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'New and improved' council elected after Cudahy corruption scandal

March 6, 2013 | 11:26 am

Community activist Blanca Ramos, center, with her son, Damian Ramos, 4, holds a sign before addressing the City Council in July 2012 as residents rally at City Hall to discuss the restoration of good governance in Cudahy. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Voters in the blue-collar town of Cudahy have elected three new leaders for City Council.

Final election results show Chris Garcia, Jack Guerrero and Baru Sanchez as the winners. The three men were among the nine candidates vying for three council seats. Garcia and Guerrero will each serve four-year terms; Sanchez will serve a two-year term. They are scheduled to be sworn in next month.

"We're all so happy and excited," said Susie De Santiago, 47, a longtime resident. De Santiago supported all three of the candidates. "It's going to be a new and improved Cudahy because the people we elected into office are going to make changes that we need here … to improve the [government]."

Many residents see the election as a turning point for their city as it continues to recover from an extortion and bribery case that resulted in the arrest of the town's mayor, a council member and a city administrator.

According to federal documents, those three officials took $17,000 in bribes from an FBI informant who said he wanted to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city. The FBI recorded telephone calls and face-to-face conversations with the former city leaders.

Former Mayor David Silva, 62, was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in the scandal. Former Councilman Osvaldo Conde was sentenced to three years in prison. Angel Perales, the former head of code enforcement, was sentenced to five years' probation.

Court documents also portray the city as steeped in corruption, where people wanting to do business were routinely forced to pay bribes. Documents mention a police officer who tipped off city officials to massage parlor raids, drug runs to round up narcotics for use at City Hall and fixed council elections that included tampering or trashing of absentee ballots in the 2007 and 2009 elections.

Among those mentioned as orchestrating some of the schemes is a former city official identified only as "G.P." George Perez was the former city manager before he was unexpectedly laid off from the city in March 2011.

Residents hope this year's election will start the process of putting a dark period of the city in the past.

"I think it's going to take time," De Santiago said. "It's going to be part of our past and it'll be something we'll always remember, but it's something that is slowly moving on."

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-- Ruben Vives

Photo: Community activist Blanca Ramos, center, with her son, Damian Ramos, 4, holds a sign before addressing the City Council in July 2012 as residents rally at City Hall to discuss the restoration of good governance in Cudahy. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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