza did not return a message seeking comment.

Holloway said he could comment but he didn’t think it would be appropriate.

“I have no comment until after the legal process is settled in the courts,” he said.

Solis said the city staff had already been directed to look into what may happen if Lujan were to vacate his position.

“We don’t want to be caught not knowing what’s going on,” he said.

About the case, Solis said: “We’ll know Thursday what’ll happen.”

Councilman David Argudo said he wished Lujan luck on whatever the case’s outcome may be.

“I hope this comes to a resolution here soon and we can look forward to moving the city in the right direction,” he said.

james.wagner@sgvn.com

626-962-8811, ext. 2236

Azusa Commissioner puts a down payment on conflict of interest

From reporter Daniel Tedford:

AZUSA — After taking steps to ensure it would have a full planning commission to vote on a new mining plan, the city will fall one member short just days before the matter is scheduled to be heard by the commission, officials said Monday.
Commissioner Jack Lee will “not be present” Wednesday at the meeting where commissioners will have their first opportunity to vote on a contentious new mining plan, officials said.
“It is very disappointing,” City Manager Fran Delach said. “I am sure there are those that will take this an opportunity to discredit whatever decision the commission makes.”
Lee is in escrow on a new home in the Mountain Cove community in Azusa, Delach said. The neighborhood is near to the mining project in question and would force Lee to abstain from voting, Delach said.
When reached by phone Monday, Lee declined comment.

Charged with perjury = no show

On Saturday, the La Puente City Council held a special meeting to discuss the future of the city and to set some goals. Nothing gripping.

Four of the five council members showed up, but freshly-indicted Mayor Louie Lujan didn’t.

Lujan pleaded not guilty Thursday to one count of perjury for filing an allegedly false campaign finance report, officials with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

Lujan, 33, is accused of failing to report money from a December 2008 fundraiser. He also failed to report how his campaign account spent the money, according to the criminal complaint.

If convicted, Lujan would be removed from office and barred from ever holding elected office again, prosecutors said.

There is a council meeting scheduled for Tuesday night, so residents may have a chance to see their mayor again. Or not.

Leftovers from City Hall: El Monte in black?

Go back 150 years, and a group of vigilantes called the “Monte Boys” were out busting heads around the El Monte area.

Kind of like present-day El Monte Police Officer George Fierro, who also kicked a little head last year.

Throw in some accusations of fraud by a developer. Sprinkle in a huge deficit and a couple-hundred layoffs. And top it off with police responding to a fight involving the then-Mayor Ernesto Gutierrez and his girlfriend.

That’s “colorful” El Monte, to use a euphemism.

Then this story published last week:

- EL MONTE – The city has finally climbed out of the deep fiscal hole it was in last year and on Tuesday began to rebuild its long-defunct rainy day fund. -

What? El Monte has it’s act together?

My world view changed so quickly I felt physical pain inside my head.

I have always felt sorry for El Monte. It’s such a crazy town.

It has a weird city slogan: End of the Santa Fe Trail.

Shouldn’t that be the slogan for Santa Fe?

It’s got that big Statue of Liberty replica in front of City Hall.

It’s peppered with ancient trailer parks – many of which are on big lots created during the Great Depression to settle Okies.

The streets are crooked.

There’s a random airport.

The Boys and Girls Club feeds homeless people.

The cops are kind of cowboyish, but they do tons of nice things for impoverished children.

Nobody even knows what the heck “El Monte” means. While the first inclination is think El Monte means “the mountain” or the “the hill,” historians don’t agree.

Since there are no mountains in the city, one historian insists El Monte means “the island,” because the city is surrounded by the Rio Hondo and the San Gabriel rivers. I guess “monte” means island in some old Spanish dialect.

I, for one, hope the island is finally getting its act together.

But I worry.

After Titan Group president John Leung was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement in June, Titan dropped the 65-acre project and the city took it over.

Leung was never charged, and El Monte so far has lost a couple grants for the Transit Village, which is slated to become a residential/commercial village near the bus stop.

The city’s biggest revenue producer, Longo Toyota, is no doubt suffering from car recalls.

I have to say, though, I like this new Mayor Andre Quintero. He seems pretty smart. I like the new City Manager Rene Bobadilla, too. He wears nice suits, played baseball and seems like he understands the challenges facing the city.

Then there are the two Marias, Maria Rosario Valdez and Maria Valdez, who are always organizing community members to push for improvements to parks, streets and other things around town.

And the news staff here agree Police Chief Tom Armstrong is one of the most stand-up guys in the San Gabriel Valley. (Tom, please don’t make me look stupid and do something crazy).

What’s next, El Monte? I don’t see a clear path for the city. It’s such a zoning disaster.

Here’s where a 32-year-old journalist like me should impart a little sage advice, right?

But, when it comes to El Monte, my wisdom well is dry.

At least you all aren’t going broke anymore. And, during these times, that’s a good start.

- Ben Baeder is the deputy metro editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune