Los Angeles, Ca.- The entire Huntington Park City Council is being asked to step down by a coalition of residents and merchants that complaint about corruption.
“Our city attorney makes more than $600,000 a year, more than $40,000 a month,” said Marilyn Sanabria, a leading activist of Huntington Park Citizens Unite.
By comparison President Barack Obama makes $400,000 a year.
“Our city attorney makes in a month more than what most families in Huntington Park make in a year,” says Sanabria. “The medium family income in our city is $29,000 annually.”
Francisco Leal is Huntington Park’s city attorney. He could not be reached for comment for this article.
In a press statement, the group issued a list of its grievances and demanded that the all five councilmembers “to immediately step down.”
The city faces a deficit of $9 million.
The high compensation of the city attorney is a sign of cronyism and corruption that has plagued Huntington Park for many years, according to Sanabria.
Activists also allege a connection between city council member and John Noguez, a former mayor of Huntington Park and also the former Los Angeles County assessor who is now under investigation for corruption by the District Attorney’s Office.
“Noguez has been a major fundraiser for most city council members since the early 2000’s,” says activist Valentin Amezquita, a city resident for more than 30 years. “He was elected to City Council in 2003 and left in 2010.”
There are also allegations that Noguez got special treatment from colleagues on City Council.
“The current City Council questionably designated John Noguez’s property on Olive Street a historical home in order to stop foreclosure proceedings and avoid paying his fair share of taxes,” says Sanabria. “Noguez has such a power over the city, he found a loophole to have his home declared historical.”
Built in 1930 and known as the Squire Residence, the Spanish colonial revival-style house on 3247 Olive Street was designated in November of 2009. At that time, Noguez was still part of city council.
“In addition to the significance of the property, two former mayors, William Cunningham and John Noguez have lived in the house,” reads the listing of the home on the city’s website.
High personnel compensation and special treatment are not the only complaints that activists have.
According to Sanabria, Huntington Park residents pay higher property taxes than more affluent cities. “Property owners pay more 30% more than Beverly Hills,” said Sanabria, referring to the exclusive city known for being home to the rich and famous.
Other grievances include a recent increase in water fees, alleged police abuse, unfair street parking ticketing and harassment of merchants by city officials.
“Huntington Park is another City of Bell,” she added, referring to the neighboring city whose corruption made national news. Most Bell city councilmembers were recalled and several high ranking officials were fired.
Now Huntington Park could face a similar shake up.
Huntington Park Citizens Unite announced they planed to serve notices of intent to recall to all the five city councilmembers of Huntington Park. “We got all the signatures required by law,” says Sanabria. She added the next step would be to circulate recall petitions for all members of the council and gather a minimum of 3,100 signatures from registered voters who reside in the city.
“Huntington Park is basically the mother of this corruption in the cities of South East Los Angeles County,” says Sanabria. “Now we are demanding change and to know where all the money is.”