L.A. Councilman Richard Alarcon’s staff ordered to appear before grand jury

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Six employees of Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon have been ordered to appear before a grand jury this week, six months after prosecutors obtained search warrants to determine whether the councilman has been living at his legal residence.

Alarcon said Monday that his chief of staff, Saeed Ali, and five other workers in his office have received subpoenas instructing them to testify on Wednesday.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley’s office received permission in January to search two homes owned by Alarcon’s wife, Flora Montes de Oca -- one on Nordhoff Street in Panorama City, the other on Sheldon Street in Sun Valley. Alarcon contends that he resides at the house on Nordhoff Street and that he moved his family to another address, one in the district represented by Councilman Paul Krekorian, after a transient broke into his home and changed the locks on the doors.

“I don’t think anybody wants their staff people to be called before a grand jury, but we believe we have a very solid position and when all the information comes out, we’ll be fine,” Alarcon said.

David Demerjian, head deputy for Cooley’s Public Integrity Division, had no comment. He previously has said that a politician who registers to vote at a place that is not his residence can be charged with a felony.

One neighbor who lives across from Alarcon’s 1950 Panorama City tract house told The Times earlier this year that the councilman had not lived there for three years. Two other neighbors made similar remarks.

Alarcon said he has complied with the law. “We do have two houses and maybe that’s caused some confusion, but my permanent residence is on Nordhoff Street,” he said. Alarcon said other staffers who were instructed to appear are Becca Doten, who handles communications for his office; legislative aide Ackley Padilla, brother of State Sen. Alex Padilla; office manager Lidia Soto; executive assistant Nancy Hodges, and district director John de la Rosa, who is Alarcon’s cousin.

According to the councilman, De la Rosa went to Alarcon’s house on Nordhoff Street to deal with some plumbing issues in October 2009 and found Lawrence Lydell Payton inside. Payton broke into the house a second time in March.