HUNTINGTON PARK — The City Council meeting Tuesday night started with about 90 minutes of complaints by residents about Vice Mayor Karina Macias, who was accused of alleged campaign violations for the upcoming March 3 election as well as her own election two years ago.
It ended in about 10 minutes as the City Council approved a resolution authorizing a council reorganization up to two times a year, which was followed by Macias being removed from her vice mayor position.
The vote was 4-0 for the resolution, with Macias abstaining, and 4-0 to demote her.
She joined in the unanimous vote to move Councilman Valentine P. Amezquita, elected with Macias in 2013, into the vice mayor seat.
Amezquita is in position to become mayor when the regular reorganization, mandated by state election law, takes place March 16.
But it will be a different council, with at least two and possibly three new members.
Mayor Rosa Perez is the only incumbent running for re-election and she faces nine other candidates. Council members Mario Gomez and Ofelia Hernandez are being termed out of office.
“To be on the council is an honor. To be vice mayor is a double honor,” Amezquita said. “I will work with my council colleagues and obey the state and city laws.”
That’s where Macias ran into trouble.
A number of residents contended that she broke state law by using the city seal without permission twice on a campaign flier promoting challengers Jhonny Pineda, Marilyn Sanabria and Graciela Ortiz.
Also on the ballot are former council members Elba Romo and Andy Molina, Huntington Park Chamber of Commerce director Leticia Martinez, Alex Reynoso, Rodolfo Cruz and David Sanchez.
After the audience comments, Macias came down to the speaker’s podium and said she believes she did nothing illegal and had consulted two attorneys about it.
“You are throwing stones at a glass house. I have done nothing that [other council members] have not done. I have done nothing but speak my mind,” Macias said.
She said she believes she had a right to privately support the three candidates and used the city seal only to identify herself.
But members of the audience alleged that she is supporting three newcomers to the city, called “carpetbaggers,” by resident Betty Retana.
Retana also alleged fraud in Macias’s election in 2013, saying she signed a petition to support Macias, but that her name was forged as a petition circulator.
She alleged that Sanabria circulated nomination petitions for Macias and did not live in the city at the time. Those circulating petitions must identify themselves on the petition and must live in the city under state election law.
Perez told City Attorney Isabel Birrueta and City Clerk Donna Schwartz to investigate. Birrueta said they would consult a handwriting specialist.
Birrueta added that letters on the city seal issue have been sent to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and the Fair Political Practices Commission, as directed by the council last week.
A number of Macias supporters in 2013 said they felt they were misled and betrayed by her.
“You stood here, banged your hand on the podium and yelled at the council to stop the corruption. Now you are on the other side,” said former Councilwoman Linda Luz Cavalle. “I believed in you but was manipulated by you and Marilyn ([Sanabria].”
“We don’t know which side you are on,” Cruz said. “We worked for you. You did not do the right thing.”
“It is sad, it is horrible,” Yvonne Correa said. “You used a phony address. You have put the city in a bad light.”
“I collected money for you. You promised to help me, but you only worked to help yourself,” said Nick Ioanidis, who said the Macias campaign used his tailor shop address on Gage Avenue on some of their materials. “You should resign immediately. You are dangerous to Huntington Park and to the people,”
“Our city code says you can’t use a city seal without permission. You did it twice,” said Romo, who alleged she was the target of hit pieces by the Macias campaign.
“You claimed I voted for a water [rate] increase. I was not even on the council then,” Romo said.