The City of Industry's first City Council election in nearly two decades has empowered three new council members with ties to the influential Perez family, whose multimillion-dollar business contracts with the city have come under intense scrutiny.
The new council majority comes a week after the council voted to file suit against former Mayor David Perez, his companies and four members of his family, alleging misappropriation of public funds. City officials are also in the process of reviewing a lucrative trash contract with a Perez-owned company.
After Tuesday's vote, the winners — Newell Ruggles, Cory Moss and Mark Radecki — played down their ties to the Perezes and said they would be independent, noting that they live in a small town in which everyone knows the Perez family. But they also said the current council has not shown leadership.
"We want to bring Industry back to its former glory," Radecki said.
Ruggles, the top vote getter with 58 votes, said he would not restore a recently canceled contract with Perez's company, Zerep Management Corp., saying the city was "correct to cancel it because of the risk of lawsuits."
He promised to comply with investigations into the city's dealings with the company, which were recently launched by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and state controller. Those investigations followed a city-commissioned financial review which found that Perez family companies had been paid $326 million under Industry contracts over two decades.
Auditors concluded that the outlays to the family's companies were accompanied by invoices that lacked detailed descriptions, raising the question of whether the municipality was overcharged for basic services.
Moss, who has lived in the city for 14 years, criticized the city's review, saying the Perez companies didn't have a chance to respond to the allegations. But, she added, she wants any billing discrepancies to be addressed.
¿Stephen Larson, the Perez family's attorney, said David Perez supported the three winning candidates.
"But they are certainly not beholden to Mr. Perez. They are not part of any team. They are candidates that Mr. Perez, and apparently a majority of people in the City of Industry, supported."
Larson said the lawsuit and accusations of financial improprieties against Perez companies were part of an effort by the city manager to maintain control of the city. Now that the election is over, he said, "we are hoping that some of the politicization of the process has been taken out of the equation."
Charles Slyngstad, an attorney representing the city in the Perez lawsuit, said the review of Perez company billings raised "substantial issues" that the new leadership should be concerned with.
"The future City Council has a responsibility to consider it and make choices carefully," he said.