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California

Battered by corruption, Cudahy pleads for state audit

City leaders in scandal-battered Cudahy are asking the state to audit the city’s finances and internal controls in the wake of a series of city hall bribery arrests.

Last year, three officials in the working-poor L.A. County city -- including two long-term council members -- were hauled away by FBI agents for extortion and bribery.

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The cases revealed a city marred by corruption, election fixing and drug use in city hall, officials said.

Now, the newly elected mayor and vice-mayor of Cudahy are asking State Controller John Chiang to audit the city’s finances and internal controls. But so far, their plea has not been answered.

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In a five-page letter to Chiang, dated May 23 Cudahy Mayor Jack Guerrero said he has made several attempts since November to request an audit, including a direct plea to Chiang.

“I am making an urgent plea for your intervention…” Guerrero wrote in his latest letter.

Guerrero said he reached out to state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) and then-Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) for support.

Lara responded and met with Guerrero over the issue. He also received a verbal acknowledgment from Chiang’s office.

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“The state controller is fully aware of my request and they are evaluating it for now,” Guerrero said. 

Vice Mayor Chris Garcia sent a letter of his own to Lara and Chiang, as well as to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), whose district includes the one-square-mile city.

Bill Long, a spokesman for Rendon, said they received the letter.

Guerrero’s letter said an audit is needed because of the June 2012 scandal. Federal documents portrayed Cudahy as a city where bribery was common and elections were rigged.

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He also highlighted questionable decisions made by previous city officials, including former City Manager George Perez.

The Times reported that Perez appeared to have given himself annual cost-of-living raises meant only for rank-and-file workers.

Auditors have also raised concerns about Cudahy’s finances and administrative controls.

For instance, in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, independent auditors stated that the city refused to allow them to perform further “audit procedures…”

Last June, auditors discovered the city exceeded its general fund budget by about $1.3 million during the fiscal year.

And this year, auditors identified internal control deficiencies such as payroll oversight, account reconciliations and cash disbursements.

“I believe the city needs [an] authoritative and truly independent forensic audit, which the state controller is uniquely positioned to address, given its jurisdictional and regulatory authority,” Guerrero said. 

Twitter: @latvives

ruben.vives@latimes.com


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