Two councilmen have been targeted for recall after voting to cut off funds to the financially troubled Cudahy Social Service Agency.
Agency supporters notified the city clerk that they intend to seek the recall of Councilmen John O. Robertson and Joseph Graffio. The recall notification accused the councilmen of being insensitive to community needs.
Robertson, Graffio and Councilman Gabe Zippi voted Tuesday to cut off agency funds and to hire two other nonprofit agencies to take over the agency’s job of distributing food and clothing to the needy. Zippi was not listed for recall.
Michael Rodriguez, the secretary and a director of the agency, was one of five people signing the recall notices. He said the council action could cut off food to more than 1,000 people.
‘Building an Army’
“I’m building an army of people, including the young, their parents and senior citizens of this city, to carry recall petitions against them,” said Rodriguez, who is also a member of the city’s drug abuse and education commission. Rodriguez said he will not seek to recall Zippi, who is suffering from bone cancer, because he believes Graffio and Robertson instigated the cutoff of funds.
Graffio disputed the charge that residents will be denied food. “I did not cut off the food giveaway. We’re taking care of people. We are just doing it at lesser cost,” he said.
Robertson said the city will be getting a better food program “at one-tenth the cost.”
Last Tuesday, the council authorized city staff members to negotiate with Human Services Assn. of Bell Gardens and the Welfare Action, Steelworkers Oldtimers Foundation in Bell, which have said they could provide the services for a total of $22,000. The Social Service Agency has received more than $130,000 in government money since fiscal 1986-87, according to city officials.
The new agencies are scheduled to make their first food distribution Oct. 28 at the city’s Clara Street Park, said Jack Joseph, assistant city manager.
Last month, City Manager Gerald Caton decided to withhold funding from the Social Service Agency after auditors hired by the city said the agency did not have an “adequate financial control system.” The council ratified his decision Tuesday by a 3-2 vote. Mayor Bill Colon and Councilman Thomas Thurman opposed the cutoff.
The notice of recall said Robertson is “insensitive to the basic human needs of the community, especially the lower-income families and senior citizens” because he is more interested in the security of his political position.
Graffio was accused of being Robertson’s personal representative. “Even at council meetings he leans over to Robertson so Robert son can tell him how to vote,” the notice said.
“He voted against the Social Service Agency without caring about the consequences of the people involved, their families or the several thousand families served by the agency. He did do simply because Robertson told him to do so.
The recall notices also were signed by Sara Rodriguez, who is Michael Rodriguez’s wife; John Conrad, and Jose M. and Veronica Castillo. Michael Rodriguez identified Conrad and the Castillos as neighbors.
Graffio, 78, said he is not concerned about the recall move. “I’m helping the people of the city,” he said. He is serving his second 4-year term on the council.
Robertson, 49, described the recall effort as a form of intimidation. He was reelected in April to a third term.
Recall leaders would have to collect the signatures of 25% of the city’s 3,300 registered voters to force an election.
Mayor Colon, a strong supporter of the Social Services Agency, acknowledged that Rodriguez had asked him how to start a recall, but Colon denied that he had been involved in the recall attempt.
“I told him what to do,” Colon said. “I helped him the same as I would any other citizen. It was my duty to see that he got the proper information. Naturally, he wasn’t going to John Robertson and ask for information.”