|A new collection of original short
stories from the editor of
WatchOurCity.com that revives the Noir
Pulp Fiction genre, with a Latino twist,
based on real-life shenanigans at
small-time local city halls where the
public record is stranger than fiction.
The intrigue, the corruption, the
comedy, the incompetence and every
policeman's ultimate fantasy of sex in a
CUT ME IN is a series of riveting stories
of bumbling and deeply flawed
characters - mobsters, fringe players,
petty thieves turned politicians turned
petty thieves - with dark agendas who
betray their honor, and the public's
trust, on a dime's turn; at times
humorous and tragic; redemption is
always around the corner but flees
when tempted by small ambition; rare
moments of truth are discarded like
chump change, all played out over the
background both bleak and colorfully
gritty of a blue-collar immigrant town
in the shadows of the big city, a town
of second chancers, forgotten and
abused, but aching for a comeback...
tales with no moral lessons to uncover,
only everyday political dirty dealings
with the help of one lone hero,
Chucho* and his beloved low-rider.
|with a lust
|A convicted cop
|and a hot
|A courageously innovative, muckraking web site that focuses like a laser on the political, financial and legal shenanigans of the local government
California First Amendment Coalition
|Celebrating a Milestone:
WatchOurCity.com turns 6 years old
From the Editor:
Dear loyal reader, once again, the editor has
been on an extended hiatus from reporting on
WatchOurCity.com. Lots has happened.
WatchOurCity.com has been witness to a
flourishing community interest in local civics in
the cities of Bell and Maywood. Equally, local
elected officials continue to flourish in their
zeal for shenaniganry across southeast cities.
|City of Huntington Park:
John "Juan" Noguez
For L.A. County
Mi Financial Gain es Su
|Bell & Maywood:
Cross-Breeding a Donkey with an Ass:
Maywood's finances managed by Bell City
Bell, CA - the District Attorney's office has
confirmed that it is investigating charges
against officials in the cities of Bell and
Maywood regarding the mysterious firing of
the Maywood city manager and replacing him
with city of Bell's Finance director, still on
Bell's payroll. The D.A.'s press release used
the term "Misappropriation of Public Funds"
in not so uncertain terms. It is illegal for one
city to run the affairs of another city.
|Monday, March 8, 2010
Southeast Cities Schools Coalition, AKA San Antonio USD
George Cole's Dirty Fat Hands Now in the
Cookie Jar of Charter Schools
Maywood, CA - When Martha Escutia was this area's state Senator,
before termed out of office, she authored a Senate bill looking into the
feasibility of having public schools located in southeast cities breaking
away from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
In 2001, this little-noticed Senate Bill by Escutia was signed into California
law. SB 1380 allowed the State to pay for a study exploring the feasibility
of forming a new school district via splintering southeast cities away from
the School District: "This bill authorizes a reorganization study of LAUSD".
It is significant that AB 1381, the Mayor's failed take-over plan of LAUSD
was numerically sequential to SB 1380, though separated by a 5 year gap.
George Cole has been itching to have his very own school district ever
since. The Southeast Cities Schools Coalition is a group created by Cole
to ride the legislative coattails of SB 1380. Though no longer an elected
official, George Cole is at the helm. The Coalition meets once a month in
the council chambers of Vernon City Hall, and sometimes alternates
meeting locations with member city halls. The Coalition's goal? Fiscal
control of about 40 campuses in Bell, Cudahy, Huntington Park,
Maywood, South Gate and Vernon, with 60,000 students, and more
importantly, millions of dollars in school budgets up for grabs, and
incredibly lucrative contracts for trash hauling and food services to name
a few. George, a former city of Bell councilman, has reportedly already
approached one principal who is heading up a charter break-away school
team to offer "help" with trash hauling and food service contracts. This
team submitted a proposal to LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines in a
bid to become an independent charter campus. George was quoted as
stating to the principal that he knows who can offer such contract
services to the newly independent Charter campus. This is disturbing on
In case you are wondering if the editor is making up slanderous
accusations, the public record is testimony to highly questionable conflict
of interest activity by elected officials here. I simply report what the public
record has reflected in the past (and what the L.A. Times has reported),
and the public record is stranger than fiction: George Cole has been
successfully winning transportation contracts and toilet replacement
contracts, all worth millions of dollars, all awarded under rigged bidding
conditions where George Cole's Oldtimers Foundation was not even the
low bidder or even the responsible bidder. Belaboring the point, in an
egregious case of outright corruption involving an elected official and a
private charter school in 2006, Huntington Park councilman John Noguez
held approval of a charter school hostage. In a meeting called by Noguez
and attended by city attorney Francisco Leal and representatives of
Pacific Charter School held at the City Club in Downtown L.A., Noguez
demanded a $50,000 campaign contribution from Pacific Charter in
exchange for project approval from city council. Pacific Charter was
backed up against a wall having promised parents and students that the
campus would open on time for the Fall semester. Whatever amount was
exchanged was never reported on Noguez' campaign contribution
statements for that year. John Noguez and George Cole share campaign
managers and political contributors like addicts swapping dirty needles.
Now Pacific Charter and John Noguez are buddy-buddies, to the point
that John has convinced city council to front-fund site construction costs
for a new campus Pacific has proposed in the northern industrial part of
town. Pacific Charter quickly learned their lesson.
George Cole is seemingly out to teach LAUSD's Region 6 break-away
charter schools a lesson too (the District breaks up its vast geographic
jurisdiction into Regions; southeast cities are called Region 6). Cole is
director of the Oldtimers Foundation, a non-profit organization based in
Huntington Park and has received millions of dollars in rigged contracts
from Huntington Park city officials and from the Central Basin Water
District. WatchOurCity.com has been reporting on George Cole's highly
questionable contra public interest activity. When the Spanish daily
newspaper La Opinion was seeking public records from city of Bell
officials, George Cole was still a councilman and the de facto godfather of
politics in southeast cities (an L.A. Times article referred to him as such),
famously directed city officials to respond that city of Bell's business is not
the public's business and refused to give over public records.
The charter proposals for this school and another, Maywood Academy
High School, prominently state in both their applications that a core
member of each charter's operating board will be a representative from
the Southeast Cities Schools Coalition. This key internal operating group
will have complete control over use of schools' funds, including awarding
of contracts for food service, trash hauling, maintenance and consultants.
The Coalition is funded by each member city, and also cover the cost of
the coalition's attorney and an executive director. Recently, the Coalition's
director fired the Coalition's attorney for allegedly highly questionable
billing practices. The attorney did not appeal the firing. That attorney
happened to be none other than Francisco Leal, Huntington Park's city
attorney, previously Maywood's city attorney and is a good friend of John
Noguez, George Cole, Mayor Villaraigosa and of State Capitol's Latino
Board members of the Southeast Cities Schools Coalition are made up of
one elected council member from each member city (Bell, Cudahy,
Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Vernon). These are the same
elected officials currently under investigation by the District Attorney
and/or the FBI for misappropriation of public funds (in the case of the DA's
current investigation of Maywood and Bell officials). And these are the
same elected officials that are listed as "key" members with authority
over budgets for these breakaway charter schools. Superintendent
Cortines approved the proposals just last week.
In the same week that the L.A. Times reported the D.A.'s investigation
into allegations of misappropriation of public funds by city officials in the
cities of Maywood and Bell, LAUSD awarded newly minted break-away
charter schools to local operators which included elected officials from the
Both the Times and LAUSD failed to connect the dots. And the dots are
On the one hand, the District Attorney's office launches an investigation
of Maywood and Bell public officials for alleged misappropriation of public
funds, while on the other, these same officials pretend to play key roles in
fiscal management of these new charter schools given away by Sup
Ramon Cortines, an ally, if not outright water carrier, for Mayor
This was L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's intention with his AB 1381, the
school takeover plan which was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the
State's high court. Plan "B", it seems, is to take over the school district
not in one fell swoop, but in tiny pieces.
But such alarms of conflicts of interest may ring in deaf ears. Cortines
found himself in a double-dipping scandal of his own recently, making
$250,000 as LAUSD Superintendent, all the while sitting on Scholastic's
Board, making $150,000 a year, and Scholastic making $5 million from
Moreover, the Über water carrier for Villaraigosa, school board president
Monica Garcia, presented a deceitfully nonchalant defense of Cortines'
plain and crass conflict of interest. Her response does not give a warm
and fuzzy feeling that she will side with the public interest. Even the L.A.
Times editorial board gave her the equivalent of a slap upside the head
for her deceit. Cortines quit the Scholastic Board eventually within days of
the Times report, leaving Monica's excuse for Cortines' double-dipping
foolishly flapping in the wind.
The whole conceit of George Cole's Schools Coalition rests on its
"mission" of improving student achievement. And everyone buys it.
Additionally, Cole, quite the Coalition's dapper ambassador without official
portfolio, peddles the Coalition as a "community group" to charter school
applicants, thus adding an extra layer of legitimatizing varnish. That
varnish is then bought up by the charter school operators such as the
ones at Maywood Academy High School and at the new Southeast
Elementary School #3 in Bell-Cudahy. One of LAUSD's key criteria for
approving charter school break-aways is this coupling with "community
The Coalition's sly sleight of hand is that charter proposals specifically list
the Schools Coalition as a "Community Group", when, in fact, it is a Joint
Powers Authority. It's like saying that the Vector Control District is a local
boy scout group out chasing mosquitos, or like saying that the local water
boards are really just little ol' ladies in their Sunday best out for a cup of
A Joint Powers authority is not a community group. And that is how the
Southeast Cities Schools Coalition is listed on applications submitted to
LAUSD. That is a material misrepresentation. The Coalition board does not
count any members of the community, any parents, business owners or
even students as members.
Making matters a wee-bit embarrassing for the Maywood Academy
Charter applicants, the very first paragraph of the very first sheet of the
charter break-away proposal mentions that it has a plan to serve the
"Mentally Retarded" students of this community. Educators have not used
this terminology for some time, now. I understand this change is not due
to political correctness, but rather to a better understanding of learning
abilities based on current ground-breaking research. Some would argue
this could be considered a drawback. I hope Ramon Cortines caught it
and made a comment to the applicant to correct this. It's bad enough
that the applicant partners with some questionable characters, but for
the applicant to make such a fundamental mistake calls into question the
expertise for leading education policy for this or any other campus.
The Schools Coalition is anything but community group; it is far from it;
initially started by elected officials meeting in private back rooms of
restaurants (yes, violating the Brown Act all the while) back when Antonio
Villaraigosa was still married to his teacher-wife and was pinning to
takeover control of LAUSD with AB 1381 (if Villaraigosa was so concerned
about public school education, why did he leave his wife, a grade-school
teacher?). Back then, George gathered his flock of key elected officials
from each member city and proposed his plan for the "Southeast School
Coalition" and made each member city commit to providing seed money to
hire an attorney and a director. Martha Escutia's 2001 bill laid the
operational blueprint for the creation of the coalition via a tool called Joint
Powers Authority (member cities hold common interest and control via the
Joint Powers" tool as allowed by California law).
To buy street cred and look legit, it ostensibly invites the public to its
monthly meetings inside council chambers (no parents show up, unless
bussed in by George Cole), and to cast all doubt about its sincerity and
concern for the parents and public, an official electronic marquee in front
of Huntington Park City Hall even gives it top billing, advertising its
monthly meetings. It has no staff, only an executive director making
$65,000 a year salary (who by the way, was a former Escutia senate
staffer and has since left), an attorney billing who- knows-how-much
because it's not the public's business to know, and the board
members-city council members, because they are trying to make as much
as they can from the public tit.
So what work does the Coalition and its attorney do if there is no staff?
Parents didn't vote for this coalition to represent them. Parents in
southeast cities elected Yolie Flores Aguilar, the local board member
representing their interests and that of their school-age children before
the LAUSD school board. So the Southeast Cities Schools Coalition
doesn't functionally, or democratically even, represent interests of
parents or students (ignore here the fact that Yolie was hand-picked by
Villaraigosa, but I digress).
Who's interest does the Southeast Cities Schools Coalition represent?
Members of the Schools Coalition were a bit peeved when they were not
invited by LAUSD to participate in the Charter selection process. They
sent a letter to Superintendent Cortines complaining about the Charter
School selection process. To his credit, Mr. Cortines addressed the
Coalition in a response letter, essentially putting them in their place,
(undated, around February 2010). Cortines points out that the
"Southeast Cities Schools Coalition has actively partnered and supported
some of the applicants" and cites this as the main reason for not inviting
them. The Coalition's beef with LAUSD was about why "there was a lack
of transparency in the [charter school applicant] selection process". This
is really a specious argument. Coalition board members arguing for
"transparency" is laughably ironic. Take the transparency card back to
each of the city council members and ask them to be just as transparent
with the million dollar contracts they give over to George Cole. You, dear
reader, will hit a wall more opaque than The Great Wall of China.
Transparency? From Bell, Maywood, Huntington Park, Cudahy (molotov
cocktails through political opponents' windows on election eve, anyone?)
Who are they kidding? This request for LAUSD transparency by city
elected officials is highly hypocritical at best. The D.A. and FBI do not
launch corruption investigations of these same public officials because
their actions are openly transparent.
The Coalition's website states "Bringing Accountability to Our Schools".
This from the same officials who could care less about accountability of
their own actions in city councils. A Wikipedia article on the City of
Maywood notes that Maywood joined the "Southeast Cities School
Coalition to improve the education of the children of the Southeast". You
can't even get Coalition Board Agendas or Meeting minutes from their
website. Talk about open and transparent.
Don't be fooled by George Cole's Southeast Cities Schools Coalition or the
triple-A farm league of Latino politico board members calling themselves a
"community group". They could care less about your kids and their quality
of education. None of them, without exception, have any children
attending an LAUSD campus. All them have an interest in having budget
authority over each of the 40 plus campuses. None of them have been
trained in Education or have advanced degrees in education. All of them
have been tainted by investigations of official corruption in one form or
Back in May 1, 2008, local State Assemblyman Hector de la Torre hosted
then LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer at a meeting to present a
partnering agenda between LAUSD and the Southeast Cities Schools
Coalition. De la Torre is a former South Gate councilman and ally of
George Cole. The Coalition noted seven areas of "concern" by the so
called "community" they self-anointed to represent:
2. Lack of involvement in school site selection safety
3. Credentialed teachers
4. College tracking
5. Local authority over budget and staffing
6. Decision making authority
7. High priority schools that are facing a state takeover [Editor: What
In case you missed it, items #5 and #6 above should have caught your
eye. Frankly, I don't know of any parent or "community member" who is
interested in having "authority over budget and staffing" or in "decision
making authority" unless they were the school principal. These activities
are best left to the principals who have specialized training in running,
well you know, a school. But why is an elected official interested in having
budget authority over a school? Elected officials in southeast cities, with
very few exceptions, barely have a high school diploma, and are running
their city's budget's to bankruptcy, and are under investigation for
misappropriation of public funds.
The collective fiscal mismanagement of city treasuries and contracting
practices by members of the Southeast Cities Schools Coalition borders
on the criminal, and in some instances, is actually criminal as ongoing
investigations allege. And yet, these same elected officials demand
decision making authority and authority over school budgets? God help us
if the FBI won't.
The Southeast Cities Schools Coalition is a slick political tool, pure and
simple, an extension of city council chambers, subject to discussion in
council's closed door sessions as regular city business because the Joint
Powers Authority carries legal and liability ramifications as well. There is
nothing "community" about it at all. It is lipstick on a pig, if you will.
Because the pork from break-away charter schools will be delectably
juicy. The fat cat will get fatter on the backs of school age kids. As a
former city council member, George Cole knows how lucrative trash
hauling contracts can be, or any other contract, for that matter. Do you
know how much a trash hauling contract is worth for serving 40 plus
schools, each with a dozen trash containers requiring daily pickup, for 20
years? You can do the math. Or how much a food service contract will
ultimately be worth if it feeds 60,000 students on an daily basis for years
to come? The Mafia would salivate to get in on this racket. I would argue
that it already has.
The Southeast Cities Schools Coalition disguises itself as a "community
group" so LAUSD can allow charter school applicants to pass muster with
their community outreach and partnering requirements. This disguise is
nothing more than a Trojan Horse created by Cole, city councils and their
slick city attorney (yes, the crafty Harvard trained Francisco Leal- Veritas?
I don't got to show you no stinking Veritas!) to create a back door entry
with a direct pipeline connecting city councils on one end with a school's
budget and staffing decisions on the other. Precisely this is what they
were prevented from doing under Mayor Villaraigosa's unconstitutional AB
1381. Distilled in simple terms, the state constitution clearly prohibits city
councils, mayors and political operatives, from "direct" control of public
school district budgets, policy, staffing decisions and contracting issues.
In contrast, Martha Escutia's intent with SB 1380 was to create a
legitimate mechanism for duly molding a complete stand-alone
break-away school district complying with all constitutional requirements,
not this shifty illegal, unconstitutional, and deceptive, back-door pipeline
Who stands to gain from lucrative school transportation or food service
contracts to break-away southeast schools? George Cole's Oldtimers
foundation already runs a bus service for Huntington Park and a
Meals-on-Wheels operation under contract with the County of L.A.
LAUSD's charter school give-away plans, euphemistically titled "School
Options" do not seem to have any prohibitions or checks and balances
against lucrative self-dealing and conflict of interest from those with
pretensions for "authority over budget and staffing".
It begs the question: Is this how Villaraigosa, Monica Garcia and Ramon
Cortines intended it to be? Or, are these just unintended consequences
in the Mayor's rush to free schools from LAUSD's grasp into the Panacea
that is promised with the break-away charter school movement? It is
troubling that we've arrived at having to ask such questions.
Those break-away charters in Southeast cities better run away from
strange men offering lolly-pops and best hide their cookie jars.
|Huntington Park, CA - Juan "John"
Noguez, vice-mayor, is gathering
signatures to qualify for a run as
candidate for the office of L.A.
County Assessor. He spearheaded
creation of a historical commission
significant structures. Part of the
deal he negotiated with the L.A.
County Assessor's office is that a
building, if designated as
historically significant, gets a 15%
property tax break. Guess who's
property was first in this city to get
that designation and tax break?
That's right. John Noguez's house.
The city ordinance gives Noguez a
personal financial gain. Hope he
gains more as County Assessor.