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New City Council shakes things up in Huntington Park

HUNTINGTON PARK — The new City Council here lost no time in flexing its muscles April 6 as it replaced the city attorney, terminated the contract of three consultants and supported a resolution urging the boycott of the El Super food market.

The actions brought charges from some residents that Mayor Karina Macias and the three new council members she supported in the March 3 election — Vice Mayor Graciela Ortiz and council members Marilyn Sanabria and Jhonny Pineda — were paying off campaign debts to those supporting the newcomers and the union representing the supermarket, where a new labor contract is being sought.

The hiring of City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman and his firm, Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin; and the termination of the contract of the law firm of Rick Olivarez and City Attorney Isabel Buerrita, came with no advance notice of plans to change legal firms and no request for proposals from other law offices as is usually done.

City Councilman Valentin Amezquita, elected with Macias two years ago, was the only dissenting vote on the city attorney issue. He also dissented on the resolution to boycott El Super. Pineda abstained on that, saying the resolution urges residents to shop outside the city.

Amezquita told a reporter the four other council members were acquainted with Alvarez-Glasman, although he did not respond to a request for proposals for legal firms last year. At that time, the previous council hired the Olivarez Madruga firm, which had responded to the request for proposals and was interviewed by the council, which included Macias.

The hiring took effect April 7. Macias gave no reason for the selection of Alvarez-Glasman or any problems with Olivarez Madruga, thanking the firm for its service to the city.

Macias, on April 7, said there was no major issue with the Olivarez firm but said “we wanted to start out in a new direction.”

She denied any election payback, saying Alvarez-Glasman did not contribute to the campaign.

Although he was not able to give a personal interview last year, he did make a proposal with information studied by she and her council colleagues, Macias said.

The Alvarez-Glasman firm has been involved in municipal law for more than 20 years, serving as city attorney for several area cities. It currently represent the city of Montebello, where Arnold Alvarez-Glasman once served on the City Council.

The contract with Huntington Park, reportedly written by Alvarez-Glasman, said he will serve until terminated by the city. His hourly rates are $190 an hour if represented by a partner in the firm, $185 an hour for associates and $100 an hour for services by paralegals or law clerks. He will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs and travel on city business, the contract states.

Terminated immediately were the contracts of Desi Alvarez, a water engineering consultant; Ronald Bates, a consultant charged with regional transportation planning; and Enviro Communications, hired for legislative fund tracking to seek grants.

Macias said firing the three consultants will save the city about $400,000 a year. Interim City Manager John Ornelas said city employees could perform those duties.

Amezquita said he was concerned about hiring Alvarez-Glasman because of issues involving him at other locations where he was attorney, most recently the regional Central Basin Municipal Water District, based in Commerce, where he was accused of conflict of interest because he previously represented clients involved in legal actions against the district.

Southeast activist Sandra Orozco distributed a list of newspaper articles concerning complaints, charges and issues with Alvarez-Glasman. They included complaints filed recently with the State Bar Association of “numerous conflicts” at Central Basin, and noting that Alvarez-Glasman has served as or is currently city attorney in Bell Gardens, Montebello, Pico Rivera, Pomona and Yountville. The latter city is in Northern California.

Former Councilwoman Rosa Perez accused Macias and the three new council members of being beholden to Efren Martinez, who worked on the recent campaign.

“We all know you are indebted to him,” Perez said. “You need to pay off all your campaign debts.”

“Efren Martinez controls the mayor and three new council members,” agreed Alex Reynoso, who ran against the three new council members in the March 3 election. “We all know how grateful all of you are to Efren for getting you elected and how indebted you are to him. We all know you will do anything he tells you to do. We all know that this ‘new leadership’ needs to pay off all the promises made to the businesses and individuals that gave money to your political action committees,” Reynoso said.