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Huntington Park City Council members clash over use of city seal

HUNTINGTON PARK — Embattled Vice Mayor Karina Macias has admitted using the city seal without permission on a campaign flier supporting three challengers running for City Council March 3, but she refused to step down after City Councilman Mario Gomez called for that at a special meeting Feb. 5.

The council majority, in closed session, approved hiring a special attorney to look into the matter and called for investigation by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

“I will not step down,” Macias said.

She said she thanked the residents for coming to express their opinion and would let the attorneys and district attorney decide on the issue.

“I had checked with two civil attorneys and they said nothing was illegal,” said Macias concerning the flier, adding “I used my own money for it. I understand it is election time and the candidates I support are not incumbents.”

However, former Councilwoman Elba Romo, a candidate March 3, issued the following statement:

“The mailer that Vice Mayor Macias sent out uses the seal twice, first in the cover to inform voters of “A message from Vice Mayor Macias” and secondly in an interior letter.

“The use of the seal gives the appearance that this is an official city endorsement. In a highly contested race with a total of 10 candidates, seven candidates have united to call for full enforcement of the law. The council will vote to determine what actions will be taken.”

Although a city policy calls for strict regulations on the use of the city seal, City Attorney Isabell Buerruta said there is no specific law against it. She proposed bringing such a resolution to the council at a future date.

It all began at the Feb. 2 City Council meeting when, during council comments, Gomez displayed the colored flier and criticized Macias for using the city seal.

“The city seal is sacred,” Gomez said. “You should not use it for personal political reasons. It’s just not right.”

Macias said she used the seal for identification and said the brochure makes clear that it is her personal endorsement, not the council’s. She said she supports challengers Jhonny Pineda, a member of the Huntington Park Planning Commission; Marilyn Sanabria and Graciela Ortiz.

Mayor Rosa Perez is the only incumbent among 10 candidates seeking three seats as Gomez and Councilwoman Ofelia Hernandez are termed out of office.

Other candidates are former council members Andy Molina and Romo, Leticia Martinez, executive director of the Greater Huntington Park Area Chamber of Commerce; Alex Reynoso, Rodolfo Cruz and David Sanchez.

Sanchez has been unsuccessful in two races against Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce.

The council also agreed to place on a future agenda for discussion possible residency requirements to run for a council seat. Some residents Feb. 2 complained that under current policy a person who knows little about city issues can move into the city one day before filing for election.

In the public comment portion of the agenda Feb. 2, Spanish language journalist Henry Garcia called for a seven-year residency requirement, while longtime resident Betty Retana called those who recently moved into the city “carpetbaggers.”

“We need a new [residency] law,” Retana said. “People who come here from the outside don’t know our problems. If the wrong people are elected, they will be recalled.”

She told a reporter she was referring to Sanabria, Pineda and a third candidate, apparently those endorsed by Macias.

Macias was the subject of similar complaints when she was elected in March 2013.

Councilman Valentin Amezquita, who successfully ran with Macias in that election, said he picked her up at her parents’ home in Walnut Park, an unincorporated county area near the Huntington Park border, as she was preparing to run for council.

Macias said a representative of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office visited her home in Huntington Park and declared her a legal resident.

Speaking from the dais during council comments at the end of the meeting Feb. 2 meeting, Macias said, “I went to school and grew up in Huntington Park. My roots are here. I love the city.”