Majestic’s letter (yes, the actual one) blasting Walnut

Forgive us.

Thanks to a mishap, we didn’t post a copy of a letter pertaining to a story we wrote. Last week, the company hoping to build a National Football League stadium complex in the City of Industry presented this letter to the Walnut City Council, which has sued the developer. The letter refuted, among other things, claims made against the company, Majestic Realty, and its project.

An issue emerged the day following Wednesday’s city council meeting. After this newspaper filed a public records request for a copy of the letter Thursday, Walnut said it was consulting its attorney concerning the release of the letter, which included a confidential attachment, because of its pending litigation. (The attachment, according to the letter, documented Walnut’s settlement items in the now-terminated negotiations with Majestic.)

Majestic, however, provided this newspaper with a copy. And now, so do you. (See the text of the letter after the jump.)

Walnut has ten days from the public records request to make a decision of the release. So, we’ll see what emerges. But here are two facts to consider: The letter was presented at a public meeting and the first page of it was read publicly.
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Equestrian culture fading?

Is equestrian life fading into the sunset? Well, that’s what an LA Times article concludes. Among the equestrian centers referenced is one out of the city of Industry.

In December, a collection of ramshackle stalls near the city of Industry abruptly shut down, forcing out a small group of Mexican immigrants who had boarded their horses there at low cost.

The stables had been a gathering place for vaqueros from Zacatecas and Guerrero, and the closure prompted some of the families to give up their horses altogether. The loss follows the disappearance of many other stables along the San Gabriel River watershed.

For the horse lovers out there, where do you ride?

More stadium news

The Independent Cities Association held a press conference this morning to announce their endorsement of plans to bring an NFL stadium to Industry.

Billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr. wants to build an $800 million stadium-entertainment complex on 600-acre plot of land northwest of the 57/60 freeway interchange. The ICA’s board voted earlier this month to support the project.

“We are hopeful for this project,” Association President and Covina Mayor Kevin Stapleton said. “For the region, it will be an economic stimulus.”

The ICA is made up of 52 full-service cities across the Southern California, including cities in the San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino County. Members include Arcadia, La Habra, Pasadena, Chino, Baldwin Park, West Covina and Pomona.

Several current and former politicos attended Thursday’s event, including Baldwin Park Councilwoman Marlen Garcia, West Covina Councilman Mike Touhey and former Monterey Park Mayor Betty Chu.

Chu touted the project’s location.

“Everything is about location,” she said. “Being a football fan, we’ve wanted an event like this for so long, and it must come to fruition.”

Of course not everyone is on board with the proposal. The city of Walnut has adopted a resolution opposing the stadium and Walnut Mayor Joaquin Lim wants a new environmental analysis drafted for the project.

Majestic officials will be meeting with the California Contract Cities Association on Feb. 4 to present stadium plans.

Walnut is a member of the CCCA.

What’s going on in Industry?

Nearly every city in the San Gabriel Valley posts its council meeting agendas online. Some, of course, take it further by providing staff reports and even broadcasting the meetings online. And then there’s the city of Industry, which doesn’t do any of that. Nope, it doesn’t even post its meetings online.

But then again, can you blame them? The city has 82 registered voters.

If you do want an agenda, you can send an email to cityclerk@cityofindustry.org

The last time I inquired about getting an agenda and staff report packets sent to the Tribune, I was told that it would be no problem, but I needed to leave money for stamps.  

Dancing up a storm

This story from reporter Bethania Palma:

INDUSTRY – Owners of a nightclub say they are going to sue Industry after the City Council shut down their business.

City officials voted last week to close the 5150 Bar and Lounge at 15455 Valley Blvd. and said owners Cheri and Rene Cota failed to follow city rules restricting live entertainment.

“During these tough economic times, the City of Industry has chosen to revoke our business license,” the Cotas wrote on their Web site. “We are forced to sue the City of Industry to gain our right to stay open for business.”

Rene Cota said the only way the business can thrive is to have live entertainment and dancing, which the city says violate his use permit.

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Cota said he applied for a conditional use permit to have live entertainment, but city officials rejected the application because of insufficient parking, they said.

Do you think Industry should allow 5150 to stay open?

Diamond Bar fire leads to politics

Sorry about the lag of posts the past few days. I was out at the fire in Diamond Bar on Sunday and Monday.

But even while covering a disaster, there was still time to talk local politics. One of the council members who was forced to evacuate was Councilman Wen Chang, who lives in the exclusive Country Estates.

Chang told me about the Diamond Bar Foundation gala that got cancelled on Sunday because of the fire. But with all the catered food already ordered, the foundation opted to send the filet mignons and sushi to the evacuation center.

After Chang got finished telling me about that, I thanked him and told him it was nice to meet him in person. Prior to that, we’d only spoke over the phone. The last conversation was about the proposed NFL Stadium, which Chang, like most of the council, opposes. So, Chang used the opportunity to tell me about why he opposed it, and said that he is just looking out for the best interest of the community.

Driving through the communities of Country Estates and Diamond Ridge, I only saw one house with signs that said “No Stadium.”

Corruption hits Industry sheriff’s department

No one is above the law, Sheriff Lee Baca said on Thursday. Not even the sheriff’s deputy suspected of skimming nearly $500,000 worth of La Puente’s towing fees.

The deputy, Sgt. Joe Dyer, retired in May when he was suspected of taking the money.

Chatila reports that former La Puente City Manager Carol Cowley was the first one to notice the discrepancies, and an investigation followed in January. Cowley recently retired from her position as La Puente city manager.

Sheriff deputy suspected in theft of $500k of city’s towing fees
By Tania Chatila, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/16/2008 11:59:21 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES – A sheriff’s deputy is suspected of embezzling nearly half a million dollars in towing fees from the city of La Puente, officials said Thursday.

Sheriff Lee Baca said the department’s Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau is investigating allegations that former traffic Sgt. Joe Dyer stole nearly $500,000.

“My belief is that no one is above the law and I think that the criminal justice system will act appropriately in this case,” Baca said Thursday.

Dyer, who could not be reached for comment, retired in May after detectives “established a need for an investigation regarding funds at the Industry Station that were missing,” Baca said.

Dyer’s supervisor, Capt. Michael Smith, was reassigned to the sheriff’s headquarters in Monterey Park effective Sunday, officials said.

Baca said the reassignment had nothing to do with the investigation. He also said he did not believe any other sheriff’s deputies were involved.

The District Attorney is aware of the case, Baca said. He expected it would be submitted for review by the end of the year.

“We’ve done as much as we can to build a good strong case,” Baca said.

The investigation was launched in January.

John Stites, president of the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association, the union that represents Dyer, said higher-ups in the department bear responsibility for the missing money if the allegations turn out to be true.

“We’re not accountants; we’re not money men,” Stites said. “Often times they put us in positions we are not trained to handle and it ends up going bad. I’ve seen it happen more than once.”

La Puente contracts with Haddick’s Towing for tow services. The city is supposed to receive $168 in administrative fees every time a car is impounded, said Laurie Marshall, who together with her sister, Bonnie Welch, owns and runs Haddick’s.

The fees are paid to the sheriff’s Industry Station, which issues a receipt that the driver must provide to reclaim his or her vehicle at La Puente-based Haddick’s, Marshall said. The driver then pays a separate fee to Haddick’s and the car is released.

Dyer dropped off the administrative fees and receipts at City Hall, where staff members reconciled the fees with the receipts Dyer provided, La Puente City Councilwoman Lola Storing said.

“Apparently, he wasn’t giving all the money or all of the receipts,” Storing said.

City officials never compared their receipts with Haddick’s, Storing said.

“Our tally matched out what we should have had,” Storing said. “It just didn’t jibe (with Haddick’s records).”

Storing believed former City Manager Carol Cowley was the first person at City Hall to notice the discrepancies.

Cowley declined to comment Thursday.

At a 2007 City Council meeting, Cowley noted the city anticipated receiving about $90,000 in towing fees for fiscal year 2006-07.

Marshall said Welch was at the meeting and questioned the figure.

“Once the information came out … Bonnie knew it was not accurate information and she called Carol,” Marshall said.

At that time, Haddick’s officials estimated La Puente should have received $160,000 in towing fees for fiscal year 2006-07.

Welch could not be reached for comment Thursday as she is vacationing in Mexico.

Marshall said sheriff’s investigators have asked the towing company for financial records, which Haddick’s provided.

Haddick’s also furnishes tow services in Industry, but collects administrative fees directly. Those figures are reconciled by Industry officials monthly, Marshall said.

Baca said the investigation did not involve anyone in La Puente City Hall or other cities.

City Attorney James Casso and Councilman Dan Holloway declined to comment on Thursday.

Councilman Louie Lujan said he was aware of “a matter,” but would not divulge details, citing state open meeting laws.

Councilman John Solis and Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza could not be reached for comment.

Baca said other deputies have been investigated in the past for embezzling money. But, he said, the problem is not rampant within the department.

Storing said the city is entitled to get its money back from the county. Baca said he didn’t know of any plans to reimburse La Puente.

“I don’t think the city has made any indication they expect the county or the sheriff’s department to provide that money,” he said. “We’re investigating a crime.”

Staff Writers Frank Pine, Frank C. Girardot, Ben Baeder and Ruby Gonzales contributed to this story.

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2109

Just say no to NFL

 

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Walnut city leaders aren’t just saying “no” to the stadium. They also could be saying “no” to anything that may support the success of the stadium, including the widening of roads, nightclubs, hotels and liquor stores.

The Walnut City Council, at the suggestion of Mayor Joaquin Lim, left, Wednesday tonight is considering placing a moratorium on land uses “in response to the NFL stadium.” Read the staff report here.

When I asked Industry Mayor Dave Perez about this, he said he was “highly disappointed” by the actions that the Walnut City Council has taken, and said that it could affect future partnerships between Industry and Walnut.