Marquez Banned From Government Work, Fined : Ex-Planning Director Sentenced
Former Hawthorne Planning Director Jim Marquez has been barred from working in government for three years as part of his probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of conflict of interest.
He also was given a $500 fine, the maximum possible.
Neither Marquez nor his attorney could be reached for comment.
Despite the objections of his attorney, Marquez was booked and fingerprinted at the Inglewood Police Department after his sentencing Wednesday in Inglewood Municipal Court, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin.
“There is a definite reason for that,” Lapin said. “If he was not booked, there would be no way of tracing that he had this complaint against him except in the Inglewood court.
“By having him booked, it becomes a permanent part of the California and FBI records, so that if, at the end of his probation, he were to get the conviction expunged, he would still have to indicate that he had been arrested.”
Marquez, 35, resigned his $52,000-a-year job as Hawthorne planning director Feb. 16 rather than face a recommendation that he be fired because of the alleged conflict of interest.
His troubles began in mid-January after The Times began questioning city officials about his role in the passage of a parking ordinance on June 11, 1984. The measure removed an obstacle to Marquez’s plans to construct a $717,000, 15-unit apartment building on land owned then by his wife and brother-in-law. The conflict-of-interest charge was filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office after an investigation by the city.
Marquez, now a part-owner of the property, was acting as manager for the project, which is under construction on Eucalyptus Avenue.
City officials said that without the ordinance, Marquez would have had to scale down his plans from 15 to 11 units.
In Inglewood court Wednesday, Marquez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of “willfully, knowingly and unlawfully” using his position as planning director to influence city officials to approve the parking ordinance, which he had suggested.
Marquez, who appeared subdued in court, was admonished by Commissioner Wesley Russell to answer questions instead of silently nodding his head, the prosecutor said. The former planning official told the judge he understood that the “no contest” plea meant the same as a guilty plea, Lapin said.
“The significance of the case is being able to prove an effective conflict of interest,” the prosecutor said.
Conflict of interest is covered by “an unusual section” of the law, Lapin said. “We don’t use it very often. (These cases) are very difficult to prove. Our investigation basically confirmed what The Times had reported earlier.”
Second Charge Dropped
The district attorney’s office dropped a second charge alleging conflict of interest in connection with design work Marquez performed--and would have had to approve as planning director--for Hawthorne developer Rein O. Kuhr. The builder wanted to construct a $2.4-million apartment in the 14100 block of Lemoli Avenue.
The prosecutor said, “We dismissed that one on the basis that the plans have never been approved. So, technically, because they didn’t come in front of Marquez, the conflict hadn’t occurred yet.”
Lapin said he is satisfied with the sentence. “Basically, we felt that with the forfeiture of his office and not being able to have a similar position, that was all we could expect from the court under the circumstances.”
The prosecutor said he hoped the case would serve as a warning.
“It is really important to show anybody in a position of trust or confidence that this office is going to look at them and take necessary actions where appropriate. Maybe we can avoid similar problems in the future just by them knowing.”