CORRUPTION IN CITY GOVERNMENT
By Manny Aldana
March 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES - The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council (NC) has been in exhaustive efforts
for almost a year now. Exhaustive efforts gives the indication of the danger of being
decertified. So what leaves us to believe that the current Boyle Heights NC has complied
with all the requirements needed to be removed from exhaustive efforts. Should over a year
of dysfunction, non-compliancy, and lack of ethics be rewarded instead of being held
accountable? Is it appropriate that other NC's have a different standard? It would be an
injustice for the community of Boyle Heights not to know the reality about the scandalous
process that has guided the current Boyle Heights NC. For silence to continue would be a
disservice to Boyle Heights and the City of Los Angeles.(Read the remaining after the jump).
On April 29, 2010, the current Boyle Heights NC had their election. Less than 200 people
came out to vote. For those who are aware of Boyle Heights politics, the position of
President would effect a power struggle between presiding Vice-President Sal Martinez, a
supporter of Councilman Jose Huizar, and current Board Member Jose Aguilar, a strong critic
of Huizar, who both ran for the position. The result of the election would be in favor of
Aguilar. The majority of the candidates elected to the Board were supporters of Councilman
Huizar, including Vice-President elect Terry Cano, a close friend to Sal Martinez.
The Boyle Heights NC would consist primarily of 3 groups. Supporters of Councilman Jose
Huizar, critics of Huizar, and individuals who were associated with both sides but didn't
want to be part of this division and conflict. It was obvious from the start that diplomacy
would not be inevitable but it would be difficult for the Board to function when actions by
Huizar supporters would result in irregularities and infractions to state laws and NC bylaws.
These irregularities and violations would result in resignations of many Board Members. It
was obvious that there was chaos, when of the (24) Board Members elected, only (7) still
remain. That's (17) Board Members that would resign and never complete their term.
From the on start, newly elected Board President Jose Aguilar would have to endure
antagonism and strong opposition from Executive Board Members, specifically Secretary
Margarita "Mago" Amador and Special Events Officer Diana del Pozo-Mora, both Huizar
supporters. This was substantiated when during the very first Board Meeting on July 28,
2010, Aguilar wanted to appoint a Parliamentarian to assist him, but he was met with
opposition by Amador, del Pozo-Mora, and Cano. Newly elected Board President Aguilar
would later go on to claim that his efforts were being sabotaged when Board Members were
intentionally missing meetings to effect quorum (minimum number of members needed to
conduct business). This also effected the lack of establishing and implementing working
Back in May of 2010, an election challenge was submitted by newly elected Secretary
Margarita "Mago" Amador, a supporter of Huizar, against Board Member Manny Aldana, a
critic of Huizar. The challenge alleged that Aldana had served on the previous Boyle Heights
NC but was removed for failing to attend meetings, which resulted in his removal, making
him ineligible to run. Aldana would submit a letter to the Office of the City Clerk - Elections
Division stating that he was unjustly removed. He would send another letter specifying that
the (1) year time limit had expired and therefore making him eligible to run. On June 29,
2010, the City Clerk - Elections Division notified the Board that the challenge against
Aldana had been dismissed.
In the Summer of 2010, some vacancies to the Quadrants were filled. The Boyle Heights NC
consisted of (4) Quadrants. The purpose and intent of the Quadrants was to have equal
geographic representation throughout the Boyle Heights community. Approximately (7)
vacancies were filled, including City Oversight Officer Vera del Pozo, a supporter of Huizar.
The Board now consisted of (31) members. The Boyle Heights NC needed to fill (4)
vacancies to comply with the required (35) Board Members, but then things started to fall
apart, especially with attendance. The issues between the factions began to escalate and
Board Members stopped attending meetings. By the Fall of 2010, (2) Board Members would
resign, reducing the total to (29) Board Members.
On January 12, 2011, Department Of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) General Manager
BongHwan Kim sent a letter to the Boyle Heights NC stating the Department's concerns.
Those concerns included: Quorum issues, unclear and outdated bylaw amendments, non-
functional committees, lack of clarity in terms of the main function of Quadrants, lack of
cohesive Board leadership, and inconsistent Board understanding of the policies and
procedures affecting Neighborhood Councils. On March 25, 2011, Kim sent another letter to
the Boyle Heights NC stating that they were placed into Exhaustive Efforts on March 19,
2011 because of the ongoing operational struggles and violations to the Plan For A City
Wide System Of Neighborhood Councils, also known as the Plan. He also stated that if the
Boyle Heights NC was unable to remedy the violations to the Plan, then decertification
proceedings would be initiated. In February another Board Member would resign, now
bringing the total down to (28) Board Members.
DONE would be responsible in conducting all Boyle Heights NC Board Meetings during the
"exhaustive efforts" process. Back in the Fall of 2010 Aguilar would make appointments to
the Bylaws Committee. He would appoint Terry Marquez, a resident of Boyle Heights as
Chairperson. He would also appoint Pasadena resident Yolanda Gonzalez, a rental property
owner in Boyle Heights to the committee. Gonzalez would bring in Venice resident Ivan
Spiegel, an ally who had worked with her when she was a member of the Venice NC.
Spiegel had already been appointed Parliamentarian by Aguilar and was advising the Board
during the meetings. Aguilar would later come to the realization that trusting these (3)
individuals would lead to his demise and that bringing them in did more harm than good
because they would contribute to the sabotaging. With unethical and disloyal friends like
these, who needs enemies.
During the March 30, 2011 Board Meeting, the Board voted to not fill board vacancies, a
decision that was strongly opposed by several Board Members, mostly Huizar critics, who
expressed their concerns regarding the lowering of representation for the extremely large
Boyle Heights population. The Board also voted to amend their bylaws, including making all
Board Members At-Large Members, stripping Executive Board Members of their titles (with
the intent to strip Aguilar of his Presidency), eliminating the (4) geographic Quadrants, and
reducing quorum from (18) to (15). The motion was made by Margarita "Mago" Amador and
seconded by Terry Cano, both Huizar supporters. Aldana was the only no vote. He would
later indicate that he didn't agree with the idea of making everyone At-Large Members
because the concept of At-Large, for example, could include an individual who is not a
resident of Boyle Heights who comes into Boyle Heights on Sunday just to attend church.
He was concerned with this concept because it would make it easy for outside interests to
"take over" the council. He was also concerned with the undermining of Aguilar as the
President. Aldana would also criticize the Bylaws Committee for the amendment
recommendations. The Bylaws Committee was Chaired by Terry Marquez and guided by Ivan
Spiegel. These changes to the bylaws had a negative impact and enormous consequences.
By the conclusion of the meeting, (3) more Board Members would resign, including Outreach
& Educational Officer Saul Zepeda. This now brought the total even lower, to (25) Board
During the April 5, 2011 Board Meeting, (7) Board Members would ask to be excused and
leave the room because of a possible "conflict of interest" when an agenda item for the
allocation of funding for various organizations was reached. At this same meeting, bylaw
amendments were made, including further reducing Board seats from (35) to (23) and
reducing quorum (minimum number of members needed to conduct business) from (15) to
(13). (2) more Board Members would resign after this meeting, again lowering the total to
(23) Board Members.
During the April 27, 2011 Board Meeting, Mago Amador had proposed moving the May
General Board Meeting to the Community Service Center at Pueblo del Sol. Aldana would
indicate to the membership that the motion was out of order because the item wasn't
specified on the agenda and the Board had already voted to have all regular Board Meetings
at the Boyle Heights Senior Citizen Center back in October of 2010. That action was made
after much discussion. Some time between April and June 2011, (4) more Board Members
would resign, now bringing the total to (19) Board Members.
During the June 29, 2011 Board Meeting, the Board, as a result of the current bylaw
changes, selected (picked) new Officers, including new President Rocio Gandara. By this time
Aldana had become very concerned over Parliamentarian Ivan Spiegel's involvement in the
Board's business including the privilege of speaking during meetings. The Parliamentarian is
suppose to advise the President, not run the meetings. Things were beginning to be a little
more clear now to Aldana. Bylaws Committee Members Terry Marquez, Ivan Spiegel, and
Yolanda Gonzalez were not Board Members to the Boyle Heights NC. Spiegel and Gonzalez
have been very involved with the Venice NC. Gonzalez owns property in Boyle Heights but
lives in Pasadena. Spiegel has no stake in the community of Boyle Heights. Marquez is a
resident who Aldana had a previous dispute with over her commending of the East Los
Angeles Community Corporation, a controversial organization with close ties to Huizar, that
Aldana blames for the extreme density problem in Boyle Heights.
The dysfunction, non-compliancy, and lack of ethics by the Boyle Heights NC was
substantiated when a grievance was filed against the Boyle Heights NC on July 7, 2011 by
Board Member Aldana. But the grievance would not be processed because according to
Deputy City Attorney Darren Martinez and DONE Project Coordinator Lisette Covarrubias,
grievances could not be filed by a Board Member against their NC or other Board Members.
By early July 2011, (3) more Board Members would resign, including Terry Cano. Bringing the
total now to (16) Board Members.
Jose Aguilar, Manny Aldana, and William Morrison, all critics of Huizar, would fail to attend the
July 27, 2011 Board Meeting which resulted in their removal from the council. This brought
the total to (13) Board Members. The exact number needed for quorum. Aldana was more
interested in putting the Boyle Heights NC into compliance than a position on the Board, that
he decided to miss a meeting that would result in his removal, so that he could submit
During the August 22, 2011 Board Meeting, the Board would make the most draconian bylaw
amendment. It would be to a section dealing with grievances. Boyle Heights NC Bylaws:
Article XI; Grievance Process, would now specify, "... the Board can refer the matter to an
Ad Hoc Grievance Panel ...". This would give the Board the power to decide whether or not
grievances would be handled. This was a recommendation from the Bylaws Committee, which
was chaired by Terry Marquez and of course DONE who didn't want grievances to be heard
because it would certainly decertify the Boyle Heights NC. Not a surprise that the motion
was made by Mago Amador and seconded by Vera Del Pozo, both Huizar supporters. Included
in the amendments were reducing the total number of Board Members from (23) to (19) and
quorum from (13) to (10). Amador even tried to reduce the number of Board Members even
lower, to (15), but it wasn't approved. What was the intent of diminishing community
participation in the Boyle Heights NC. Cronyism could not be more obvious.
Aldana would go on to file (3) more grievances in the Fall of 2011, but this time including
DONE in the allegations because staff members were accomplices and acted in some of the
violations specified in the grievances. The allegations in the grievances were in regards to
violations of state law, specifically the Brown Act (open meeting law), the Plan, NC bylaws,
and the lack of handling these grievances. The item to handle the grievances was put on
Boyle Heights NC agendas as required, however, incredibly, the grievances were not
reviewed and were all dismissed by the Board. Recommendations to dismiss and not review
the grievances was made by DONE and the Office Of The City Attorney. Therefore, Aldana
would specify in the final grievance that that the grievances were not addressed and that
the Boyle Heights NC had violated the Plan, Administrative Code, and their bylaws for not
handling the grievances. They also failed to comply in forming a grievance committee to
handle these grievances as stipulated in their bylaws.
On October 10, 2011, Board President Rocio Gandara would resign from the Boyle Heights
NC. She indicated the reason in her resignation letter, that the Boyle Heights NC was
"plagued with problems". Denis Quinones and Velvet Holguin would resign at about the same
time. Bringing the total number of Board Members to now (10). The exact number needed
On October 26, 2011, (10) Board Members would show up and fill some of the vacancies
and just barely save the council from being decertified. The Board selected (picked) (4)
new Board Members. It was at this meeting that Eddie Padilla, an ally of Huizar, was
selected (picked) as President of the Board and Michael McClure, another Huizar ally, was
selected (picked) as the Land Use Officer. This was a major contrast between the election
and selection process, due to the changes made by the Bylaws Committee. Padilla became
President by a selection process and a vote from (6) Board Members, whereas former Board
President Jose Aguilar was elected by the community with over (100) votes.
During the November 30, 2011 Board Meeting, Diana del Pozo-Mora, a Huizar supporter, was
selected (picked) as Vice-President by a motion from her mother Vera del Pozo and a vote
from another member of the family, Brittany Ponce De Leon. Isn't this a conflict of interest?
Courtney Jacobs would resign after this meeting. Leaving only (7) Board Members from the
original (24) that were elected on April 29, 2010. At this point, the current Boyle Heights NC
had been reduced by more than 70%.
Aldana would appeal to other departments within the city. He attended (3) Board Of
Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) Meetings. BONC has the duty for setting and
overseeing policy and putting rules and regulations into effect in regards to NC's. They
never responded. In fact, at one of those meetings, Aldana had distributed a folder which
included all the grievances filed, but Deputy City Attorney Rita Venegas did not allow the
Commissioners in viewing the documents. He met with DONE General Manager Kim and his
staff (Leyla Campos, Grayce Liu, and Lisette Covarrubias), but they condoned the lack of
redress of grievances by the Boyle Heights NC. He tried to meet with City Attorney
Trutanich, but his office never responded. He requested a meeting with Deputy Mayor Larry
Frank, but he chose not to meet. He even tried to set up a meeting with Councilman Huizar,
but his staff said that he was never available. Aldana appeared before the City Council in
January and again no response. Recently Aldana has appealed to the State Of California
Attorney General - Department Of Justice and the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.
Included in the appeal is all of the evidence against these public servants.
The majority of Board Members on the current Boyle Heights NC who are responsible for the
dysfunction, ineffectiveness, and lack of ethics are still on the Board. DONE General
Manager BongHwan Kim condones this disregard for the public trust by not addressing the
issue. Kim would rather look the other way instead of doing the ethical thing, decertifying
the current Boyle Heights NC. So why did the above mentioned city agencies and
departments refuse to inquire, investigate, and follow through on addressing these issues?
What was the political rationale behind this? And who had the most to benefit from this lack
of oversight, scrutiny, and transparency? Councilman Jose Huizar. The "plague of corruption"
continues in Boyle Heights and in the City of Angels.
Manny Aldana is a defender of the Public Trust who is advocating for Honest Government
and the Rule Of Law & Order. He is also a former Board Member of the Boyle Heights and
South Central Neighborhood Councils.