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Authorities probe alleged misconduct in Maywood city offices

February 18, 2010 |  6:36 pm
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by Maywood city officials, including whether they broke the law when they hired an assistant city manager from neighboring Bell to replace their own city manager.

Jennifer Snyder, a prosecutor in the Public Integrity Unit, said her office is looking into whether City Council members and other officials had “serial meetings” outside of the public eye to reach a consensus in violation of the Brown Act.
She said that investigators are also looking at other allegations of misconduct, such as the misappropriation of public funds. Snyder said prosecutors were examining whether there is a conflict of interest involved in the hiring of the Bell official to work in Maywood because that official will work for both cities.

“There’s a whole law about incompatible offices,” Snyder said. “We have to look at whether or not they played by the rules in making that decision.”

All but one of the Maywood City Council members declined to comment on the investigation, saying they were unaware of the specifics of the allegations. 

However, Councilman Felipe Aguirre said he knew of no meetings held outside the council chambers. “I’m very cognizant of the Brown Act and what it means,” Aguirre said. “If they think we’re making policies outside of the chamber, then go ahead and prove that.”

Maywood has been a politically tumultuous place for several years, with recalls, a state investigation involving brutality and other misconduct by its Police Department and conflicts over the City Council majority’s reluctance to extend a police contract with the city of Cudahy.
Four years ago, Maywood gained notoriety when Aguirre, then a newly elected councilman, declared the municipality a “sanctuary city” for illegal immigrants. Later that year, a city clerk was charged with trying to solicit the murder of Aguirre.

The city’s political leadership changed that year, in part based on outrage over the use of checkpoints to tow the vehicles of undocumented immigrants.

Even now, City Council meetings often feature shouting matches, and most of the city’s employees left their posts and went on strike last week.
Snyder said the inquiry was just starting.

“We don’t go looking for this stuff. It comes to us,” she said. “We’re dependent on active citizens… I don’t really care why someone [submits allegations], I care about whether or not we find evidence of misconduct.”

-- Hector Becerra and Ruben Vives