More trouble in Montebello


Councilwoman Kathy Salazar is being accused of conflict of interest and financial misconduct stemming from a vote she cast to approve the Athens Services trash contract, Amanda Baumfeld reports.

The suit was filed in superior court last month by Montebello resident Mike Torres. In the complaint, he accuses the council of abusing the public process. Salazar denied all allegations.

Baumfeld rounds out a comprehensive story here….

City retiree medical and pension costs: UPDATE

As requested, here is a .pdf that includes the list of 24 cities in the San Gabriel Valley that details pension and retiree medical costs.

Retiree costs city by city[1].pdf

Top five highest pension costs in 2007-08

1. El Monte: $12.1 million    Total employees: 327

2. West Covina: $9.2 million   Total employees: 429

3. Montebello: $7.8 million    Total employees: 428

4. Arcadia: $6.7 million   Total employees: 286

5. Sante Fe Springs: $6.5 million   Total employees: N/A

Salazar and Urteaga on the outs?

That’s what a group of Montebello residents are hoping for. They recently filed recall papers against the two City Council members — Kathy Salazar and Robert Urteaga — based on a laundry list of grievances.

For Salazar, there’s allegations of money laundering, ethical misconduct and supporting special interests.

For Urteaga, there’s allegations of lying to the public and also supporting special interests.
Amanda Baumfeld wrote a story in today’s paper detailing the recall effort and a DA review into Salazar.

Recall supporters will be out at a rally today at 4:30 p.m. in front of City Hall, 1600 Beverly Blvd.

The cost of Angels’ tickets


Have you ever paid $426 to watch the Angels play?

Montebello City Administrator Richard Torres has — well, sort of.

Torres has been fined $426 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for accepting 12 free tickets on three separate occasions from City Attorney Marco Martinez in 2005, Amanda Baumfeld reports.

Torres summed up the fine to a goof: he reported all the gifts, but just didn’t know there was an imposed limit on the value of the gifts at that time. The tickets were valued at $516, exceeding the 2005 FPPC gift limit by $156.

Apparently, some of the tickets were for the Diamond Club, which seats fans behind home plate.

Angels’ tickets range anywhere from like $10 to as much as $80.

Montebello: How do we spend $7 million?

This just in from Amanda Baumfeld:

MONTEBELLO – The City Council will decide if they will spend $7 million in bond monies on projects in the area around the Montebello Hills.

Possible projects the bonds could fund include reconstruction of the Taylor Ranch, which was demolished in December; street improvements along Whittier and a performing arts center feasibility study among others.

If projects are funded with the tax-exempt bonds 85 percent of the projects have to be completed in three years.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. At City Hall, 1600 Beverly Blvd.

Just say ‘no’


Montebello officials don’t want their underage residents puffing on cigarettes they’re not old enough to buy.

So they’re thinking about adopting a tobacco ordinance that would enforce stricter rules on businesses that sell tobacco, Amanda Baumfeld reports.

Currently, if a Montebello business sells tobacco to a minor the clerk who sold it is cited and could get a fine of about $200, Gordon said.

Under the proposed ordinance the business owner would be responsible.

After the first offense a business would be banned from selling tobacco products for 30 days. The second offense would result in a 90-day license suspension. And if a third offense occurs in a 60-month period the seller’s license would be suspended indefinitely, Gordon said.


Assault with a deadly weapon, er, fingers

This just in from reporter Amanda Baumfeld:

The Montebello City Council meeting got a little rowdy on Wednesday.

Resident Chris Robles filed a police report accusing John Edwards of assaulting him during the meeting.

Edwards was the campaign manager for Councilmembers Kathy Salazar, Mary Anne Saucedo Rodriguez and Robert Urteaga. Robles has been instrumental in working with independent trash haulers in a political controversy against Athens Services.

Accounts the incident are different from both men. Edwards claims he tapped Robles on the arm to get his attention and wanted to talk to him outside. But Robles said Edwards grabbed his shoulder and said “you come here I want to talk to you.”

Robles then told Edwards not to touch him. Edwards said he walked away but Robles said he ensued and threatened his girlfriend.

In the middle of the council meeting Robles shouted, “Sir if you touch me again that’s assault.”

At that time both men said the meeting stopped and turned toward them.

Robles and his girlfriend filed a police report against Edwards after the meeting. He said the police are investigating.

Edwards said, “The report is BS and nothing is going to come of it.”

Here we go again…


5288-hernandez.jpgThere are some pretty loaded accusations made by Councilman Roger Hernandez about Councilman Steve Herfert. The letter below was sent from Hernandez to City Manager Andrew Pasmant last month, and it appeared in my inbox yesterday.


City Hall is closed today, so I will not be able to confirm any of these accusations. Herfert could not be reached for comment.

I’m not even sure if this is worthy of a story. The first reaction when I told collegaues about this was, “Here we go again.” West Covina Council members always seem to be bickering. But then, they are not the only ones.

Here’s the letter:

From: Roger Hernandez, MPA
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 4:48 PM
To: Andrew Pasmant
Cc: Frank Wills
Subject: Formal request for assistance with respect to closed session


I am writing in order to make two formal requests, which I have outlined below.

As you are aware, during the closed session of September 2, 2008, Councilmember Herfert directed several loud and threatening statements towards me. Specifically, he directed the following comments towards me: “We’re gonna come after your ass,” “If not us, someone else will, ” and “We are gonna sue your ass.” They were made in a physically aggressive manner, while leaning into my personal space and waving his finger in a confrontational manner, which made all staff and councilmembers visibly uncomfortable. I understood his statements and body language as making a threat upon my life and livelihood. As I noted to you then and the Chief of Police thereafter, these statements caused me to fear for my personal safety.

At that time, I asked for your assistance in documenting the events I described above. You responded, while throwing your pen upon your notepad, that you could do nothing because it was a closed session. I understand that information discussed during a closed session is confidential; however, Councilmember Herfert’s comments, first of all, had nothing to do with any closed session item that was placed upon on the agenda and nothing to do with any matter for which we could have legally convened a closed session. Moreover, Councilmember Herfert’s comments, which I deem to be a threat upon my life, may be criminal activity. I would think that criminal conduct, in the form of battery or assault, for example, cannot be protected from disclosure. Therefore, I believe that Councilmember Herfert’s comments were not confidential. They were stand-alone personal attacks upon me and, whether criminally actionable or not, should not be permitted.

In addition, I understand that as a councilmember, I have a right to feel safe when attending to my duties as an elected official. As councilmembers, we all do. Therefore, at this time, I’d like to make the following two requests:

1.) I would like law enforcement personnel to be present during all closed sessions. I have contacted the Chief of Police in order to request his assistance in this regard. I was, in fact, absent for twenty-five minutes of open session due to both my fear and my desire to properly document the events that had transpired with the appropriate authorities. Had there been law enforcement present during the closed session, I may have had the opportunity to join my fellow councilmembers at the beginning of the meeting. This should not happen again.

2.) I would like all closed sessions to be tape-recorded in order to potentially deter further attacks and also for evidentiary reasons, should there be a need to take further action.

Lastly, I would like to note for the record that Councilmember Herfert’s conduct was, at minimum, unprofessional and alarming for the other councilmembers present. His actions undermine the institutional foundations of our governance: Intimidating other councilmbers is inimical to productive discussion and action. It further undermines our duties as elected officials and the proper execution of our responsibilities. As Councilmember Herfert should know, terror is not conducive to the creativity and hard work necessary to overcome the challenges faced by our City.

Please confirm that you have received this email and advise me of your conclusion with respect to my requests.

Roger Hernandez

Looking for some good press

This just in from reporter Amanda Baumfeld:

With the endless controversy that seems to emit from Montebello City Hall it appears they are attempting to promote themselves in a better light.

The council voted unanimously to add the position of city spokesperson to staff. The public information officer will be paid between $61,764 and $75,096. Not a bad salary for a time when most cities are in debt and have hiring freezes on their hands.

A staff report indicates, “there is a need to provide timely information of an often crucial nature to the public through the use of press releases, articles, message boards, announcements, flyers and broadcast.”

No word on who they will hire or when the new spokesperson will start.

On second thought…

This just in from reporter Amanda Baumfeld:

I found this to be pretty interesting…..

Councilwoman Mary Anne Saucedo-Rodriguez was set to discuss a possible limit on campaign contributions at an Oct. 8 meeting. It was an listed under her council oral but for whatever reason she opted not to discuss it.

The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is out and I thought Saucedo-Rodriguez would have moved the item to this week. But it happens to be left off the agenda.

Perhaps the councilwoman gave the idea a second thought