Industry fires city attorney, hires Jamie Casso of West Covina

Casso serves as city attorney of La Puente

CITY OF INDUSTRY >> The City Council fired its city attorney Wednesday and hired an attorney who helped steer the city of Bell through a corruption scandal that nearly brought down the southeastern Los Angeles County city.

West Covina attorney James Casso was named the new city attorney of this business-centric city that, like Bell six years ago, faces criminal probes from the county District Attorney’s Office and State Controller Betty Yee for corruption involving its finances and contracts with companies owned by former City of Industry Mayor Dave Perez.

“He was called in during the Bell situation. He’s a person the DA can trust,” said newly elected City Councilman Newell Ruggles. “We wanted to bring in someone from the outside, someone that did not have any business with the city or its staff.”

Casso, hired by the Bell successor management team and City Council between Aug. 4, 2010, and July 28, 2011, said he was very familiar with how the DA and the state controller’s office worked. Investigations in Bell resulted in the conviction of seven city officials, including former City Administrator Robert Rizo, assistant City Administrator Angeles Spaccia and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, as well as four City Council members, all on corruption charges.

“There is no personal animus. My concern is to do what is in the best interest of the City of Industry,” Casso said after the meeting.

During the brief meeting, the Industry City Council — including the three newcomers Mark Radecki, Cory Moss and Ruggles elected June 2 — voted 3-1 to fire Michele Vadon and her firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen. Councilman Jeff Parriott voted no.

Vadon, wearing a black suit, left the meeting in tears and declined to comment. Before the closed session, she asked new Mayor Mark Radecki if she was needed in the closed door meeting and she was told no. Vadon had served as city attorney for 17 years.

City Manager Kevin Radecki, Mark’s brother, has said the three newcomers ran as a slate at the behest of former Mayor Perez, who the city and Vadon sued in September for breach of contract and in May forpublic corruption.

In the May lawsuit, Industry alleged Perez, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2012, conspired with his family members to bilk more than $200 million through vague and erroneous invoices that possibly resulted in massive overpayments for maintenance work. A review of those invoices by the firm KPMG found Perez and his family’s companies made $326 million over 20 years from contracts with the city.

Kevin Radecki said earlier in the day he was handed a typed memo indicating the council would dismiss the city attorney and the city manager, The part about the city manager was crossed out but could still be read. Radecki said he believed the council would fire him next or place him on administrative leave and that and the memo was “a message.”

Ruggles said the council is looking into dubious actions taken by Kevin Radecki, including his challenges to eight ballots during the June 2 election. Radecki challenged the residency of Moss’s father and Ruggles’ grandmother’s significant other who lived at her Industry home for six years, Ruggles said.

All of Radecki’s challenges were rejected and the eight ballots were counted Monday during the election final tally.

Ruggles accused the city manager of spying on voters and following them home.

“I find it voter intimidation,” Ruggles said.

Casso’s contract will be voted on by the City Council at the June 15 meeting, Mayor Mark Radecki announced. “The vote on the contract will be held in open session,” he added.

Staff Writer Jason Henry contributed to this article.

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About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.