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.

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.

Challenger takes lead over incumbents in La Puente race

With six out of 11 precincts reporting late Tuesday night, La Puente council candidate David Argudo took the lead over two incumbents in the race for a pair of open seats on the council.

By 11 p.m., Argudo had 589 votes. Councilwoman Lola Storing was behind him with 508, and Mayor Louie Lujan trailed with 493. Former City Councilwoman Renee Chavez was the lowest vote-getter with 445 votes.

Lujan, Storing leading in La Puente council race

More early reporting, this time out of La Puente:

In early election returns Tuesday night, two incumbents were leading against two challengers in the race for a pair of open City Council seats.

Mayor Louie Lujan and Councilwoman Lola Storing, both seeking third terms, appeared to be winning against former City Councilwoman Renee Chavez and businessman David Argudo, a newcomer to local politics.

Storing could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

“I’m happy at the possibility of returning to the council for another four years,” Lujan said.

“I think all the candidates worked really hard,” he said. “We all had individual messages but for the most part, I don’t anticipate this being a change election.”

Lujan is currently under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office over alleged campaign finance violations. He said what role, if any, the investigation played in the campaign was always up to voters.

Lujan is also mulling a run for state Assembly and said if re-elected to the council, he would continue to explore that option.

Argudo, co-owner of JDL Financial in La Puente, ran for City Council in 2007 but lost to Councilman John Solis by just 27 votes. He said he decided to run again to bring change to the council.

Chavez also ran for council in 2007 but as an incumbent. She lost, finishing 94 votes behind Solis.

She also ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket for the 57th Assembly District seat in 2006. At the time, she was trying to fill the seat being vacated by her husband, Ed Chavez, who was being termed out.

Both Argudo and Chavez did not return calls seeking comment.

There are 14,098 registered voters in La Puente.

Pay to play in La Puente

An article I wrote that ran in today’s paper:

LA PUENTE — Officials are considering cutting a break for local sports leagues who pay to use the city’s fields.

The City Council voted 3-0 Thursday to have staff members look into restructuring the city’s parks fee schedule, so leagues with less than 60 percent of members who live in La Puente can pay cheaper rates.

Mayor Louie Lujan and Councilwoman Nadia Mendoza did not attend the meeting.

Several years ago, the city approved a two-tiered fee schedule for sports organizations who use the parks. Leagues with at least 60 percent of La Puente residents as members pay a resident rate. Leagues that don’t meet that threshold pay a more expensive non-resident rate.

At Thursday’s special meeting, officials cited tough economic times in the proposal to bump that threshold to 51 percent.

The issue still needs to come back before the council for a final approval.

The council’s decision was prompted by concerns from the La Puente Junior All-American Football league. Organization officials said their usage rates recently jumped from $3,100 to $9,400 per season because they failed to meet the 60 percent standard.

This was a pretty heated issue at the special City Council meeting that was called last week. I’m told a lot of residents and supporters of the football league showed up, many of whom spoke on the league’s behalf.

It seems the city originally was just considering scaling back the fees for that one particular league, based on their concerns. But now it sounds like they’re considering a cutback across the board for all sports organizations.

We’ll see if it gets final approval.

La Puente council candidate fights for free healthcare


Based on one of her campaign mailers, it feels like La Puente City Council candidate Renee Chavez is running for higher office.

Chavez recently sent out a flier promising she would fight for “free healthcare.”

Last time I checked, the healthcare debate was between Congress and the White House.

I’m not sure what Chavez could do locally to provide free healthcare to residents in La Puente, but if she’s elected, maybe she’ll tell us.

Dyers back in court, but case moving slow

Retired sheriff’s deputy Joseph Dyer, who is accused of embezzling half a million dollars from the city of La Puente, has been ordered to return to court in December for a pre-trial conference in December.

Joseph Dyer and his wife, Lydia Dyer, appeared in Los Angeles Superior court before Judge David Wesley on Monday. Dyer, 53, was indicted last month on charges of grand theft, embezzlement, crimes by a public officer and five counts of filing false tax returns in connection with allegations he stole $501,747.91 in tow fees from La Puente between 2001 to 2007.

Dyer’s wife, Lydia, was also indicted on five counts of filing false tax returns, based on allegations she knew about the false money but failed to report on their joint tax returns.

The couple was scheduled to set a trial date — postponed from an August court appearance. But the matter was held over again, to Dec. 8. This happens pretty frequently with cases like this. It’ll be probably be well into next year until we see any action in the case.

In case you hadn’t heard

5425-lola_hpl.jpgThere’s a rumor going around in La Puente that Councilwoman Lola Storing is dropping out of the City Council race because she’s tired of “drama” in City Hall.

Storing said there’s “absolutely no truth” to any of it, and she plans on putting up a tough fight to defend her seat.

“I have no idea who it could be (spreading the rumor) and there’s no reason why they should even do that,” Storing said. “I’m working hard. I’ve got more signs than anybody else up in town … I want to continue representing the city.”

Storing said she first heard the rumor a few days ago from her council opponent David Argudo. He questioned whether or not she was throwing in the towel.

Argudo said he heard the rumor from another constituent, who heard it from someone else … and the list goes on.

Sounds like typical politicking during an election.

Lujan still being investigated


Just got off the phone with Dave Demerjian, head of the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division.

He said a lingering case investigating alleged campaign finance violations by La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan is still ongoing.

No charges have been filed yet.

“We’re still working it,” Demerjian said.

Last we heard, a grand jury was supposed to be held in August and former water board member Leon Garcia was subpoenaed to attend.

We never heard back from Garcia about whether or not it actually happened, and Demerjian can’t confirm grand jury proceedings until — or if — criminal charges are filed.

Meanwhile, you could follow Louie on Twitter — except he hasn’t tweeted yet.

Hilda, meet Shakira …

You could wait in line for hours at an autograph signing.

You could stalk her outside of her recording studio.

Or, if you REALLY want to meet recording sensation Shakira you could just become the country’s labor secretary.

I bet Hilda Solis never thought she’d be chatting it up with a pop icon when she was still a student at La Puente High School.