The Press

Search warrants served at Maywood City Hall

MAYWOOD — Investigators from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office served search warrants Feb. 8 at Maywood City Hall and other locations within the city, four months after a critical state audit revealed debts for more than $15 million and lax collection of parking citations and business license fees.

Warrants also were served at Mayor Ramon Medina’s house and a mechanic shop he owns as well as the home of former City Councilman Sergio Calderon and the home and business of Vice Mayor Ricardo Villareal.

A press release issued by Greg Risling, assistant chief of media relations for the District Attorney’s Office, did not reveal what the investigators were seeking.

“Search warrants were served today at various locations, including Maywood City Hall,” the release said. “We cannot comment further because of an ongoing investigation.

The probe did not surprise some in the city, who claimed they have witnessed the breach of procedures in the conduct of business on contracts issued to service providers such as landscaping, legal representation and media consultants.

Councilman Eduardo de la Riva, who has long questioned the city’s business practices, said he talked to the district attorney a week before the raids, but would not say what was discussed.

He posted a searing criticism of Medina and Calderon on a link to his website that indicates the city’s financial troubles started on Dec. 5, 2015, when the two politicians were sworn in to serve then as councilman and mayor respectively.

“I have continuously denounced and reported the illegal actions, contracts, hirings and back-room deals that this current administration has engaged in, and will continue to do so,” De la Riva said.

He claims attorney Rod Pacheco was hired to defend the city against investigations conducted by the district attorney’s office a year and a half ago at a cost of $500 an hour. So far, Pacheco has billed the city more than $29,000, de la Riva said.

The district attorney’s investigations started for possible violations of open meeting laws in the hiring of interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo, who was appointed to the job in December 2015. When the City Council decided not to extend Carrillo’s contract, the council hired Reuben Martinez, a former Boeing project manager with no public administration experience, but with a business administration degree. In 2016, Martinez earned a salary of $180,189 including benefits.

De la Riva said Martinez was a customer at Medina’s auto repair shop. The councilman also questioned the hiring of ECM Engineering for $79,266, a firm picked without a formal bid process.

V&M Ironworks, a city contractor was also served with a search warrant. Another raid took place at Neat Auto Services and Supply, a car wash and auto detail shop owned by Villareal.

Medina said the search warrants do not reveal their intent and that he will fight to get cleared of any charges.

“I am disappointed that the district attorney served these search warrants without revealing the nature of the investigation,” he said. “Despite the opaque nature of the investigation, I intend to fully cooperate with the authorities and expect to be totally vindicated upon its completion.

“I want to ensure my constituents that I have done everything in my power to meet or exceed their expectations when they first elected me to office, and I’ll continue to work every day to maintain their trust while ensuring this city continues to provide the best programs and services for our residents,” he added.

The October 2017 state audit blamed the city’s “weak governance” for its ballooning debt, and highlighted political infighting, mismanagement, violations of the state’s open meeting laws, wasteful spending and dubious hiring practices.

In a budged prepared for the 2017-18 fiscal year, the city reported it contributed $1.56 million to the state’s public employees retirement fund, or CalPERS, but acknowledged an ongoing debt of $1.77 million.

The document indicates the city also owes the California Joint Power Insurance Authority $120,000. The authority provides liability coverage on lawsuits and losses to more than 100 cities in the state.

The budget projected city revenues for $9.15 million and said it had reserves of $1.75 million, with expenses for $10.65 million and has a population of 28,016.

Medina, 57, arrived to the United States 40 years ago and has lived in Maywood since 1987.