|Honor Among Thieves - Part 1
Depriving The Public of Honest Services
Posted October 24, 2005
The Editor, WatchOurCity.com
Huntington Park, CA- Follow the money and connect the dots.
The Sunday L.A. Times has a great piece on Regency this weekend (10-23-05): “Sign Firm Accused of
Corruption”. Regency is a billboard company that is the subject of a corruption probe involving Ex-
Lynwood Mayor Paul Richards. "The owners deny wrong doing", states the Times.
Richard Polanco is prominently mentioned in this well researched report and is intimately tied to
Regency's alleged web of corruption, not as a victim, but a as a willing conspirator.
The Times report from this Sunday noted that the Latino Caucus in Sacramento allegedly benefited from
a $25,000 contribution from Regency in exchange for Polanco's spearheading of a Senate Bill through
the State Assembly that was all but written by Regency. It became state law.
Polanco, the termed-out former state senator, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Polanco is mentioned in the sidelines during the Richards Federal corruption case currently underway.
Polanco is a close friend of attorney Francisco Leal, who plays musical chairs being city attorney in the
political backwaters of southeast L.A. County cities, which are some of the poorest in that state but give
lucrative attorney contracts; and nobody is watching.
When the new council elected on the heels of Richards’ ouster from city council nullified Regency’s
contract with Lynwood, a new billboard company quickly picked up the pieces and hit the ground
running with its own billboard deal with the city, according to reports.
Enter Richard Polanco who was "hired" by the city of Lynwood as a "consultant" to "lobby" Cal-Trans,
the State agency responsible for billboard sign approval along the 105 freeway right of way that bisects
Lynwood. Why does the City of Lynwood need Polanco as a "consultant to "lobby" Cal-Trans?
It is highly peculiar and curious that Lynwood officials would sidestep their current State Assembly and
Senate reps in favor of hiring Polanco. State Assembly and Senate reps are there to help constituents
with precisely such issues as making a phone call to the right agency, the right department within the
agency and the right person within the department. Just saves a few steps that anyone with an hour’s
worth of time can do anyway.
Besides, does Cal-Trans really need to be lobbied for a public service that the State agency is mandated
to provide anyway? It does not help matters when the agency’s only billboard inspector for the
Southern California region was allegedly "in" on the take too, with Regency allegedly bribing him to the
tune of $5,000 monthly. Billboard signs went up without permission, reports the Times, even when court
orders mandated that no signs would go up, as in the case of the City of South El Monte, where signs
were installed along the 60 freeway, which according to the Times, was against a court ruling.
Can’t any Lynwood city staffer or elected official just pick up the phone and call Cal-Trans directly? “Hi, I
am the ___________(city manager, council member, janitor, etc) and would like to put up a few
billboards along the 105 freeway. Where do I start?”
What would Polanco bring to the table that even the lowliest of city staffers cannot do? Does Polanco
possess an edge that not even the current state senator and assembly member have?
To pay Richard Polanco to make this call seems highly suspect and just does not make sense to justify
such seemingly irresponsible use of public funds by Lynwood officials.
It does not make sense until the dots are connected.
Any citizen reading this weekend’s Times report by Ted Rohrlich on Regency’s alleged corruption
practices can reasonably conclude that Polanco, too, was corrupt when he was in office. Regency
bought him for $25,000, reports the Times.
Any citizen reading the L.A. Times back on November 17, 1999, in a report also written by Rohrlich, will
come away questioning Polanco’s ethics, integrity and character (“A Scramble for Power, Patronage; The
battle for lucrative city attorney contracts in L.A. County's heavily Latino cities has resulted in some nasty
allegations. Ex-partners in a well-connected firm are in the center of the storm.” Click here to see report).
The Ties that Bind
Flash back in time: Who were the attorneys in question in the 1999 Times report? Francisco Leal and
Arnoldo Beltran. They were partners in Leal & Beltran, a legal law firm.
Whom is Francisco Leal Connected to? Termed-out State Senator Richard Polanco, recently termed out
Assembly member Marco Firebaugh, State Senator Martha Escutia and Rosario Marin.
Rosario Marin is a former U.S. Treasurer and ex Huntington Park council member. Rosario is a state
Republican Party apparatchik, having served as the Party’s Secretary in California before she moved to
Washington. Rosario was on the state Republican Party’s endorsement committee when Steve Cooley
was running for D.A. in Los Angeles County. Rosario’s republican endorsement committee gave thumbs
up to Cooley and he went on to win the campaign.
In 2004, Cooley appointed Rosario Marin to a Blue Ribbon Committee looking into County Jail
irregularities. Cooley introduced the county’s first Public Corruption Unit. He even placed a satellite office
in Huntington Park, walking distance from City Hall. Cooley and Marin are both alumni of Cal-State Los
Angeles and are listed a prominent graduates on the university's catalog and website.
Was it just a coincidence that the Public Corruption Unit’s very first case to be tried and successfully
prosecuted involved a former city council colleague of Rosario Marin’s from her days as a Huntington
Park councilwoman? The charges: former council member Linda Guevara did not live in the City of
Huntington Park while she was serving as an elected official. It was proved in court that she lived in
Downey while maintaining a second home in Huntington Park.
The tipster? Rosario Marin.
The collaborators: Edward Escareno and Mayor Ofelia Hernandez (she was just a Parks and Recs
commissioner then appointed by Rosario). Guevara was convicted in 2002 and placed under house
The motive: Public records of city council meeting minutes reflect that Rosario did not get along well with
her council colleague Linda Guevara.
The hypocrisy: John Noguez, whom Rosario hand picked to appoint first as City Clerk, then she
endorsed him for city council, did not live in the city either, as evidence strongly indicates in a report by
WatchOurCity.com (see report). Rosario Marin must have known this.
When the case was under way, Rosario Marin was well into her newly appointed position as US
Treasurer in the nation’s capitol. Public court documents of the case, which are available on-line, indicate
that Rosario provided input and was calling the D.A.’s office from Washington to check up on the case.
In the meantime, her lackey back in her hometown, council member Edward Avila Escareno, was holding
court as Mayor of Huntington Park. Escareno was busy seemingly taking instructions from Rosario Marin
all the way from DC on managing the upcoming campaign in March of 2003 of Rosario’s selected troika
slate that included Juan Noguez, Ofelia Hernandez, and Mario Gomez. All three won council seats.
Rosario managed to get a majority on city council that she could control.
In December of 2003, who gets selected to be the new city attorney in closed-door session and without
competing bids from other attorneys?
Surprise, surprise: Francisco Leal. He donates more than $3,600 to John Noguez and Ofelia Hernandez’s
In early 2004, Rosario quits the U.S. Treasurer post. Her reason: to run in the April primaries on the
Republican ticket against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.
When Rosario first arrives fresh from her stint in D.C., Francisco Leal is there hosting an official
welcoming party held in Las Trancas Restaurant in the city of Maywood. The homecoming party for Marin
was well attended by local influentials. Francisco made sure of that.
As Rosario’s campaign slowly picks up steam, her apparatchiks in Huntington Park’s city council are busy
giving lucrative contracts to a select group of of Marin’s friends.
In February of 2004, Francisco Leal hosts a fundraiser for Marin’s senate campaign (“Adios Boxer” was
the theme). The event was held at Francisco Leal’s home. A flier for the event listed the following as “Co-
Hosts”: George Cole, Victor Caballero, and Vicente Ortiz. John Noguez also attended the event. The
take that evening was several thousands of dollars, including contributions from the co-hosts.
George Cole is CEO of the non-profit Oldtimers foundation, a council member in the neighboring city of
Bell, and is a board member of the Central West Basin Municipal Water Board, which has dealings with
all the local municipal water companies. Victor Caballero used to work for Fiesta Taxi based in Gardena.
Oldtimers and Fiesta teamed up to get the juicy transportation contract from Rosario’s apparatchiks.
They in turn made sure that Rosario’s campaign, saying “Adios” to Boxer, was well oiled with funding.
This was the classic “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” scenario.
Oldtimers and Fiesta were not even the low bidders, but were still awarded the contract. Mayor
Escareno and council member Mario Gomez formed the sham Transportation Committee. The committee,
charged with overseeing the bidding process, elected to reject an independent consultant’s
recommendation as well as city staff recommendation. George Cole and Victor Caballero were rated last
place and second to last out of four bidders. Nevertheless, their chances for being awarded the $4
million contract improved because they had a friend in Rosario Marin who could get her lackey Escareno
to do her bidding. Public records and news reports indicated that the Cole/Caballero bid was $22,000
more expensive that the lowest bidder. (see reports)
The public explanation and feeble cover given by committee member Mario Gomez to a reporter from the
Wave Newspaper for selecting Oldtimers/Fiesta Taxi against all the odds and recommendations, was
that Oldtimers was located in Huntington Park and they needed to keep jobs here. The low bidder,
Southland Transit, is based in the city of Baldwin Park. Not mentioned by council member Gomez was
that Fiesta Taxi is based in Gardena, and Victor Caballero is a South Gate Resident. Not mentioned was
that the current transportation contractor, already had a bus yard and is based in the City of Huntington
Park, located only a few blocks away from Oldtimers foundations. After loosing its contract, Paratransit
all but shutters it operation with staff subsequently given layoff notices.
Not mentioned by Mario Gomez was the most egregious and damning item of all, which actually
confirmed why Oldtimers rated the worst and lowest of four bidders: George Cole’s Oldtimers
Foundation had no buses, no drivers, no vehicle insurance, and no start-up capital. In April of 2004,
John Noguez had now become Mayor of Huntington Park. He convened a special city council meeting to
deal solely with helping poor old George Cole out of his dilemma. That evening, City council agreed to
front George a cool $75,000 in start-up cash. However, John Noguez actually proposed giving George
$25,000 more, making it a really cool $100,000. With those kinds of friends, who needs to compete in
the open market? Rosario Marin was happy with the outcome, one can speculate. Rosario’s protégés
got away with a masterful cover-up. There is a mini-Haliburton operation taking place here, it seems.
An anonymous source indicates that Huntington Park's city staff questioned the legality of awarding the
contract under such highly questionable circumstances. Sources indicate that the city staffer, who
questioned ramroding of the award for a council approval vote, was given the pink slip at the behest of
Victor Caballero. Caballero and George Cole had too much to loose, including the thousands of dollars in
campaign contributions he made to Ofelia Hernandez, John Noguez, and Rosario Marin.
Now, what business does a city contractor and campaign contributor have dictating the firing of a city
staff member? The only explanation is that city council members were fully complicit in the plot to award
the highly questionable multi-million dollar contract to Rosario Marins' friends.
What was the motivation for George Cole and Victor Caballero and Vicente Ortiz to be prominently listed
as proud co-hosts with Francisco Leal? They were a team and their presence showed solidarity of
purpose, but not for the purpose of Marin’s senate campaign. Leal, Cole, and Caballero, received
Huntington Park contracts which, combined, were worth approximately $4.3 million. A $300,000 contract
to Leal was awarded just two months before. The contracts to George Cole and Victor Caballero were
awarded within a few days of the fundraiser. Vicente Ortiz received $30,000 cash to put on a 1-day
celebration in 2004 and again in 2005, no strings attached. City Council was busy paying back some
favors, it seemed.
The D.A., Rosario Marin’s good friend and fellow Republican, was nowhere to be found. He was probably
too busy chasing after Cardinal Roger Mahoney trying to get his child-molester priest data that the
Cardinal has been stonewalling, which is probably a better use of the D.A.’s time, since the victims have
names. Whereas in Huntington Park, there are no victims if the public does not know what goes on in
city hall, especially when Marins' hand seems to be moving the levers at City Council.
In the 2005 local election Rosario Marin endorsed and actively campaigned for current council member
Elba Romo. Marin's co-endorsers of Romo? George Cole and Victor Caballero. Martha Escutia gave Romo
a $1,000 contribution as a favor to her friend Rosario. What interests are they out to protect? (see
The Modus Operandi (or, how do we get in on this racket?)
According to the Times report from 1999, then State Senator Richard Polanco, would bully local
southeast L.A. County cities into hiring the law firm of Leal & Beltran for lucrative city attorney contracts.
Then State assembly member Marco Firebaugh was in on the shakedown of local elected officials too.
According to Rohrlich’s November ’99 report, referring to Leal & Beltran, stated that “They have used the
specter of recall campaigns as a threat against newly elected Latino officials if those officials do not vote to
give them contracts, the officials or their associates charged in interviews with The Times. In one instance, a
political ally of the lawyers, state Sen. Richard Polanco, allegedly did the threatening for them”.
Arnoldo Beltran is the current city attorney in the City of Lynwood. Francisco Leal is the current city
attorney in the city of Huntington Park. Francisco Leal was selected as Huntington Park’s city attorney in
closed-door session and without competing bids from other attorneys. Rosario Marin’s protégé and
lackey, councilman Edward Escareno, led the charge in proposing to hire Francisco Leal while Rosario
Marin served as US Treasurer in Washington DC. Escareno would openly boast in public that Rosario
would call him on a daily basis from her D.C. office in the U.S. Treasury Building.
State Senator Martha Escutia gave Escareno a $1,000 contribution during his 2001 city council race
(Click here to see report on how that investment faired for Senator Escutia).
Marco Firebaugh is termed out of the Assembly. He is currently campaigning for Martha Escutia’s soon-to-
be termed-out California Senate seat.
Rohrlich states that “Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, a former Polanco aide who became a law clerk and
lobbyist for the Beltran and Leal firm, and then last year , Polanco's choice to replace Escutia in the
The City of Commerce fired Leal as city attorney a few months ago.
Quite coincidentally, there is recall underway this week targeted at precisely that same City of
Commerce council members who voted to oust Leal’s law firm (see link to recall documents here).
Back in 1999, the gang was busy refining its tactics for intimidation and control of local politicians in the
Southeast cities. All combined, the city attorney contracts alone were worth millions of dollars.
Latino Thugs with degrees from Berkeley, Harvard, & Stanford
They indeed are “connected”, to each other and to a political machinery with a thug mentality. Public
funds are there for the taking. More importantly, the thug machinery seems to be well protected, which
makes them even more ruthless and fearless.
In Bell Gardens in 1999, Leal and Polanco pulled their bag of tricks out: recall campaign funding and
intimidation. The Times reported that “Escutia's campaign records show that she, too, sent a $1,000-
contribution to the Bell Gardens recall committee. She sent it to the address of the Beltran and Leal law firm
in downtown Los Angeles”.
That bag of tricks by the same tricksters seems to out again in the City of Commerce, in Lynwood, in
Huntington Park. Complicit are State and local politicians, it seems.
To this day, the L.A. County District Attorney has not even batted an eye towards Polanco and Leal,
Rosario Marin, Victor Caballero, George Cole, ex-councilman Edward Escareno, Council members John
Noguez, Ofelia Hernandez, or Mario Gomez, even though evidence of malfeasance has been extensively
reported by the L.A. Times, WatchOurCity.com and other local press in the past few years. Firebaugh is
working once more for his old boss, Francisco Leal.
Is this what latino political empowerment and achievement means?
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Notes from the Editor
June 8, 2005
August 4, 2005
August 22, 2005
August 31, 2005
Sept 8, 2005
Sept. 19, 2005