Southeast : Food Bank Dropped

As if the recent ouster of top city officials and a budget crisis aren't enough, a new scandal has hit Hawaiian Gardens, the troubled city with the pretty name.

The Hawaiian Gardens Social Services Inc. Food Bank, which distributes food to the city's needy families, was removed last week from the Irving Moskowitz Foundation's charity list. The foundation had supported the food bank with monthly contributions of $30,000 gathered from its bingo parlor in the city.

Beryl Weiner, an attorney for the foundation, says contributions were withdrawn because food bank operators failed to provide financial documents and lists of families served. Weiner also says hehad received complaints about spoiled food.

But City Councilwoman and former Mayor Kathleen Navejas, whose ex-husband, Carlos Navejas, operates the food bank, believes the move was politically motivated: They oppose the council majority's plan to build a card club in Hawaiian Gardens, which would be operated by the Moskowitz Foundation. A municipal election to approve the casino is scheduled for Nov. 21.

"These guys are really playing dirty," Kathleen Navejas said. "They think this is how they're going to bring me to the table to support poker. They're holding us hostage."

Food bank staff members said Carlos Navejas was out of town, but an employee who refused to give his name insisted the food was fresh.

Weiner disputed Kathleen Navejas' accusations and says the foundation will begin its own food distribution service. Navejas says the food bank will remain open while seeking additional funding.

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