Selected articles regarding the City of Rosemead -- Page 2

This website provides the followed Rosemead-related articles:

1. Rosemead puts cap on legal fees; Move comes after city billed $100,000 in 3 months
2. Rosemead council reins in city attorney's fees
3. Bridge project manager replaced
4. Rosemead appoints city manager
5. Council to vote on construction management company
6. New firm could oversee projects
7. Taylor seeks details in lawsuit; Councilman Nunez accused of harassment
8. Council decides on law firm
9. A political issue
10. Rosemead nears call on bridge project
11. Power struggle over project; Firefighters oppose development plans
12. Job shuffle continues at Rosemead City Hall
13. Rosemead steps up attorney search
14. Attorney's bills prompt review
15. Rosemead lawyers raked in the money in May
16. Harassment suit against Nunez fuels arguments
17. Molina cools off annex `fever'
18. Rosemead council delays decision on law firm
19. Annexation anxiety; County residents worried about being forced into Rosemead
20. Attorney seeking Rosemead post
21. Council votes for new attorney
22. City may seek second attorney; Rosemead urged to hire redevelopment agency counsel
23. Developers contribute to council members
24. New appointee Chi answers City Hall call
25. City OKs staff funds
26. Rosemead council OKs firing of city manager
27. Council plan doused by fire chief
28. City official put on leave; Rosemead Council to consider firing manager Lazzaretto
29. Fire code plan gets heated response
30. City Council approves draft of employee benefit plan
31. City may send clarification letters
32. Neighbors decry big-box retailer
33. Council action open to debate; Closed meetings an issue in Rosemead
34. Council approves planning commissioners
35. Rosemead to interview for planning commission positions
36. Attorney pact approved; Rosemead council OKs contract
37. Mailer rattles Rosemead residents; Councilwoman's claims are denied by city staff
38. Rosemead sets future goals
39. Low is a key on Rosemead City Council
40. Rosemead sets future goals
41. Nunez faced harassment claim in '96
42. Seniors on long wait lists for affordable units
43. Rosemead's changing of the guard
44. Rosemead councilman faces sexual harassment lawsuit

For more articles regarding the City of Rosemead, see Rosemead-Info.4t.com and and Rosemead-Info.4t.com/page3.html .

Rosemead puts cap on legal fees
Move comes after city billed $100,000 in 3 months

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

Concerns about legal fees trail Rosemead's city attorney, Bonifacio Garcia.

Officials at several cities have complained about high bills, questionable charges and lack of city attorney experience.

Garcia's firm, Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz, represents Rosemead, Wasco, Garvey School District and served Arvin's planning commission until the city fired the attorneys in July.

Garcia defends the quality of his firm's work and its rates.

"We want the highest quality of lawyers," he said, "and we're willing to pay for them and so are our clients."

Garcia is relatively new to the city attorney's business. He spent the past 11 years representing Garvey School District. In his 26 years as a lawyer, his first city attorney job was in January for the city of Wasco, which is near Bakersfield.

Garcia's lack of experience was the cause for an increase in costs in Arvin, Wasco and Rosemead, officials said.

"People think an attorney is an attorney is an attorney," said Alan Christensen, interim city manager at Arvin. "But you wouldn't hire a research attorney to do litigation for you. Of course they could learn, but it will be on the city's dime."

In Rosemead, a May bill for $55,000 prompted the City Council on Tuesday to place a $30,000 cap on Garcia's contract.

Garcia charged the city $100,000 the past three months. That is nearly the total charged for a year's worth of work by the previous law firm, Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz, according to city records.

From 2000 to 2007, annual charges from Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz ranged from $137,583 to $179,219, according to the city's finance records.

Rosemead City Council members Gary Taylor and Margaret Clark said Garcia performed work that should be done by staff and that is another reason why his bills were so high.

Garcia was originally hired to represent Rosemead's redevelopment agency, city and housing authority. Two weeks ago, however, the council hired a separate attorney to represent the redevelopment agency and housing authority. Now, Garcia only represents the city.

In Arvin, Garcia was fired because of his high bills, city officials said. Garcia's firm represented the planning commission from November to July.

"The city did a financial review of their legal expenses, and based on that decided to let the legal firm Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz go," Christensen said.

Garcia, however, said his firm's departure was the result of political turmoil and came after former Arvin City Manager Enrique Ochoa resigned.

Arvin's financial records show that for eight months of legal work to oversee the planning commission, Garcia's firm charged nearly $50,000. Half of those charges came from two months alone.

The flat fee charged by Arvin's previous firm in 2005 was $105,000 for city attorney and planning commission representation. That included attendance at two council meetings per month. Garcia's contract required the attendance of one planning commission meeting a month.

Arvin city officials said they are also asking for a refund for work performed by attorney Eva Plaza, who charged a partner and associate rate of $225 per hour. She was not admitted to the California State Bar until July, records show, and Arvin officials said the city should have been charged accordingly.

In Wasco, the hiring of Garcia's firm prompted a grand jury investigation, which was released in July.

The Kern County grand jury alleges the Wasco City Council violated the state's open meeting law by deciding in secret to fire the city attorney and replace the firm with Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz.

The report states that since Garcia was hired, "the city is incurring substantial increases in the cost of having a city attorney. It is estimated that this will cost four to five times more than the previous city attorney."

Garcia denied the grand jury's allegations. On behalf of the city, Garcia responded, "The grand jury's mistaken legal conclusions could have been avoided with a reasonable amount of legal research and factual investigation."

According to Wasco's finance records, Garcia's firm billed the city $148,024 for six months worth of work. In comparison, the previous law firm billed the city $34,178 for the previous six months of work.

"He is not overcharging the city. Some people say that his contract rate is too high, but he is charging the city what the contract rate is," said Wasco City Manager Ron Mittag.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said an attorney can charge whatever he wants to charge. "The real question of course is, `Is this guy providing his money's worth?', and that is something for the city to determine."

Wasco Councilman Tilo Cortez said he thinks Garcia is "screwing the city."

"Bonny says you get what you pay for," Cortez said. "But I don't see what we are getting for the extra money that we are paying him."

Garcia's charges at the Sweetwater Union School District, where he has been counsel for the past 12 years, also raised questions.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported last year the Sweetwater Union High School District surpassed its legal budget halfway through the fiscal year, spending more than $1 million on legal services for the year. That was 77 percent more than in the past fiscal year, the Union-Tribune reported.

Officials from the Sweetwater Union School District did not return calls for this story.

Garcia stands by his work, his charges and the councils he represents. And ultimately, he said, it is up to the elected officials to determine whether they are getting value from Garcia and his firm.

"One of things you don't read about is any massive losses," Garcia said. "Our reputation is that we are very effective lawyers."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, September 4, 2007

Rosemead council reins in city attorney's fees

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - In an effort to cut attorney's fees, the City Council on Tuesday approved a new contract that caps charges.

The change in contract comes after Rosemead was billed $55,000 by City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia, who represented the city, the housing authority and its redevelopment agency.

"Everyone agrees that the $55,000 bill was high, and based on that the City Council and staff have taken proactive steps in preventing that in the future," interim City Manager Oliver Chi said.

The council voted 3-2 to approve the new contract, with Councilwoman Margaret Clark and Councilman Gary Taylor opposed.

The new contract for Garcia outlines what services are being provided to Rosemead and are covered under the $15,000 monthly retainer for 70 hours of work. Garcia's previous contract had a $5,000 monthly retainer, but no cap and no description of what the retainer included.

"It gives the city more protection in terms of trying to ensure that we don't have an excessively high bill," said interim City Manager Oliver Chi.

Any additional services cost $210 for partners, $150 per hour for law clerk and $125 for paralegals. No more than $30,000 can be charged for a month by Garcia, "unless there was some sort of extraordinary circumstances," Garcia said.

Councilwoman Polly Low said the council struck a good deal.

"I think with the retainer at $15,000 and cap at $30,000, it's pretty reasonable," she said.

The past three months, Garcia charged the city $100,000 - that is nearly the total cost charged for a year's worth of work by the previous law firm Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz, according to city records.

From 2000 to 2007, annual charges from Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz ranged from $137,583 to $179,219, according to the city's finance records.

The city also paid for former City Attorney Robert Kress's medical and pension payments.

After Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz resigned - the firm cited philosophical differences as their reason to move on - Garcia was hired at the request of his friend and former colleague, Councilman John Nunez.

It was also Nunez who recommended after Garcia was hired to hire a separate attorney to represent the city's redevelopment and housing authority agencies.

Still, some City Council members are concerned that the contract is expensive.

Attorney's fees for La Puente, a city of 41,000, ranged from $9,000 to $20,000 a month during 2005-2006, when Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin represented the city and its redevelopment agency.

In Monterey Park, a city of 62,000, city attorney firm Brown, Winfield and Canzoneri charged from $26,000 to $55,000 a month in 2005. Of that $484,582 annual cost, $192,489 of it was paid for by an insurance company.

Garcia charges for travel time and mileage, but does not bill for conferences attended, he said.

Burke, Williams and Sorensen's contract states that it will charge the city $225 per hour for the first 15 hours of work for both the redevelopment agency and the housing authority. After that, rates are $275 for partners, $225 for associates, and $150 for paralegal and clerk time.

Pasadena Star News, August 29, 2007

Bridge project manager replaced

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Management of a $12 million bridge project more than halfway completed will be turned over to a new company.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to oust Willdan Associates, its current construction management company that has been with the city for 26 years, and replace it with Del Terra Group.

Del Terra was selected after it and ACS Group were interviewed by the council.

Duties include overseeing the renovation of the Garvey Bridge and future redevelopment projects.

The move will help cut costs and avoid conflict-of-interest concerns, some council members said. But council members Gary Taylor and Margaret Clark said bringing a new construction management firm in the middle of the Garvey Bridge renovation could bring delays.

"This could cost us more money and delay the project," Clark said Tuesday before the council meeting. "We should finish the Garvey Bridge, and then go out for more requests for proposals."

Clark's request to allow Willdan to complete the Garvey Bridge was denied. Instead, Del Terra was hired on a 3-2 vote, with Taylor and Clark opposed.

Willdan representatives submitted a letter to the council on Monday defending their company and requesting it stay on as the firm.

City Manager Oliver Chi said in the letter, Willdan is "trying to say that basically, the two firms (Del Terra and ACS) aren't capable of doing the management of the Garvey Bridge, and that Willdan has concerns."

Willdan Chief Operations Officer Mallory McCamant had no comment.

Industry-based Del Terra is the program and construction management company for Hacienda La Puente Unified, Basset Unified, Montebello Unified school districts, and program manager for the Rio Hondo College.

It also provided the program and construction services for Rowland Unified from 2003 to 2005 and is handling a $36 million upgrade of the 13 schools in the Garvey School District.

Whittier Daily News, August 29, 2007

Rosemead appoints city manager

ROSEMEAD - A divided City Council appointed the interim city manager as permanent top executive on Tuesday.

In a 3-2 vote, Rosemead council members appointed Oliver Chi as city manager.

Chi, 27, an Arcadia High School graduate, was hired by then-City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto more than a year ago as the deputy city manager. Chi was at Claremont where he served as assistant to the city manager.

Chi was voted interim city manager after the City Council fire Lazzaretto in June.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 28, 2007

Council to vote on construction management company

ROSEMEAD - The City Council will vote to approve the hiring of a new construction management firm Tuesday at its council meeting.

The Council will also vote on the revision of the contract for its city attorney, Bonifacio Garcia. The new contract allows for a retainer and monthly maximum cost of $25,000. His current retainer is $5,000, but there are no cost limitations.

At the redevelopment agency, council members are scheduled to vote on the final contract for new law firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, hired to replace Garcia.

The redevelopment agency meeting starts at 6 p.m., and the council meeting begins at 7 p.m. All meetings are in City Hall, at 8838 E. Valley Blvd.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 28, 2007

New firm could oversee projects

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A management company could replace a firm that has served the city for nearly 30 years.

The City Council is scheduled to vote today for a firm that will oversee a bridge renovation and future redevelopment projects, and will replace the work now performed by Willdan.

The council will make the selection after it interviews Del Terra Construction and ACS Group, the only two companies that responded to the request for proposals.

Calls to Willdan, Del Terra and the ACS Group were not returned.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia said he sent the request for proposals to six companies.

Some council members said they think they are being overcharged by Willdan and there could be a conflict of interest by having Willdan serve as the construction management firm, and the city's engineering, building and safety services.

"I firmly believe it's inappropriate to allow our city engineer to appoint themselves as the construction management company," Mayor John Tran said.

Council members Margaret Clark and Gary Taylor at a Aug. 13 meeting said they needed more time before they selected a firm.

The City Council was scheduled to approve a firm at its meeting two weeks ago, but council members put off the decision because they only received the information about the companies just one day before the meeting. Del Terra, out of Industry, is the program and construction management company for Hacienda La Puente Unified, Basset Unified, Montebello Unified, and program manager for the Rio Hondo Community College.

It also provided the program and construction services for Rowland Unified from 2003 to 2005 and is handling a $36 million upgrade of the 13 schools in the Garvey School District.

Garvey School boardmember Bob Bruesch complimented Del Terra.

"We're very satisfied with Del Terra's work," Bruesch said Monday. "It's extremely hard to be a school district management firm for school districts and to have to deal with craziness of the board and the craziness at the state level."

Both Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez worked with Del Terra while they were Garvey School board members.

Del Terra employees contributed $1,000 to Nunez's campaign in 2005. Del Terra President donated $250 to Councilwoman Polly Low's campaign.

Whittier-based ACS Group has experience working on projects involving state and federally funded projects, such as the $5.75 million Parnell Park Community, Senior Center and Zoo in Whittier. Whittier Daily News, August 28, 2007

Taylor seeks details in lawsuit
Councilman Nunez accused of harassment

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A councilman continues to seek information in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city as the case heads to trial.

Rosemead finance worker Valerie Mazone claims in a lawsuit filed in April that Councilman John Nunez sexually harassed her.

Nunez and the city said that Mazone's lawsuit was a "frivolous, unfounded and unreasonable cause of action for sexual harassment."

The city has discussed the lawsuit in several closed-session meetings. But in recent weeks, Councilman Gary Taylor refused to go to the meetings, saying information in the city's response to the lawsuit was inconsistent with a report given by a private investigator.

City officials declined to comment on Taylor's statements because they said the report was confidential and discussing it could be a violation of open-meeting laws.

Last week, Taylor challenged the council and attorneys to go to the grand jury if they believed he broke the law.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia said Taylor's request for a written report was denied because he, "wasn't entitled to it."

"The council on the whole is entitled to the information," Garcia said. "There are often times when a report is given but there is no documentation provided."

Former City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto in April said private investigator Tess Elconin gave an oral report, but did not provide a written report.

"When you are dealing with litigation and individual privacy matters, there are certain circumstances in how the information will be distributed," Garcia said.

The council has not decided whether they will try to censure Taylor, Nunez said.

He did, however, call Taylor's actions irresponsible.

"It is unfortunate that he's doing these things," Nunez said. "He is not acting as a responsible council member."

"Councilman Taylor has strong belief and opinion that I respect, however, closed session information must be kept confidential," Mayor John Tran said. "Although Taylor did challenge the city attorney to report him to grand jury, I will not support such an action."

This week the Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Grimes urged that a mediator get involved to settle the case. Grimes asked for a report on the mediation efforts by Jan. 15. If the mediation fails, trial is set for May 12.

Mazone was scheduled to come back to work Aug. 1, but that date has since been postponed, interim City Manager Oliver Chi said.

"Whenever she feels she can come back, her job will be available to her," he said.

Attorneys representing both the city and Nunez did not return calls seeking comment. Gregory Smith, who represents Mazone, declined to comment.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 24, 2007

A political issue

Pomona City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman's law firm last week lost out on gaining the Rosemead Redevelopment Agency as a client because of fears of involvement in politics.

The City Council in Rosemead decided to hire Burke, Williams and Sorensen, one of the area's largest legal firms serving cities, instead of the firm of Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin, or three other candidates.

Rosemead Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nuñez moved to hire Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin, but they could get no other support from their colleagues. Some council members and residents were concerned about Alvarez-Glasman's political activities.

His firm, which also represents West Covina, Bell Gardens and Pico Rivera, made political contributions in Rosemead of $1,000 to Tran in 2004 and $1,000 to Councilwoman Polly Low in 2007.

"I have a real problem with Glasman and his involvement in politics," Councilwoman Margaret Clark said.

Alvarez-Glasman nearly became a candidate in November in his home of Montebello. He took out papers to run for city treasurer but later said he had decided not to run.

He is a former Montebello councilman.

"It doesn't matter that he withdrew it. It shows that he's still involved with politics," Clark said. "We don't need this kind of politics in Rosemead."

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, August 19, 2007

Council decides on law firm

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city hired a new redevelopment attorney on Tuesday, replacing the lawyer it hired four months ago to fill the post.

Law firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, which began its public law career in Montebello in 1938, beat out four other firms vying to represent the city's redevelopment agency.

The other firms were Best, Best and Krieger; Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin; Kane, Ballmer and Berkman; and Richards, Watson and Gershon. Each were interviewed by the council at Tuesday's meeting.

Contracts for the new law firm have not been negotiated.

Bonifacio Garcia, a former attorney for Burke, Williams and Sorensen, was hired in April to represent the city and its redevelopment agency. He remains as the city attorney.

The decision to bring on a separate agency attorney was sparked by a request by Councilman John Nunez, who said having two firms representing the city and the redevelopment agency will avoid conflict of interest concerns.

The unanimous approval on Tuesday for Burke, Williams and Sorensen came after a failed motion by Mayor John Tran and Nunez to hire Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin.

Council members and residents expressed their apprehension about bringing aboard partner Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, who represents West Covina, Bell Gardens, Pomona and Pico Rivera.

"I have a real problem with Glasman and his involvement in politics," Councilwoman Margaret Clark said, referring to Alvarez-Glasman and his interest in Montebello politics.

Alvarez-Glasman pulled papers Aug. 3 to run for city treasurer, but later said he decided not to run after discussing it with his family.

"It doesn't matter that he withdrew it. It shows that he's still involved with politics," Clark said. "We don't need this kind of politics in Rosemead."

Alvarez-Glasman, a former Montebello City Councilman, has also served as city attorney for Baldwin Park, Montebello, South El Monte and La Puente. However, his contract was not renewed with these cities after new council majorities came aboard.

"He is a fine attorney," said Baldwin Park Councilman David Olivas, who voted to oust Alvarez-Glasman. "I felt it was time to make a change, but it had nothing to do with \ service to the city."

Among the firms, Alvarez-Glasman was the only one to give campaign contributions to existing council members, according to campaign finance records: $1,000 to Tran in 2004, and $1,000 to Councilwoman Polly Low in 2007.

Clark said this was also another reason why she would not vote for Alvarez-Glasman.

Low, however, said that receiving campaign contributions is no guarantee on a vote.

"Just because council members receive a contribution doesn't necessarily mean they will absolutely vote because they've received money," Low said.

Tran, who just before voting for Alvarez-Glasman, added, "$1,000 does not buy my vote, Maggie."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 15, 2007

Rosemead nears call on bridge project

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A new management firm could be picked today to oversee a bridge renovation and future redevelopment projects, though one council member questioned the bidding process.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to replace existing construction management company, Willdan. Only two companies, Del Terra Construction and ACS Group, responded to the request for proposals.

Calls to the three companies were not returned.

Willdan also serves as the city's engineering, building and safety services, which some council members say is a possible conflict of interest.

"I firmly believe it's inappropriate to allow our city engineer to appoint themselves as the construction management company," Mayor John Tran said.

Council members in the past have also expressed concern that Willdan is overcharging the city.

Records show that May and June payments to Willdan total $350,000. This includes the cost for the improvement of the Garvey Bridge.

Councilwoman Margaret Clark believes there is no conflict of interest and that Willdan has done a fine job. But what really concerns her, she said Monday, is the bidding process, which has been handled almost exclusively by the city attorney.

"It looks very suspicious to have our city attorney handle something that normally our salaried staff would handle," Clark said.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia said he sent the request for proposals to five or six different firms.

Council members received the proposals Monday. Typically, they are given information related to the agendas on Friday.

"The fact that we don't have the information in our hands is outrageous," Clark said Monday.

Councilman John Nunez said Monday afternoon he had not yet reviewed the proposals, and that he wasn't familiar with ACS Group. However, Nunez, a former member on the Alhambra and Garvey school boards, said he was familiar with Del Terra.

"Del Terra works with Garvey, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job," Nunez said.

Del Terra and Tran's paths crossed while Tran was serving on the Garvey school board.

Currently, Del Terra is the program and construction management company for Hacienda La Puente Unified, Basset Unified, Montebello Unified, and program manager for the Rio Hondo Community College.

It also provided the program and construction services for Rowland Unified from 2003 to 2005 and is handling a $36 million upgrade of the 13 schools in the Garvey School District.

One of the last votes Tran took while he was still serving on the Garvey School Board was to appoint Del Terra Construction, according to board documents.

"John Tran emphasized the need to move forward with the decision to select a construction management company," stated the April 7, 2005, board minutes.

The next day, Tran resigned from the school board because he won a spot on the Rosemead City Council.

Tran said Del Terra came in one year prior to do work funded under Measure G, and then the board awarded more work to the company in 2005.

"They were already there and they were doing a great job," Tran said.

Nunez said they are seeking out a new firm to avoid conflict of interest concerns.

"We just want to make sure we do this right," he said.

The council will also vote tonight on hiring a new redevelopment agency attorney.

Among the five firms is Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin, whose firm also represents West Covina, Pomona, Bell Gardens and Pico Rivera.

According to Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin's proposal, his firms have also represented six of the local school districts with which Del Terra has projects.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 14, 2007

Power struggle over project
Firefighters oppose development plans

By Jennifer McLain Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A project set to be built under high-voltage power lines could prove to be precedent-setting for the rest of the San Gabriel Valley, according to fire union officials.

Los Angeles County fire officials said they originally rejected the retail development at 8518 W. Valley Blvd. because of safety concerns.

Although a spokeswoman for Chief Michael Freeman said Friday the department did not approve the project, city documents show the Fire Department's Fire Prevention Bureau stamped those plans in July as having been reviewed and as requiring no additional changes. Freeman's spokeswoman would not comment further.

The city issued building permits in July to a single-story commercial project.

"They were stamped reviewed, but it basically is county fire saying the project can go ahead," said interim City Manager Oliver Chi. "Because the plans weren't stamped denied, and were checked for fire code regulation, it is safe."

The fire union said the development poses a threat to residents and firefighters, and could change the way other cities deal with such developments.

"We're absolutely, 100 percent opposed to any construction that would put firefighters or residents in danger," said director Paul Rusin of Union 1014, which represents firefighters in the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "We've been very stern on that decision."

The go-ahead on the project came several weeks after Rosemead proposed an ordinance that would have given the city manager final authority over fire code issues in the city.

City officials said they were unhappy with a fire regulation that limits development underneath high-voltage power lines.

In May, the city had eight proposed developments in violation of that code.

The proposal sparked the ire of Freeman, who called it "out of left field" and threatened litigation.

Since then, the city abandoned the ordinance and stopped the development on all but one project. Chi said the project has been in the works for nearly four years.

"We won't allow other developments," Chi said. "But given the uniqueness of the project, and the fact that it's been in the loop for so long, it is appropriate that it be able to move forward."

Union officials, however, fear that the development of this project could be the springboard for future projects.

"Rosemead is the testing front of all the San Gabriel Valley," Rusin said. "If the project continues, it is my sense this is will start to happen all of the area."

Tran said he "whole-heartedly believes" in the fire union and the safety of the firefighters, but assured them that no other developments would occur.

The ordinance comes after approval of a 2006 county fire code that prohibits building underneath high-voltage power lines.

The city proposed an ordinance that would allow the city manager to overrule "all interpretations, recommendations, rules, permits, regulations, applications and decisions" of the fire code, which would include denial of projects by the Fire Department.

Under the existing fire code, homes built under power lines before the regulation change would not be affected unless homeowners wanted to upgrade their homes, which some council members said was a concern.

Tran said this has since been changed after conversations between the Chi and the fire chief.

The regulation has been modified by the fire department to prevent any residential home from having to comply.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 13, 2007

Job shuffle continues at Rosemead City Hall

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A fourth interim department head was appointed this week.

Michael Yelton, former assistant city manager for Duarte, will start Monday as the Rosemead's interim finance director. He will take over the position held by Lisa Pedote, who held the position for nearly six months.

Her last day was Monday.

"Lisa came into a really difficult environment and worked extremely hard during the time she was here," said Oliver Chi, interim city manager. "We got to a place where we all agreed that this wasn't the best fit, and wish her the best in all future endeavors."

Pedote could not be reached for comment.

During her time as finance director, Pedote requested funds to improve what she called an antiquated financial system.

Pedote was hired by then-City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto, who was fired by the City Council in June.

The hiring of Yelton, 56, is the fourth interim department head serving the city. The five-member executive team is made up of interim staffers. While Chi is serving as the interim city manager, Don Anderson is serving as the interim public services director, Brian Saeki is the interim community development director, and Jean Scott is the interim parks and recreation director.

The city has seen several significant staff changes in the past six months. Besides Lazzaretto and Pedote, a city attorney resigned; the interim community development director, Jesse Duff, resigned; and Michael Burbank, the former parks and recreation director, retired.

All the changes occurred after the March election, which resulted in a new majority. Councilwoman Polly Low was elected, pushing out Jay Imperial who served on the council for nearly 30 years. Low, Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez have so far proven to be political allies.

Chi said the interim positions would not be filled permanently until the council hires a city manager.

"When a permanent city manager comes in, they could create the team they want," he said.

Yelton, 56, holds a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from UCLA, and a master's degree in urban planning and public policy from Claremont Graduate School.

Yelton retired three months ago from Duarte as the assistant city manager and director of administrative services. He also worked in Simi Valley, Baldwin Park, and as a former budget officer in Pasadena.

"Oliver believes in him, and he is qualified to take on the position," said Rosemead Mayor John Tran.

Duarte Councilman John Fasana said Yelton, who was with Duarte for nearly 15 years, is very knowledgable on the financial and redevelopment sides.

"He is a very level-headed guy, and very sharp in terms of the stewardship of the city's funds," Fasana said Friday. "He did a great job in our city."

The interim finance post will not last longer than six months.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 11, 2007

Rosemead steps up attorney search

ROSEMEAD - The City Council will interview five firms Tuesday all vying for the spot as the redevelopment agency attorney.

The search comes four months after the council hired Bonifacio Garcia to represent the city and the redevelopment agency.

The legal firms that applied are Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin; Best, Best and Krieger; Burke, Williams and Sorensen; Kane, Ballmer and Berkman; and Richards, Watson and Gershon.

At a July meeting, Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez said they were ready to select a firm. Only Alvarez-Glasman was present at the meeting.

That decision was stalled, however, when the majority voted to interview all five firms before selecting. Nunez and Tran dissented.

The interviews will be conducted during open session at 4:30 p.m. at Rosemead City Hall, 8800 Valley Blvd.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 11, 2007

Attorney's bills prompt review

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city attorney in May was paid more than four times the average monthly charge of the previous attorney, the latest billing records show.

Bonifacio Garcia charged Rosemead $55,000, though information on what the money was spent for was redacted from records. He declined to give an itemized description of the charges, citing "attorney-client privilege."

"I cannot go into detail," Garcia said. "It was $55,000 worth of work."

The city attorney was hired in April after longtime City Attorney Peter Wallin and the firm Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz quit.

According to the records, Garcia's law firm worked 222 hours in May, and charged between $210 and $225 per hour. Garcia also gets a $5,000 retainer.

The invoice issued for May is the most recently paid. Invoices for June and July are not yet available.

Garcia charged the city nearly $16,000 in April.

During 2005-06, Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz charged $170,579, or $14,149 monthly, for their work as redevelopment agency and city attorney.

Rosemead is searching for a new redevelopment agency attorney, and interviews for that position are scheduled for Tuesday.

City officials said they were surprised at the high charge for May.

"I'm shocked that it's such a large amount," said Councilwoman Margaret Clark. "I plan to look into where the money is going."

While Rosemead council members have access to the description of the 76 charges listed, Garcia redacted the information from the records the city released.

Experts say the public deserves the right to know how their money is being spent.

"To not justify that cost to the taxpayers is patronizing," said Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

He said that while some information deserves to be confidential, it is unlikely that all of it should be redacted.

"There may be specific instances in the itemized description where there may be a greater public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of that information," Ewert said. "But it is hard for me to believe that every single item has that status."

Interim City Manager Oliver Chi would only say that Garcia blocked out this information because it was privileged.

"There is detailed information that the city is engaged with, and (Garcia) wanted to redact certain information so that nothing confidential would be made public," Chi said.

Monterey Park's deputy city attorney, Adrian Guerra, said this is not an unusual practice.

"Generally, that type of information is protected under the attorney-client privilege," Guerra said.

City officials would not comment on the redaction of the information.

Instead, it was the cost that prompted Clark to request the council to review Garcia's performance at Tuesday's council meeting.

"We are concerned and staff is looking into the details," said Mayor John Tran.

Chi said he was initially surprised at the high bill, and now is exploring ways in reducing such costs in the future.

Garcia said he stands by his billing.

"I think people get what they pay for," Garcia said Wednesday. "They shouldn't expect something for nothing."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 9, 2007

Rosemead lawyers raked in the money in May

ROSEMEAD - The city paid nearly $52,000 in attorney's fees during the month of May, and officials said they are "shocked" at the high bill.

The city council will evaluate the performance of City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia and his law firm, Garcia Calderon and Ruiz, at its meeting on Tuesday.

Garcia was hired in April after the resignation of the city's longtime legal representation, Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz resigned.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 8, 2007

Harassment suit against Nunez fuels arguments

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Conflicting opinions in connection with a sexual harassment lawsuit surfaced last week when a councilman challenged the city's response.

Rosemead has denied allegations in the lawsuit filed by staff employee Valerie Mazone in April. She sued the city and Councilman John Nunez, claiming that he sexually harassed her at work since September 2005.

Both the city and Nunez cited multiple defenses to the allegations, including that Mazone's lawsuit is a "frivolous, unfounded and unreasonable cause of action for sexual harassment."

Longtime Councilman Gary Taylor said at a council meeting on Tuesday that those denials conflict with a closed-door verbal report made by a private investigator to council members.

"I am shocked and appalled at this response," Taylor said about the city's court response to the lawsuit. "That's not what happened."

Officials and council members would not comment on Taylor's statements because they said the report was confidential, and discussing the lawsuit in public could be a violation of the state's open meeting law.

"The (Ralph M.) Brown Act prohibits members of legislative bodies from disclosing things said in closed session," said Terry Francke, general counsel of Californians Aware, an open-government advocacy group. "It seems that the law clearly stands in the way of being candid about honesty in litigation."

The Brown Act mandates how municipalities and public agencies conduct their meetings.

Former City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto in April said that the city hired private investigator Tess Elconin to look into the allegations against Nunez.

The city paid Elconin $10,000 for a three-week-long investigation.

Lazzaretto said no written report was issued to the City Council and no documents from the investigation will be made public to "avoid embarrassment."

Elconin reported her findings to the council in a closed session meeting, Lazzaretto said. He would not elaborate on what findings were made.

The lawsuit alleges that Nunez massaged Mazone, leered at her, and "on one occasion looked directly into her blouse in an attempt to observe Plaintiff's breasts."

Taylor on Tuesday requested any copies of written reports made by Elconin. He also said the verbal findings were not reflected in the city's response to the lawsuit.

"What is proceeding is not what was discussed," during the closed session report, Taylor said on Tuesday.

City Attorney Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia would not say whether Taylor's statements on Tuesday violated the Brown Act.

"I really cannot comment on that," Garcia said Friday.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 23, 2007

Molina cools off annex `fever'

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - County Supervisor Gloria Molina is trying to allay concerns by South San Gabriel residents after annexation plans surfaced recently.

A suggestion by Rosemead Councilman John Nunez to annex several streets in the unincorporated area sparked dozens of complaints in the community of nearly 8,000.

Nunez said last week that it was only an idea and that residents blew it out of proportion.

But even after reassurances from Mayor John Tran and Councilwoman Polly Low that such an idea did not have council support, some residents were not convinced that the annexation talks were over.

George Kitaoka, a longtime resident on Cameta Drive, said he is upset that his home could be annexed. Others at a recent community meeting said they did not want to be part of Rosemead and that existing services were adequate.

"Just because one council member has an idea, it takes a majority to decide whether that is the right thing to do," Low said this week.

On Wednesday, Molina's office tried to put those residents at ease.

"Rosemead City officials have had informal discussions with my staff about the process of annexation, and how I would view proposals," Molina said in a letter to the residents. "If an annexation proposal is submitted, you will be informed, and your opinion will be vital to me."

While some area residents said they were against annexation, High Pine Street resident Paul Benavidez said he supports it.

"It would help us and give us lights on our street," Benavidez said. "I don't see what's the problem in incorporating."

Field Deputy Marcia Guzman said the supervisor would not support a plan if residents objected.

"There is no formal proposal," Guzman said. She added that annexation is a public process.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 20, 2007

Rosemead council delays decision on law firm

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The majority of the council decided to interview attorney candidates for the redevelopment agency in August.

Despite Rosemead Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez saying they were prepared to approve an attorney on Tuesday, the council voted 3-2 to interview the five law firms vying for the post.

"I read their proposals and reviewed them, but that is more of a paper interview," Councilwoman Polly Low said Wednesday. "I am more comfortable meeting all five before making a decision."

With one of the five firms represented at the meeting - partner Arnold Alvarez-Glasman - Tran and Nunez voted against interviewing all of the firms.

"I'm ready to choose one," Tran said at Tuesday's meeting, with Nunez echoing his comments.

Council members were provided with the bids on July 12. Councilwoman Margaret Clark said Wednesday, "that it is a little bit odd that they did not want to interview the firms."

Alvarez-Glasman is the city attorney for Pomona, West Covina, Pico Rivera and Bell Gardens, and has also served Baldwin Park, Montebello, South El Monte and La Puente.

Among the firms, he is the only one to have given campaign contributions to existing council members, according to campaign finance records: $1,000 to Tran in 2004, and $1,000 to Low in 2007.

"I'm just happy to be part of the process," Alvarez-Glasman said at Tuesday's meeting.

The other firms are Best, Best and Krieger; Burke, Williams and Sorensen; Kane, Ballmer and Berkman; and Richards, Watson and Gershon.

The search comes three months after the city hired Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia as city attorney to represent Rosemead and its redevelopment agency.

Garcia was brought on as lead attorney on the suggestion of Nunez. The council did not accept any other bids for the position.

The council's decision in April drew some criticism from the community. Residents questioned Garcia's billing practices and why the council didn't put the contract out to bid.

Garcia serves as general counsel to the Sweetwater Union High School District, and the Garvey School District. He is also the city attorney for Wasco and counsel to the City of Arvin.

According to Garcia's resume, he "is an expert on the (Ralph M.) Brown Act, municipal governance, California conflict of interests and ethics laws binding on elected officials, litigation and labor and employment matters."

The Brown Act mandates how municipalities and public agencies conduct their meetings. The resume does not make reference to redevelopment work.

Nunez recommended last month that the council hire a separate attorney to represent the redevelopment agency to avoid conflict of interest concerns, and stated it did not reflect his opinion of Garcia's work at the city.

"I didn't think it is appropriate to have the same law firm handle development and be the city attorney," Nunez said previously.

Longtime council members Gary Taylor and Clark, who frequently vote against increases in the budget, said at Tuesday's meeting that such a move would tag on extra costs to the city.

"So why are we hiring another attorney?" Taylor said.

Garcia's contract calls for a $5,000 monthly retainer for the attendance of two regular city council and planning commission meetings per month. For the redevelopment agency, there is no retainer.

Basic legal services cost between $125 to $210 per hour, and speciality services including business and real estate or intellectual property range from $205 to $295 per hour, depending on the experience of the attorney.

The council will interview the attorneys at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 14, said interim City Manager Oliver Chi.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 19, 2007

Annexation anxiety
County residents worried about being forced into Rosemead

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

County residents living near Rosemead's border are worried that a city plan to annex their community could be forced on them.

About 20 residents from unincorporated South San Gabriel met last month after learning Rosemead Councilman John Nunez wants the city to annex three Los Angeles County streets.

The streets include Cameta Drive and High Pine, and protrude into the Whittier Narrows, east of Walnut Grove. "I don't want to force anybody out," Nunez said. "Quite frankly, I thought it made sense to annex those streets. I thought I was doing the right thing by asking the residents, `What do you think?' "

He said he had the idea to annex, but only to improve services.

Other council members said they would not support annexation unless residents did, according to a recording of the June 28 meeting. But Cameta Drive resident George Kitaoka said he has his doubts.

"I'm not convinced these talks are over because the person who the other council members said came up with the idea hasn't assured us this won't happen," he said. Residents said they were concerned that this was being pursued to make way for redevelopment, but Nunez said "there is absolutely no place for that."

"I'm not going to look good any way I say this," Nunez said Thursday. "There are three streets that would make sense to make into Rosemead."

The unincorporated area falls in jurisdiction of Supervisor Gloria Molina, who did not return calls seeking comment.

"If residents are not happy, it's a lose-lose situation," Rosemead Councilwoman Polly Low said at the June 28 community meeting, according to the tape recording. She added that if the residents wanted to be annexed, only then would she support the issue.

The residents who attended a June 28th community-organized meeting were among the more vocal opponents against the Wal-Mart Supercenter, which is down the road from their homes.

Low and Mayor John Tran assured those at the meeting that annexing is far from the council's agenda.

"It's not to our advantage to annex," Tran said at the meeting. "I'll make it clear - we're not annexing."

Interim City Manager Oliver Chi said Nunez has approached him before on the issue, and that Nunez's intentions were to clean up the area and provide better services.

"He has on several occasions asked me to look into the process," Chi said. "But staff's perspective is that we are not doing anything on it."

Annexation would require voter approval, he said.

Nunez said he spoke to several residents about the possibility.

"I just wanted to know what they thought about the idea. It was very, very preliminary," Nunez said. "They are blowing this out of proportion."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 16, 2007

Attorney seeking Rosemead post

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A city attorney who has represented at least a half-dozen cities in the San Gabriel Valley is vying to sign up another one. Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, of Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin, is one of five firms submitting bids to become counsel for Rosemead's redevelopment agency.

He was hired in April as Pico Rivera's city attorney, and also represents West Covina, Pomona and Bell Gardens. He has also served as the city attorney of Baldwin Park, South Gate and South El Monte. Alvarez-Glasman could not be reached for comment.

City Council members will consider hiring an applicant Tuesday at its meeting. The other law firms are Best, Best and Krieger; Burke Williams and Sorensen; Kane, Balmmer and Berkman; and Richards, Watson and Gershon.

Rosemead's search for a redevelopment agency attorney began last month, spurred by a request by Councilman John Nunez. He recommended the existing redevelopment and city attorney, Bonifacio Garcia, who was hired in April.

Garcia was appointed without competeting bids. Nunez said his call for a different attorney for the redevelopment agency was not meant to be an opinion on Garcia's work. The councilman said he had long felt that it was inappropriate to

have the same law firm handle development and the city attorney's position. Rosemead in the past relied on only one firm to represent both agencies.

"We got a great response," said interim City Manager Oliver Chi, who highlighted Best, Best and Krieger, Kane, Balmmer and Berkman, and Burke Williams and Sorensen for being among the top municipal law firms in the state.

Chi said the council members have taken the lead in the search.

"This is completely a (council) decision, and they are driving the process," Chi said. "They didn't want the staff involved."

The applicants will be evaluated based on their expertise, capacity and their backgrounds, he said.

Alvarez-Glasman served on the Montebello City Council from 1985 to 1997, and also served as the city attorney for seven years before he was fired in 2005.

Burke, Williams and Sorensen represents Moorpark, Alhambra, and serves as assistant city attorney of Santa Clarita. Area clients for Best, Best and Krieger include the redevelopment agencies for Arcadia and Azusa, and the Housing Authority for the city of Los Angeles. Richards, Watson and Gershon serves as legal counsel to nearly 30 redevelopment agencies, including for South El Monte, Whittier, Upland, Industry, Brea and Norwalk. Kane, Ballmer and Berkman represents nearly 30 public entities, including Bellflower, Culver City, Inglewood, Palos Verdes Estates and San Diego.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, July 14, 2007

Council votes for new attorney

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - City Hall changes continue as elected officials moved forward with a search for a new redevelopment agency lawyer and approved the new interim city manager's contract.

Councilman John Nunez's request to find a different attorney to represent the redevelopment commission was approved Tuesday, 3-1.

"This will add more credibility to the city," Nunez said.

Councilman Gary Taylor, who dissented, has his doubts.

"I don't think it is necessary," Taylor said after the meeting. "There are going to be more costs."

In the past three months, the city has seen several longtime employees resign, quit or get fired. As a result, city officials and upper management have reorganized staff.

In April, Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia was appointed to serve as Rosemead city attorney and redevelopment attorney without competing bids after Nunez recommended Garcia to the council.

The position became open after longtime City Attorney Peter Wallin resigned.

"Bonny is capable," Nunez said Tuesday. "But I've always thought that the city attorney and the attorney for the commission should not only be two different lawyers but from two different law firms."

Garcia's contract calls for a $5,000 monthly retainer for the attendance of two regular city council and planning commission meetings per month. Beyond that, basic legal services cost between $125 to $210 per hour, and speciality services including business and real estate or intellectual property range from $205 to $295 per hour, depending on the experience of the attorney.

No firms have been finalized, but Nunez said Monday several attorneys have in the past expressed interest, including former Huntington Park City Attorney Francisco Leal, Alhambra City Attorney Joe Montes, and West Covina City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman.

In addition, the council approved a six-month interim contract for Oliver Chi, 27, to become interim city manager.

The former deputy city manager was appointed two weeks ago to temporarily fill the city's top executive position after the council fired Andrew Lazzaretto. Lazzaretto had served as Rosemead city manager for 14 months.

Chi also announced staff changes.

Interim Community Development director Jesse Duff has been appointed as the interim parks and recreation director; Recreation Superintendent Jean Scott has been appointed as the interim assistant parks and recreation director; and redevelopment administrator and deputy executive director of the community development commission was appointed as the interim community development director, and will also be providing administrative support to the city manager's office.

These employees will not receive salary adjustments as a result of their new positions, Chi said.

Chi's six-month contract calls for $13,547 per month, which is $162,564 per year. His salary shall be maintained at 10 percent more than the next highest paid City employee.

Under the contract, it states that Chi may be evaluated by the City Council at any time but only in closed session.

It was during a closed-session evaluation that Lazzaretto's three-year contract at $175,000 annually was terminated.

Chi's contract could be terminated at any time.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 28, 2007

City may seek second attorney
Rosemead urged to hire redevelopment agency counsel

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Arnold Alvarez-Glasman is one of the candidates who could replace an attorney hired two months ago to represent the city's redevelopment commission.

In April, Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia was appointed to serve as Rosemead city attorney and redevelopment attorney without competing bids after Councilman John Nunez recommended Garcia's name to the council.

The position became open after longtime City Attorney Peter Wallin resigned.

Now, Nunez is requesting that the Community Development Commission, the city's redevelopment agency, vote today to consider hiring a different attorney. Garcia would keep his position as city attorney.

"Even when Peter Wallin was around, I didn't think it was appropriate to have the same law firm handle development and the city attorney's position," Nunez said Monday. "I think it is important to have two different law firms."

Nunez said he has no one attorney in mind to assume the position, but several firms and individuals, including Alvarez-Glasman, have in the past expressed interest in serving as counsel for the city.

"A lot of law firms have come and talked to me," prior to requesting the agenda item for today's community development meeting, Nunez said.

Included in that list, he said, were Alhambra City Attorney Joe Montes of Burke, Williams, and Sorensen, former Huntington Park City Attorney Francisco Leal, and Alvarez-Glasman, who is the city attorney for West Covina, Pomona, Pico Rivera and Bell Gardens.

"[Alvarez-Glasman] has said that if there was anything he could for us to give him a call," Nunez said. "I know that he is one of the guys out there."

Alvarez-Glasman did not return calls Monday.

Alvarez-Glasman, who also served as city attorney for Montebello and Baldwin Park, contributed $1,000 to Councilwoman Polly Low's campaign in January and $1,000 to Mayor John Tran's campaign in 2004.

Former City Attorney Peter Wallin said that he thinks that Rosemead should have put the position out for bid after he resigned in March.

"They wanted [Garcia] as city attorney," Wallin said. "I have no personal knowledge of his firm, but I take it that if the city is going out to find someone else, then Bonny is probably saying he's not interested in doing this kind of work. That is just speculation on my part."

Garcia deferred all comments to Nunez.

City officials said they are impressed with Garcia's work as city attorney, despite earlier concerns by Council members Margaret Clark and Gary Taylor.

Both said the appointment was rushed and that there may have been a potential conflict of interest. Garcia's firm is the legal counsel for the Garvey School District.

Now, Clark said that Garcia is "doing just fine."

"The hiring of a new attorney is an unnecessary waste of money," Clark said Monday.

The commission will vote today on whether to approve the request by Nunez to go to bid for legal services. If approved, staff will prepare a request for qualifications, which will be distributed for 30 days to all qualified legal firms.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 26, 2007

Developers contribute to council members

By Jennifer McLain Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Developers connected with four projects in the city have contributed at least $30,000 to council members since 2005, according to finance records.

In addition, two developers paid for three meals for former Rosemead City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto. Other city officials, including Mayor John Tran and interim City Manager Oliver Chi, also attended, but said they paid for their own meals.

"People may think, `Wow, staff and council members are meeting developers. Is something shady going on?"' Chi said. "At the end of the day, to get the deals done, you have to get to know one another and it is hard to do in just an office setting."

There is nothing illegal about receiving campaign contributions, said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. But he said accepting any more than $500 in contributions "looks bad."

Tran, however, said the financial support he received for his campaign has no impact on the progression of the projects.

"Any campaign contribution I've received does not impact my decision," Tran said. "We are well aware of our conflict-of-interest laws."

Staff members said that there is a lot of interest in development in Rosemead.

"I think there is a tremendous opportunity right now for the city to capitalize in the development interest," Chi said. "We have a lot of pots on the stove."

A potential mixed-use project at Rosemead Boulevard and Steele Street, proposed by Hieu Tran, was granted an exclusive negotiating agreement in April.

Tran and his associate Thong Van Lu contributed $5,000 each to Mayor John Tran.

A mixed-use and commercial development, both proposed by Hawaii Supermarket owner Gerard Yang, are in the planning stages.

Associates related to the Hawaii Supermarket and those involved in the proposed Big Island mixed-use project - including the architect - have contributed $4,700 to Tran and councilwomen Polly Low and Margaret Clark. Tran received $1,000, Low received $2,900, and Clark received $800.

Low and Clark did not return calls to comment on this story.

Chi said that he hasn't experienced any pressure to bend the rules for certain developers.

The conditions for a fourth project, which is located on one parcel owned by Eric Lee and Bob Nguyen, was approved by the City Council after it was originally denied by the planning commission.

Councilman John Nunez, who did not return calls, appealed that planning commission's decision.

Nguyen and Lee combined have donated $14,000 to Rosemead council members, including a $50 dinner bought for Lazzaretto by Lee. Nguyen gave Mayor Tran $7,000. Lee gave Tran $5,000 and gave Low $2,000.

Whittier Daily News, June 24, 2007

New appointee Chi answers City Hall call

By Jennifer McLain Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The interim city manager sat in his future office overlooking Valley Boulevard and with a cup of coffee by his side.

One day after City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto was fired by the Rosemead City Council, Lazzaretto's family pictures stared over the shoulder of newly appointed interim City Manager Oliver Chi.

"I'll eventually be moving into this office," said Chi, who wasn't sitting behind the desk, where Lazzaretto normally sat, but instead as a guest in front of it. Chi's existing office is windowless and cramped.

Lazzaretto's fingerprints still remain in City Hall, ranging from the nearly 12 staff members he hired in the shortyear he was there to the photos of his family in his old office.

"Unfortunately, he and the council didn't see eye to eye," Chi said.

"Philosophical differences" was the reason the council ousted Lazzaretto and placed the city's reins in the hands of Chi, 27, a UCLA and USC graduate whose passion for local government is unwavering, said Bill Garrett, executive director of the California City Management Foundation.

An Arcadia High School graduate, Chi, a Rancho Cucamonga resident, said he is familiar with Rosemead and its surrounding areas. He and his wife of three years frequent the city to shop at its ethnic grocery stores. And he said when he was younger, he and his Taiwan-born parents ate at the area's many Chinese restaurants.

Chi was hired by Lazzaretto nearly one year ago as the deputy city manager, coming from Claremont where he served as assistant to the city manager.

During the past year, Chi has made a name for himself, staff and residents said, by being a straight shooter, optimistic, and passionate about his job and public policy.

But when it was first announced last week that he would temporarily take on the city's top position, he said it was unexpected.

"The decision was surprising," Chi said of the council's decision. Since then, he has come to terms with his new position, and is excited at the influence he could have in a city ready for change.

"The city has so many opportunities it can embrace," Chi said. "It's next to two major freeways, there is a lot of development interests, we are reshaping portions of the city, and the city has money in the bank."

But Chi has his work cut out for him, just as Lazzaretto did.

But the council, led by Mayor John Tran, is still deeply divided after the construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. It also differs in how and where it should spend its money.

In addition, some council members and staff have said the city is behind the times in its management, youth programs and economic development.

But things are improving, however, and Chi said Lazzaretto helped set some of those changes in motion. New building guidelines, more development and City Hall technology upgrades will help the city be where it needs to be.

The council was optimistic at previous meetings that Chi would be able to fulfill its needs, but like many votes in among the council, the decision was not unanimous.

Council members Margaret Clark and Gary Taylor - who have a combined 40 years on council - nominated Jesse Duff, Rosemead's interim community development director and former Duarte city manager, for the job.

Garrett said the average time a city manager works at a city is four years.

Chi doesn't seem to be too concerned about not having five votes, especially since Lazzaretto had unanimous approval and he got fired after only 14 months on the job.

"There is a saying that you're not really a city manager until you're closed to being fired," Chi said.

Chi's colleagues complimented him on his passion and dedication to the job, and don't think his age should be confused with lack of experience.

"Oliver is a professional, and he has been in local government for a long time," said Tamara Letourneau, city manager for Yorba Linda. "Among his qualities are his integrity and work ethic."

He is also known for his ear-splitting cackle, which can be often heard throughout the City Hall.

"The laugh is just part of my personality," Chi said.

Chi's contract is being upgraded and should be finalized by the June 26 council meeting. He is not sure how the council will proceed in filling the position permanently, nor does he know whether he could be a contender for that position.

But for the next six months, the City Council just needs to trust its staff, and Chi thinks he could help bridge that gap.

"The organization needs really strong, stable leadership," Chi said, "and hopefully we can earn the trust of the employees and residents."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 18, 2007

City OKs staff funds

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - A divided City Council approved nearly $600,000 in this upcoming budget for the addition of five new full-time employees.

The budget, approved Tuesday, calls for a dip in the general fund reserves by $1.4 million, and reflects a $4 million reduction in fund balance. Expenditures are $37.2 million, compared with $36 million last year.

But with a remaining reserve of $21 million and employees who say they are understaffed, officials said the addition of new positions to its present roster of 54 full-time employees is warranted.

The new positions include a people manager, a public communications manager, an accounting manager, an assistant planner and a public safety coordinator.

Two longtime council members opposed hiring more employees - calling it a "slippery slope" to dip into reserve funds - while the newer council members said it is about time Rosemead change its ways.

"You say it's a slippery slope," said Councilman John Nunez. "It's not. It is more money, but there are a lot of things we don't do. These are needs that have been there for months and years."

Staff leaders said lack of updated equipment, resources and manpower have prevented them from delivering the necessary service to the residents.

Council members Gary Taylor and Margaret Clark opposed approving the money for the positions in light of concerns over looming pension and health-care costs.

"I don't think this is a good time to hire so many new employees," Clark said. "I just don't think we could afford it."

Instead, Clark suggested using interns and offering incentives to the existing employees.

But staff supervisors at the study session said they are currently under-staffed.

"I've been here for 12 years, and I could list 12 different planners that quit," Johnson said. "And their departure was related to the work load. An additional planner is warranted at this time."

Don Anderson, interim public safety services director, said a public safety coordinator would free up a sheriff's deputy. Anderson said he would also like to see the introduction of a juvenile work and DUI restitution program.

Recently appointed Interim City Manager Oliver Chi said the approval of the positions is "exciting" for the city.

The cost of all positions totals $594,604, including benefits and retirement costs. Salaries for the five new positions range from to $38,000 to $95,000.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 14, 2007

Rosemead council OKs firing of city manager

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city's top official was fired Tuesday and replaced by his understudy.

During a closed door meeting, the City Council said it unanimously approved the termination of a three-year contract with City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto, who was placed on administrative leave last week.

Lazzaretto, 64, served as the city's top executive since March 2006.

"Due to philosophical differences, the city council has parted ways with the city manager," said Mayor John Tran.

Deputy City Manager Oliver Chi, 27, was promoted last week on a unanimous vote to serve as acting city manager. But Tuesday, he was named interim city manager on a 3-2 vote.

Council members Margaret Clark and Gary Taylor dissented, and instead nominated interim Community Development Director Jesse Duff. Their motion failed.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia said the City Council will adhere to Lazzaretto's contract by paying him an 18 months' severance pay. He was paid $175,000 annually.

Lazzaretto, who was not present at the meeting, said Tuesday afternoon he had no comment.

The decision by the Rosemead City Council is now the third time in Lazzaretto's nearly 40 years of municipal government that he's been forced out by a bitterly divided council.

In 1983, Lazzaretto resigned after three years as Alhambra city manager on a 3-2 vote. The newest council members at the time, Michael Blanco, Mary Louise Bunker and Mike Rubino joined in accepting his resignation.

As reported in a 1983 Tribune article, the resignation was offered by Lazzaretto after a reported rift between Rubino and Lazzaretto, who was attacked by the three council members for his methods of pushing redevelopment and use of eminent domain.

Ten months after Lazzaretto's resignation, Rubino pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge and resigned from office.

Lazzaretto was hired in 1983 as city manager in Burbank. But just one month after a general election that resulted in a new council majority led by then-Mayor Mary Lou Howard, Lazzaretto resigned after two years as the city's top executive.

In 1985, Lazzaretto and his wife started a Burbank-based municipal consulting company, A.C. Lazzaretto and Associates. He had a short stint in Pomona as interim city administrator in 1989, but generally steered clear from working for city government until Rosemead.

He was unanimously hired in Rosemead in 2006.

But city staff have said that the council has been upset with Lazzaretto's performance on issues ranging from not placing items on the agenda to not getting information to staff.

Though the city council is often split, Tran pointed out the decision to oust Lazzaretto was unanimous.

Garcia said finding a permanent city manager is still an "issue to be considered" by the council.

Pasadena Star News, June 13, 2007

Council plan doused by fire chief

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD -- A proposed ordinance that prompted the Los Angeles County fire chief to threaten litigation against the city was pulled for more review.

Last month, the Rosemead City Council introduced an ordinance intended to protect property rights and ensure at least one development under high-voltage power lines could be built.

The ordinance, scheduled for final approval at tonight's council meeting, would have given the city manager authority over city-related fire codes.

But after a letter from county Fire Chief Michael Freeman requesting the city delay the passage of the ordinance, Acting City Manager Oliver Chi said he pulled the item from the agenda.

"There are a number of concerns with the ordinance," Chi said. "One of them is that we haven't had a chance to have a dialogue with the Fire Department."

Council members did not return calls. Councilman John Nuñez had no comment.

Chi met with Freeman on Monday to discuss the ordinance, which was approved 4-1 by the council. Councilman Gary Taylor dissented.

"Neither the council nor the staff wants to get in a public dispute with the Fire Department," Chi said. "I would characterize our discussion as very positive and collaborative, and the Fire Department has a better understanding of what the city wants."

Freeman said last week that the ordinance was "out of left field."

The Fire Department will consider the city's request and will respond in two weeks.

"They expressed to us clearly what their concerns were," Freeman said. "We re-established the line of communication and what we said is we would take a look at their concerns."

The ordinance comes after approval of a 2006 county fire code that prohibits building underneath high-voltage power lines.

The city proposed an ordinance that would allow the city manager to overrule "all interpretations, recommendations, rules, permits, regulations, applications and decisions" of the fire code, which would include denial of projects by the Fire Department.

Under the existing fire code, homes built under power lines before the regulation change would not be affected unless homeowners wanted to upgrade their homes, which some council members said was a concern.

"Homeowners could not do what they would like to their properties," Chi said.

The fire regulation also prevented the city from going forth with a commercial project in the works for several years, despite longtime compliance efforts between the county Fire Department, the developer and the property owner, Southern California Edison, Chi said.

A single-story 2.5-acre property, the New Century Commercial Center, proposed by developer Hawaii Properties at 8518 Valley Blvd., "is ready to go," Chi said.

County fire officials said they rejected the project, which is beneath high-voltage power lines, because of safety concerns. Rosemead building and safety had already approved the development.

Chi said he is not sure whether the ordinance will be resurrected.

"It's been deferred at this point in time," Chi said. "It's not going forward."

Pasadena Star News, June 12, 2007

City official put on leave
Rosemead Council to consider firing manager Lazzaretto

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city moved one step closer to firing its top executive Wednesday.

Rosemead Council members unanimously approved placing City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto on paid administrative leave, and appointed Deputy City Manager Oliver Chi as acting city manager.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia said the City Council will decide at a later date whether the administrative leave will be permanent.

Lazzaretto had no comment.

The council made the announcements after the 1-1/2 hour closed session meeting. When they returned, Lazzaretto's seat was empty.

"With a motion by Clark and second by Tran, we unanimously voted to place Andy Lazzaretto on administrative leave effective immediately," Tran said.

According to Lazzaretto's contract, the city must pay a lump cash payment equal to 18 months salary if his contract is terminated. At least three council members would have to approve of the firing.

The city manager has a three-year contract that includes a $175,000 yearly salary and an $800 per month automobile allowance.

Council members refused to comment about why they placed Lazzaretto, 64, on leave, although some had earlier complained about him.

Tran had called for the special meeting to evaluate the city manager's job performance last week.

Other city managers praised Lazzaretto, who has also worked for Montebello, Alhambra, Burbank, Stanton, Walnut, Pomona and La Habra.

"Frankly, in my view, a city like Rosemead is fortunate to have someone of Andy's caliber," said James Starbird, Glendale's top executive. "He is known as a fine city manager, and certainly knows where his responsibility lies."

City officials said Lazzaretto and the council often clashed, especially at recent meetings.

Councilman Gary Taylor has said at meetings he was not getting enough information on employee benefit changes.

Clark was upset with the benefits packages and changes to residential guidelines.

Lazzaretto also refused to place items on the agenda, Clark and Taylor said.

Tran had criticized Lazzaretto for not acting quicker when the mayor mentioned that he wanted to restore a Fourth of July parade at his swearing-in ceremony in April.

Some have also questioned staff changes under the city manager.

Lazzaretto assumed the post in March 2006. Since then, 11 staff members resigned, retired or relocated to other positions. Lazzaretto then hired a combination of interim and permanent staffers with years of experience in the San Gabriel Valley.

Todd Kunioka, a community activist and planning commissioner, said he had been impressed with the Lazzaretto's leadership.

"Citywide, I've seen changes," Kunioka said. "From my perspective, I think that is because of the city manager. But others might say that is because of the City Council."

The addition of the single-family residential guidelines was the most impressive change "we've seen in a while," Kunioka said.

But others welcomed the news that Chi, 27, would be acting city manager.

"Oliver speaks straight," said South San Gabriel resident Marlene Shinen, who was at the special meeting on Wednesday. "Andy is an appeaser."

Chi could not be reached for comment.

Starbird said that Lazzaretto's leave strikes him as a "sad situation."

"I'm not suggesting that this is the case in Rosemead," Starbird said, "but sometimes, firing the manager is the way the council shows the community it's in charge."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 7, 2007

Fire code plan gets heated response

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD -- A proposed ordinance giving the city manager authority over the fire code has prompted threats of a lawsuit by county fire officials, who say the change is connected to a stalled project.

Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said they rejected a Valley Boulevard project, which is beneath high-voltage power lines, because of safety concerns. Rosemead had already approved the development on the 2.5-acre property, which is owned by Southern California Edison.

The proposed ordinance would allow the city manager to overrule "all interpretations, recommendations, rules, permits, regulations, applications and decisions" of the fire code, which would include any denial of projects by the Fire Department.

"The response by the city of Rosemead is both abnormal and alarming," said county fire Chief Michael Freeman on Friday. "I contacted our legal counsel to take an immediate and thorough look at not only this ordinance, but also at what power the county Fire Department has in respect to the fire code."

City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto did not return calls.

Rosemead City Attorney Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia said the intent of the ordinance is to restore "accountability."

"Our view is that the fire chief was not thinking about the homeowners," said Garcia. "There is a global accountability concern. The council members have a concern about the impact on property rights."

The ordinance comes after the adoption of a 2006 county fire code that prohibits building underneath high-voltage power lines. Homes that were built under power lines before the regulation change would not be affected.

While Garcia said the ordinance does not apply to any specific projects, "That's not to say that it won't apply to projects in the future," Garcia said.

According to city and county documents, the New Century Commercial Center, whose developer is Hawaii Properties, at 8518 Valley Blvd., "is ready to go."

According to a city document, "The concern of the city is by issuing permits to construct the project, they are in violation of some type of state or local laws and in some way could be liable."

One way the city is trying to get around this is through its newly proposed ordinance, Freeman said Friday.

The ordinance was drafted and signed by Garcia.

In it, it states that restoring a certain measure of local control and accountability over rules and decisions concerning the application of the fire code, "has become a concern for City residents."

But Freeman thinks this is an unusual response.

"There is a reason why there are fire chiefs, police chiefs, finance directors, city clerks and city managers," Freeman said. "They provide different areas of expertise that are absolutely essential to protecting and providing services to the public."

In a May 15 memo sent to Edison, Freeman wrote that after full consideration of all aspects of the proposal to construct buildings underneath high-voltage power line rights of way, the department will retain its current restriction on such projects.

"This means that for sites meeting the above criteria, no construction will be approved by the Los Angeles County Fire Department within out jurisdictional areas," he wrote. "Our Regulation 27 will continue to be the guiding document for such construction under or adjacent to high-voltage power line rights of way."

Freeman also explained in the memo the dangers of building underneath the power lines.

"Firefighters already face numerous challenges and life-threatening situations far too often despite the various codes adopted to protect them and building occupants," Freeman wrote. "Approving to permit building construction beneath high-voltage power lines would introduce more risk and complexity for all involved and is deemed inappropriate by us."

Garcia does not believe this exposes the city to unnecessary liability.

"This is about land use and control," Garcia said.

But Freeman isn't taking the ordinance lightly.

"We are prepared to fight this fire," he said.

The Rosemead City Council will vote to approve the ordinance at a meeting June 12.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, June 2, 2007

City Council approves draft of employee benefit plan

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - City employees are one step closer to having a benefits package that officials said could save the city money.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Rosemead City Council voted 4-1, with Taylor abstaining, to approve a draft plan of the new benefits package.

The council is scheduled to vote on the final draft on June 12.

"The proposed package is very fair to the employees and to the city," said City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto. "I think that it is a win-win situation."

Taylor abstained because he wanted more information, said Deputy City Manager Oliver Chi.

The city staff began to re-examine its benefits packages to combat looming costs that could drain the city's budget.

Among other changes, retirement health benefits will be cut.

Chi said that is was determined that the "present net value of the retirement health benefits offered by the city resulted in potential, unfunded liability of $9.8 million."

Chi would not provide numbers as to the total cost savings of the proposed plan, but said those numbers would be available June 12.

Councilwoman Polly Low said she is impressed with the proposed benefit packages.

"Most of them are better than what we currently have," Low said Wednesday. "We went item by item, and for the majority, they are getting equal or better benefits."

The city staff has been speaking with members of the Rosemead Employee Association, a six person board, during the past year, said Jean Scott, a member of the association.

"We think we've hammered out a very decent benefits package," Scott said. "I think we worked out a pretty fair deal for everyone."

The city is proposing a "cafeteria plan," which gives $1,200 monthly to each full-time employee. This money could be used to purchase health, dental and vision insurance, or can be taken as cash or deferred compensation.

The health package now covers the full cost of any health care plan of the employee's choice.

Other changes include adding 10 more holiday hours, an increase of vacation days from eight to 10, floating holidays will go from 10 to 20 hours, the introduction of paternity leave and tuition reimbursement.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 31, 2007

City may send clarification letters

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city could send out 15,000 letters to clarify any "confusion" sparked by two mailers that were sent out by Councilwoman Margaret Clark.

City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said Tuesday that city staff would decide next week whether to send out letters clarifying inaccurate information about residential guidelines, which were approved Tuesday.

"One of the main issues is to clear up any confusion that there may be out there," Lazzaretto said.

The residential guidelines were developed to address the resurgence of neighborhood development through the replacement and upgrade of older homes. The ordinance includes placing limitations on fence heights, setbacks, floor areas and other building guidelines.

The "confusion" came after the two mailers - sent by Clark and paid for by Rosemead Partners - indicated that a 3-foot-high fence requirement would force anyone with fences any higher to remove them.

Lazzaretto would not speculate whether the city would have sent out the mailers had Clark not distributed her mailers, and only said that residents need clarification on the recently approved guidelines.

While there was a proposed height requirement, that was for any future fences, said Brad Johnson, planning director, and that in general, there would have been a grandfather clause for existing fences in the new ordinance.

At the meeting on Tuesday, council members took nearly two hours to dissect the guidelines, which were approved with some modifications, including scratching language that called for all residential units that don't comply with the new guidelines to be "legal nonconforming."

The meeting had fewer residents who spoke on the guidelines compared with the City Council meeting on May 9, when more than 100 residents attended, many holding Clark's letter in their hands.

The first mailer stated, "If your front-yard exceeds three feet, it could become `nonconforming' under new rules proposed by Rosemead Mayor John Tran." On the flier, it listed Tran's phone number, and in smaller print stated, "This announcement proudly brought to you by the Rosemead Guardian. A publication of Rosemead Partners."

Clark later apologized for placing Tran's name on the first letter.

A second mailer was distributed on May 4 that was signed by Clark. In that letter, she stated that "City staff is recommending that every fence above three feet in your front yard will have to be replaced at the homeowner's expense."

City staff, however, said they were surprised at Clark's emphasis on the fence height requirement, especially since that was a small portion of a much larger ordinance.

But Clark said in her letter, "Is this how you want your tax dollars spent? Is 12 inches that important? Don't let this happen to your home and to our city. Protect your property rights and your family."

The council unanimously approved keeping the fence height requirement. But the city staff is concerned about lingering questions residents have, which is why they will likely send out a letter explaining the changes, including that of the fence requirement, officials said.

Lazzaretto said he is not sure of the cost to send out the letters, but added that, "it would not be hugely expensive." Staff does not need council approval to send out the letters, he added.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 30, 2007

Neighbors decry big-box retailer

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Residents continue to complain about the ongoing noise, runaway carts and even the smell of cooking chicken that are all connected to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in their neighborhood.

On Monday, a petition with nearly 20 addresses were presented to the Rosemead Planning Commission, demanding answers to the problems that residents say have been created by the store at 1827 Walnut Grove Blvd.

"There is continuing noise from the Wal-Mart Supercenter affecting Delta Avenue residents and other neighbors," the letter, dated May 17, states.

"My whole plea is just follow the rules," said Yuki Fukumoto, a Rosemead resident who lives on Delta Street. "If you follow the rules, I have nothing to say."

South San Gabriel resident Marlene Shinen, who signed the petition, said residents are complaining about bad smells coming from the store. And others are still upset at Wal-Mart's soundwall at the back of the building.

Residents attribute the noise to trucks and an air conditioning unit on the store's rooftop, which emits so much noise that some residents keep their windows closed, some said.

"We are prevented from the peaceful use and enjoyment of our porches and our homes," the letter states.

City Manager Andrew Lazaretto said he is not sure yet how the city will respond to the petition.

"I know our staff is going out there periodically, and I haven't heard of any problem with the site," Lazzaretto said.

He added there have been other minor complaints.

"Some folks were disturbed about the above-ground transmitters," Lazzaretto said. "I've gone out there a number of times, and I haven't really found them to making noise. But they do hum."

Since it was proposed, the Wal-Mart has been debated and has been a divisive factor among residents and city council members.

Even now, residents don't trust the operations at the store. Some question whether the store will eventually operate 24 hours, as suggested at earlier planning commission and council meetings.

But Lazzaretto said this could not happen without going through a formal permit process.

"My understanding is there is a prohibition against them operating 24 hours," Lazzaretto said.

Mike Lewis, a Wal-Mart consultant, said that the debate over whether it will become a 24-hour store has since been dropped.

Jim Flournoy, a resident and activist, requested that the item be placed on the planning commission's agenda on June 4.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 27, 2007

Council action open to debate
Closed meetings an issue in Rosemead

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - City officials promised transparency and harmony when a new majority in the City Council took over after the March election.

But in the past week alone, council members may have violated open-meeting laws and made questionable commission appointments.

On May 8, the City Council met behind closed doors without staff and interviewed applicants for the traffic commission.

One week later, the new council majority - including Mayor John Tran and council members Polly Low and John Nunez - appointed five planning commissioners, including Truong Cam, the brother of Tran's girlfriend.

At the later meeting, Councilwoman Margaret Clark requested the discussion go to closed session. A lawyer for the city attorney noted the meeting had to be public.

But Clark, who has nearly 20 years on the council, appeared to contradict herself as to whether the past interviews were in open or closed session. At one point, she said that meetings were open to the public but no one showed up.

Terry Francke, a California open government law expert who helped rewrite the Ralph M. Brown Act, said holding the meetings in closed session was illegal.

"The Brown Act says that local bodies can go into closed session to discuss the employment of an employee," Francke said, "and then it goes on to specify that it does not include a legislative body."

Rosemead city staff said these meetings, including the one on May 8, were held behind closed doors.

"\ was so adamant that she ordered that staff to leave the room, including the city manager," Tran said.

City staff members confirmed they were asked not to participate in the meeting.

Clark said while she never thought it was an issue before because no one ever showed up, she believed that meetings could be held behind closed doors because commissioners, who receive stipends, are "still city employees."

Even an earlier request for documents about the appointees was denied because they were considered personnel information, said City Clerk Nina Castruita.

City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said the city attorney later told staff the information was public.

Lazzaretto said he would also leave any questions to the city attorney to decide whether there was a Brown Act violation.

"If it was, my opinion is the council did it on the belief they did it properly, and were doing the right thing," Lazzaretto said.

City Attorney Bonny Garcia said he wouldn't speculate on the council's actions and declined to comment on the May 8 meeting.

Appointees "are part of the policy structure of government," Francke said. "You want to literally know where these people are coming from. The public is entitled to know what their qualifications are."

Planning commissioners appointed were Truong Cam, Allan Vuu, Daniel Lopez, Larry Bevington and Todd Kunioka.

The traffic commissioners appointed were Holly Knapp, Ronald Gay and Janet Chin.

Questions have since arisen over one of the appointments.

Truong Cam, 32, a five-year Rosemead resident, said he had called Tran looking for ways to get involved with the city. He is employed with the Los Angeles Housing Authority.

Tran maintains there is no conflict of interest.

"Why would it be?" Tran said. "We're not related, he is as qualified as any individual and he is a citizen of the community."

Clark said she felt it was inappropriate for Truong Cam to be appointed, considering his sister's relationship with Tran.

Tran came under fire in December when he was questioned by fellow council members as to why he used city vehicles to deliver 20 donated bicycles to children in the MacArthur Park Primary Center in Los Angeles. The teacher who received the gifts was his girlfriend, Nikkie Cam.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 16, 2007

Council approves planning commissioners

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The City Council on Monday appointed five members to the planning commission, including Daniel Lopez, the lone returning commissioner.

The other appointees are Todd Kunioka, a community activist who operates a blog that council members Gary Taylor and Margaret Clark said is critical of the city, Larry Bevington, who lead the anti-Wal-Mart campaign, and residents Allan Vu and Truong Cam.

The council voted 3-2 to approve these members on the commission. Taylor and Clark dissented, and instead unsuccessfully proposed that commissioners Darrel Kelty and Duc Loi return. They also nominated Brian Lewin, Lopez and Vuu.

Taylor and Clark's recommendation was voted down, 3-2.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 16, 2007

Rosemead to interview for planning commission positions

ROSEMEAD - The Rosemead City Council will interview 10 applicants for five openings on the five-member planning commission Monday at 4 p.m.

All positions expired.

The planning commission applicants are Garvey School Board members Bob Bruesch and Henry Lo, and community activists Jim Flournoy and Todd Kunioka. Darrel Kelty, Duc Loi, and Daniel Lopez, who currently serve on the commission, are reapplying. The other applicants are Allan Vuu, Brian Lewin and Truong Cam.

It is expected the council will make a decision tonight on who will serve on the commission.

The city attorney is also working to see whether it was a conflict of interest for two school board members to serve on the planning commission, said Deputy City Manager Oliver Chi. Garvey School District currently has an ongoing lawsuit with the city regarding the decision to construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The interviews are open to the public, and will be at City Hall, 8838 E. Valley Blvd. in Rosemead.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 14, 2007

Attorney pact approved
Rosemead council OKs contract

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The Rosemead City Council on Tuesday approved a contract for an attorney whose firm also represents a school district suing the city.

Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia of Los Angeles-based firm Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz, was hired April 3, after longtime city attorney Peter Wallin resigned.

Garcia has been working without a contract since then.

Councilman John Nunez recommended that Garcia, who has been a lawyer for more than 25 years, serve as city attorney. The council did not consider any other attorneys.

"He is very good at telling people when you are wrong, and he is fair," Nunez said Wednesday. Nunez said he also appreciates the ethnic diversity at the firm.

Nunez said he encouraged Garcia to apply for the position.

The same day that Garcia's appointment was approved, 3-2, he sat in a closed session meeting that discussed anticipated litigation against Nunez for an alleged sexual harassment claim, although a separate attorney has been assigned since then to handle that lawsuit.

While some staff members and residents previously expressed surprise at the council's decision not to take the contract out to bid, others said they wondered whether the firm's representation of the Garvey School District, which is suing the city over the construction of Wal-Mart, was a conflict of interest.

Though the law firm is the general counsel to the district, none of its attorneys has ever represented the district or have privileged information regarding the existing lawsuit, according to the contract.

Furthermore, the contract was drafted in a way that would avoid any such conflict, Garcia said.

Pasadena Star News, May 10, 2007

Mailer rattles Rosemead residents
Councilwoman's claims are denied by city staff

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The distribution of a flier to hundreds of residents by Councilwoman Margaret Clark was misleading, some council members said Wednesday.

More than 150 angry residents filled the council chambers on Tuesday and spilled over to the lobby, all to protest a reduction in fence heights.

The proposal recommended that any new construction of fences would have to adhere to a 36-inch height, not the existing 48 inches. And according to Clark's flier, "City staff is recommending that every fence above three feet in your front yard will have to be replaced at the homeowner's expense."

Au contraire, city staff said Tuesday night. The existing fences would be grandfathered into the guidelines.

"There is no word that in there that says that we would have staff measure fences and have people tear it down," Councilman John Nunez said. "Those people were actually scared. They were ready to go to war."

At a time where council members have said they want to push the divisive Wal-Mart issue aside, the discussion at Tuesday's meeting proved this feat won't come easy.

"I am utterly disgusted and disappointed that Mrs. Clark, a veteran councilmember, would use such scare tactics to mislead, deceive and misinform the public," Mayor John Tran said.

Councilwoman Polly Low said she was disappointed in Clark and her decision to send out inaccurate information.

Clark said the flier is a reaction to the silencing she felt she's endured by the city staff.

"Staff does not understand their role," Clark said Wednesday. "The people are the boss."

But some questioned whether the move was her way of setting the stage for her reelection.

"I'm questioning her motive, and the conclusion I'm coming to," Nunez said, "is if it's not political, then it's self-serving."

Clark said Nunez's comment was "stupid."

Many in attendance Tuesday displayed the fliers, signed by Clark and paid for by Rosemead Partners, which is backed by Wal-Mart consultant Mike Lewis.

The mailer states, "Attention Homeowners! Rosemead City Staff is threatening to make you tear you fence down! Your front yard fence could be illegal!!!"

Many of the residents cheered and sided with Clark, thanking her for looking out for them.

Maggie Venitas was among the first of nearly 15 residents to speak on the issue.

She said that her fence is the only thing that protecting her family last week when a drunken driver plowed through the fence and nearly hit their home.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 10, 2007

Rosemead sets future goals

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - For the first time in the city's history, staff heads and elected officials have developed a list of priorities for the next three years.

Economic development, improved communication and enhanced public safety are among the city's top concerns, they said on Friday at on all-day retreat at the Doubletree Inn in Rosemead.

Rosemead City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said he thinks that preparing for the city's future in a team-building environment will help improve the atmosphere in City Hall.

Tensions among staff and the council have run high since the approval of the Wal-Mart Supercenter that sparked multiple lawsuits and a recall election.

"It's good for the community, staff and the council," Lazzaretto said. "We've never set our priorities and goals before."

The all-day meeting was led by consultant Marilyn Snider, who has also led such discussions for 160 cities nationwide.

"They're doing a very good job. There is no hostility," Snider said.

The event cost the city about $4,000.

Staff and council members said Rosemead is lacking in several areas, including its antiquated management system, poor internal communication and division among staff members and elected officials.

They also said there is too much City Council influence with the staff, there is too much change too fast, and there is "meanness in our City Council."

They identified several external factors that they think will impact them in the next three years, including health care, litigation, natural disasters and a negative perception of Rosemead.

Goals identified for the next three years are to improve economic development, organization effectiveness and public safety, and to enhance internal and external communication.

Councilman Gary Taylor, who has served on the council for more than 30 years, said at the lunch break he was impressed with how the meeting was going.

"This is a very divided council, and we are learning to work our way through it," he said.

Another first on Friday was that the city developed a mission statement: "The City of Rosemead is dedicated to providing exemplary public services for our community."

Community activist Jim Flournoy was the only member of the public in attendance.

"It's good to see this group working together," he said.

But some said the absence of Councilwoman Margaret Clark might curtail the effectiveness of the meeting.

Clark said she could not make the meeting due to a prior commitment with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, where she serves as an alternate.

But she said that she hopes this meeting will result in positive change.

"There is a definite disconnect on the council, but I hope today will help," Clark said.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, May 4, 2007

Low is a key on Rosemead City Council

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city's top vote getter in the March council election billed herself as someone who could bring change to Rosemead.

"Rosemead has been stagnant for many, many years," Polly Low said while she was campaigning.

A little more than a month after Low was sworn on to the City Council, some say that it has been a constant state of change.

Low, 45, faces a city that is attempting to rebuild itself after it was left deeply divided over construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Now, council members, staff and residents are waiting to see how the March 6 election of Low is going to play out, although many have already associated her as the third vote to join Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez, both of whom were elected in 2005.

Low, an aerospace software engineer manager for Raytheon, has so far proven to some that she is an independent thinker, though she declined to be interviewed for this story.

She sided with Councilman Gary Taylor and Councilwoman Margaret Clark and approved a request to get a verbatim transcript from a council meeting, and also voted with them not to support paying for banners to honor the Chamber of Commerce's 80th anniversary.

But both Taylor and Clark - along with fellow supporters of the Wal-Mart - expressed apprehension about Low.

While Low has helped the minority win small victories, they said her vote to approve hiring City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia might have exposed her true colors.

Clark also is disappointed in Low's vote that helped remove Clark from her delegate seat on the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

"She is capable of thinking independently, but she blew it on that one," Clark said.

Since Low has been elected, staff members said they think the council has started to make progress.

It held its first strategic planning meeting on Friday in the city's history. It approved $600,000 for upgrades of the council chambers, which hasn't been improved since its construction in the 1950s. It is considering adopting a new set of guidelines that would prevent the "mansionization" of neighborhoods. It voted 3-2, with Taylor and Clark dissenting, to move the council meetings from 8 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Even the diversity among the council members is starting to more adequately reflect the city's demographics. Rosemead, which has 53,505 residents, has a predominastely Asian and Latino population.

At council meetings, Low has often been the first to make a motion and to make comments to the residents during public comment. On Tuesday, she was the only council member to offer a $100 personal donation to the Rosemead Youth Association, which is experiencing financial hard times.

Low, who has a bachelor's degree from UCLA and a master's degree in computer science, has also been outspoken against the high salary the Council members receive, calling it a serious misuse of public funds.

Council members get paid $1,118 a month, not including community development committee payments.

Low was born in Hong Kong. She and her husband have lived in the city for 20 years, and they have three children.

She has been trying to get on the City Council since 2005, when she was vying for one of three open City Council seats.

During that election, Low became the second Asian-American woman to run for a council seat in Rosemead.

She ran against Tran, Nunez, Clark and former councilmen Bill Alarcon and Joe Vasquez. Low, like Tran and Nunez, was opposed to Wal-Mart.

Low ran again unsuccessfully in the recall election, which sought to unseat long-timers Taylor and former Councilman Jay Imperial for their approval of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

But in her campaign this year, she ran with the hopes of moving forward, apart from the Wal-Mart decision.

Wal-Mart supporters have assumed that Low will vote with Tran and Nunez because of the shared views on the Supercenter.

"She's no one's puppet," said Jim Flournoy, community activist.

Pasadena Star News, April 30, 2007

Rosemead sets future goals

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - For the first time in the city's history, staff heads and elected officials have developed a list of priorities for the next three years.

Economic development, improved communication and enhanced public safety are among the city's top concerns, they said on Friday at on all-day retreat at the Doubletree Inn in Rosemead.

Rosemead City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said he thinks that preparing for the city's future in a team-building environment will help improve the atmosphere in City Hall.

Tensions among staff and the council have run high since the approval of the Wal-Mart Supercenter that sparked multiple lawsuits and a recall election.

"It's good for the community, staff and the council," Lazzaretto said. "We've never set our priorities and goals before."

The all-day meeting was led by consultant Marilyn Snider, who has also led such discussions for 160 cities nationwide.

The event cost the city about $4,000.

Staff and council members said Rosemead is lacking in several areas, including its antiquated management system, poor internal communication and division among staff members and elected officials.

They also said there is too much City Council influence with the staff, there is too much change too fast, and there is "meanness in our City Council."

They identified several external factors that they think will impact them in the next three years, including health care, litigation, natural disasters and a negative perception of Rosemead.

Goals identified for the next three years are to improve economic development, organization effectiveness and public safety, and to enhance internal and external communication.

Councilman Gary Taylor, who has served on the council for more than 30 years, said at the lunch break he was impressed with how the meeting was going.

"This is a very divided council, and we are learning to work our way through it," he said.

Another first on Friday was that the city developed a mission statement: "The City of Rosemead is dedicated to providing exemplary public services for our community."

Community activist Jim Flournoy was the only member of the public in attendance.

"It's good to see this group working together," he said.

But some said the absence of Councilwoman Margaret Clark might curtail the effectiveness of the meeting.

Clark said she could not make the meeting due to a prior commitment with the Los Angeles County Sanitation District, where she serves as an alternate.

But she said that she hopes this meeting will result in positive change.

"There is a definite disconnect on the council, but I hope today will help," Clark said.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, April 29, 2007

Nunez faced harassment claim in '96

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Years before Councilman John Nunez was accused of sexually harassing a city employee, the wife of a Garvey school board member claimed that Nunez made inappropriate comments about the size of her breasts.

The sexual harassment claim, filed in 1996, was stopped from going further when Nunez apologized to Gloria Garcia and her husband, former Garvey and Alhambra School Board member Robert Miranda, according documents obtained from the Garvey School District. Nunez assured them that "nothing of this nature will ever happen again," according to the documents.

Nunez said Thursday that the issue had been resolved long ago.

"It was a private conversation. I never said it to her, I never touched her," said Nunez, adding that he did not think the situation constituted sexual harassment.

On April 12, Valerie Mazone, a Rosemead city employee, filed a lawsuit against Nunez alleging sexually harassment. Nunez has declined to comment on the pending case.

The lawsuit, which also names the city as a defendant, alleges that Nunez sexually harassed Mazone since September 2005.

The suit states that Nunez massaged her, leered at her, and "on one occasion looked directly into her blouse in an attempt to observe Plaintiff's breasts."

Mazone filed a claim with the city March 8. City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said he hired private investigator Tess Elconin to look into the allegations the same day.

The city paid Elconin $10,000 for a three-week-long investigation. Lazzaretto said no written report was issued to the City Council and no documents from the investigation will be made public to "avoid embarrassment."

Elconin reported her findings to the council in a closed session meeting, Lazzaretto said. He would not elaborate on what findings were made.

The City Council will defend Nunez and the city with the Joint Powers Insurance Agency.

Nunez has spent nearly 20 years in public office, most of that time serving on the Garvey School District. He left the Alhambra School District in 2005 after being elected to the Rosemead City Council.

Alhambra officials said there were no lawsuits, settlements, or claims filed against Nunez while he was an Alhambra Unified School District board member.

At the Garvey School District, two separate complaints were filed by Miranda and his wife, Garcia, in August and September 1996. At the time, Miranda's wife was employed at Arlene Bitely Elementary School in Rosemead.

"Board member John Nunez made sexual comments about my wife and me in the presence of two district employees," Miranda's complaint, dated Sept. 13, 1996, stated.

Both Miranda and Garcia requested an apology from Nunez.

A letter dated Sept. 17 from then-Superintendent Alex Yusem confirmed that Nunez apologized to both Miranda and Garcia, "and stated nothing of this nature will ever happen again."

The letter said that the complaint was in reference to a conversation between Nunez, former business manager Anita Suazo and former Superintendent Rolland Boceta.

"During that conversation Mr. Nunez stated the reason Mr. Miranda married Mrs. Miranda was because the size of her breasts," the complaint stated.

Neither Miranda nor Garcia returned calls for comment.

Nunez said he wondered whether the complaint in 1996 goes back to personal disagreements he and Miranda have had since the 1980s.

"He has a problem with me," Nunez said.

Miranda and Nunez sat together on the Garvey and Alhambra school boards and fought on opposite sides of three separate lawsuits. They also publicly sparred over expenses while on the Garvey School District.

Miranda and Nunez attacked one another publicly regarding spending public money at restaurants and bars, according to past Tribune articles. Questionable expenditures were found in both cases, but the district only demanded that Miranda pay $89 because Nunez lost his seat on the board in the election, the published reports stated.

Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina, a former Alhambra School Board member, served with Nunez.

"I had heard about the Garvey claims, but during his time at Alhambra I wasn't aware of anything," Messina said.

Messina said it is upsetting to hear people attacking public officials, especially Nunez, who she said served on the school board "for the right reasons."

She adds that she thinks his actions were read the wrong way.

"Sometimes, people misinterpret people's actions," she said. "I'm afraid to even be nice to people anymore because it might be misinterpreted."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, April 23, 2007

Seniors on long wait lists for affordable units

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - Loretta Urquidi wanted to help a lonely, elderly friend find a better place to live.

Urquidi, 64, told the Rosemead City Council last week that her friend lives in a trailer park and feels isolated. She expected to find affordable senior housing options and told her friend that she would help her apply for one.

What Urquidi discovered was that's easier said than done. Not only was she denied an application, she was also told that there are hundreds on the waiting list.

"Obviously, the need is there," Mayor John Tran said of more affordable senior housing units. "It is astronomical."

In the past three years, Rosemead's two senior housing facilities have had only nine openings. The waiting list, meanwhile, continues to climb.

At the end of March, there were 359 seniors on the waiting list for Garvey Senior Housing, at 9100 Garvey Ave., and Angelus Senior Housing, 2417 Angelus Ave., said Eileen Cheng, economic development administrator.

There are 120 units at these two facilities in the city of nearly 55,500. Costs of the units range from $250 to $400 a month, depending on the size.

"I think we are doing our best," Cheng said. "We understand there is a need for the units, and we are trying to create them."

Seniors 62 and older can qualify based on their annual gross income and if they are a U.S. citizen or have eligible immigration status.

As city officials say they are searching for more opportunities for senior and affordable housing in the city, other cities are having mixed success at offering affordable housing options.

Monterey Park, a city of nearly 62,000, has about 500 affordable housing units. The oldest facility is the Lions Manor, built in 1978, and serves about 126 people.

High numbers on the waiting list are also a problem, said Deborah Tafolla, resident manager at Lions Manor at 215 N. Chandler Ave. in Monterey Park.

"The last person who moved in here had been waiting on the list for 12 years," Tafolla said. "We are in such a nice building that nobody wants to move."

There are nearly 100 people on the waiting list.

South El Monte is just developing the first senior center in the city's history.

"Creating affordable housing is a regional issue," Cheng said.

Rosemead has about $3 million in home funds that could be used to build affordable housing, including senior apartments. It also receives funding from the redevelopment agency.

In Rosemead, there are four different mixed-use projects that will provide housing, 15 percent of which will be affordable units that seniors could apply for.

But other than that, the seniors will not be seeing an addition to the two affordable units it already has.

"There is always a need to service the seniors," Tran said, "and we could do better."

Applications will not be available again until the end of the week because the city is updating them.

Whittier Daily News, April 21, 2007

Rosemead's changing of the guard

By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - People tend to stick around at Rosemead City Hall.

Councilman Gary Taylor has served in the same seat for 33 years. Former councilman Jay Imperial had served for almost 29 years. And Michael Burbank has been parks and recreation director for nearly 40 years.

But after a contentious March 6 election that saw Imperial defeated and the ascension of a new majority on the City Council, City Hall is undergoing a rare bit of change.

In addition to a new council majority, the city has seen nearly a dozen staff resignations in less than a year.

"This is a pretty extraordinary amount of change," City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said Friday. "But the way I see it, growth is on the horizon."

Since Lazzaretto took his post in March 2006, 11 staff members resigned, about a quarter of the staff's full-time employees, including three since Mayor John Tran was sworn in March 27.

Councilwoman Margaret Clark thinks many of the resignations are the result of a proposed retirement package.

"My concern is that there are employees that are turning in their resignations right now because they think by June 30 they have to do it or they will not get their benefits," Clark said at last week's council meeting.

The city is preparing an evaluation of the existing and proposed benefit packages, and will make a presentation to the council in the next few weeks. The proposed packages will cost the city less money but may not be as generous to the employees.

Longtime city attorney Peter Wallin said he resigned from Rosemead because of philosophical differences with some of the council members.

Bonifacio Garcia was hired April 3 as the new city attorney on the recommendation of Councilman John Nunez. More than a week later, a city employee filed a lawsuit against the city and the councilman, accusing Nunez of sexual harassment.

Calls to several other staff members who resigned were not returned.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said turnover is natural under new leadership.

"A lot of elected officials will campaign on change," Stern said, "and sometimes change means we need to change personnel."

The staff resignations have opened up several new positions. In their places, Lazzaretto has hired a combination of interim and permanent staffers who have years of municipal government experience in the San Gabriel Valley.

Lazzaretto has replaced six people on the city's 12-member management team. He has also added new positions.

The new hires include interim community development director Jesse Duff, who served as Duarte city manager for 18 years before retiring in 2004.

Lisa Pedote, who was hired on three weeks ago, will serve as the city's new chief financial officer. She served as Pasadena's city auditor.

Brian Saeki, a former city management analyst for Arcadia, was hired as the redevelopment administrator.

Eileen Cheng was hired nearly four months ago as a economic development director, although she announced last week she will resign because her husband is locating out of the area.

Don Anderson, who served as the director of safety for the city of Duarte for 23 years, was hired as the interim director of public safety services.

Oliver Chi, deputy city manager, served as assistant to the Claremont city manager.

Lazzaretto is convinced that with the right staff, he can help move the city forward, a direction some say they haven't seen in close to 30 years.

"Rosemead has been falling behind our surrounding cities," said Lawrence "Larry" Bevington, a longtime Rosemead resident and former El Monte and Sierra Madre city manager. "Andy's brought in some new people that will help improve the economic development program."

Whittier Daily News, April 15, 2007

Rosemead councilman faces sexual harassment lawsuit

By Frank C. Girardot and Jennifer McLain, Staff Writers

ROSEMEAD - A female city employee filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging Councilman John Nunez sexually harassed her for more than a year at City Hall.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges Valeria Mazone, who works in the city's finance department, was harassed by Nunez starting in the summer of 2005 - shortly after Nunez was elected to the City Council - and continuing through March.

Nunez had little comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

"We were told not to talk about it," Nunez said. "I would love to sit here and tell you my side, but when somebody sues the city, we've got to refer it to the city attorney."

The lawsuit claims other employees have complained about Nunez's behavior. Mazone also alleges Nunez has a history of sexual harassment claims dating to his days as a member of the Garvey School District Board.

"Defendant Nunez was sued for sexual harassment while he was employed by the Garvey School District," the suit claims.

Garvey Superintendent Virginia Peterson said she was unaware of any claims against Nunez.

The district has yet to respond to a request for any claims, settlements or lawsuits filed against Nunez during his years as a school board member.

Rosemead City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia, who also represents the Garvey School District, said neither he nor his firm had defended Nunez in any sexual harassment complaint where the district or Nunez were named defendants.

Nunez also briefly served as a member of the Alhambra Unified School District Board. At Alhambra, there was no record of complaints against Nunez, school officials said.

Garcia said he had not seen the current suit and declined to comment. The lawsuit will likely be defended through an outside attorney hired by the city's insurance carrier, Garcia said.

Oliver Chi, Rosemead's deputy city manager, said the city had anticipated the lawsuit. The council met in closed session April 3 and April 10 to prepare for it, Chi added.

"We will absolutely be responding," Chi said Thursday, adding that he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit.

Chi said the day after the claim was filed that the city hired a private investigator.

"We wanted to make sure that there was no question that we were swaying one way or another," Chi said. "We're not trying to protect the councilman. We're trying to find out the truth."

The lawsuit claims Nunez "started sexually harassing (Mazone) by, among other things, touching her on almost every occasion he saw her."

Mazone describes one incident where Nunez "aggressively grabbed" her and "hugged her close to his body."

In January, the lawsuit claims Nunez came up behind Mazone and "started to massage her shoulders."

The lawsuit describes another incident where Nunez approached Mazone, "grabbed her and attempted to kiss (Mazone) on the lips. (She) quickly turned her face and was kissed on the cheek instead."

Mazone's attorney, Gregory W. Smith, has filed several similar claims against government entities and employers. Among his clients is former Covina police Officer Vic Lupu, who filed suit against the city alleging he was discriminated against and subjected to harassment for having a physical disability caused by methampethamine abuse. Lupu lost the case and appealed using another law firm, according to court documents.

As Rosemead grapples with the lawsuit, City Manager Andrew Lazzaretto said it will not disrupt City Hall.

"I don't want to make it sound like it will be business as usual," Lazzaretto said, "but we have to stay focused on the day-to-day responsibilities."

Pasadena Star News, April 14, 2007


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