In­dus­try elects 3 new coun­cil mem­bers

City votes in law­mak­ers who ac­knowl­edge ties to Perez fam­ily.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Frank Shy­ong and Paloma Esquivel

Since the City of In­dus­try was in­cor­po­rated in 1957, the industrial sub­urb of 2,500 busi­nesses and about 400 res­i­dents has been con­trolled by a small group of fi­nan­cially con­nected fam­i­lies.

Coun­cil mem­bers some­times serve for decades and seats are some­times filled by the city’s busi­ness part­ners. Elec­tions are con­ducted en­tirely by mail-in bal­lots and past races have seen unan­i­mous or near-unan­i­mous votes. The vast ma­jor­ity of vot­ers rent prop­erty from the city or from the city’s most inf lu­en­tial fam­ily: The Perezes.

But lately, things in In­dus­try haven’t been so har­mo­nious.

The Perez fam­ily’s po­lit­i­cal grip started to erode in 2012, when then-Mayor David Perez stepped down, cit­ing health is­sues. Af­ter that, city lead­ers com­mis­sioned an in­ter­nal au­dit pub­lished in April that found Perez fam­ily com­pa­nies had reaped $326 mil­lion in con­tracts over the last two decades.

The city can­celed a lu­cra­tive con­tract with a Perez com­pany, and in May, the Los An­ge­les County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice and the state con­troller launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into In­dus­try’s con­tracts with the Perez fam­ily. The city also filed a law­suit against David Perez, his com­pa­nies and four mem­bers of his fam­ily, al­leg-

ing the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of mil­lions of dol­lars in public funds through false or inf lated in­voices and the per­for­mance of unau­tho­rized work on city con­tracts.

Tues­day’s elec­tion, city lead­ers say, marked an at­tempt by the Perez fam­ily to re­gain con­trol of city af­fairs, with three seats up for grabs.

Two in­cum­bents vied against what City Manager Kevin Radecki called a Perez-backed bloc of can­di­dates: Cory Moss, Newell Rug­gles and Mark Radecki, Kevin Radecki’s brother.

Af­ter 88 of the 96 bal­lots cast were counted, the in­cum­bents had the fewest votes, giv­ing the so-called Perez bloc a ma­jor­ity.

All three new coun­cil mem­bers — Moss, Rug­gles and Mark Radecki — ac­knowl­edged their busi­ness or per­sonal ties with the Perez fam­ily but de­nied that they were sup­ported or would be in­flu­enced by the Perezes. Each crit­i­cized the way In­dus­try has been run re­cently.

“The coun­cil hasn’t been stand­ing up for us,” said Moss, a book­keeper at the com­pany man­aged by Carol Perez, the wife of the for­mer mayor’s nephew. “I don’t feel like they’re do­ing their job.”

It was not im­me­di­ately clear what ef­fect the new coun­cil mem­bers will have. Kevin Radecki, who is es­tranged from his brother, be- lieves the Perez-backed coun­cil mem­bers in­tend to fire the em­ploy­ees re­spon­si­ble for blow­ing the whis­tle on Perez con­tracts, in­clud­ing him­self.

Rug­gles, the top vote-get­ter with 58 votes, said the first or­der of busi­ness is to com­ply with on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions. He said he would not ask the coun­cil to re­store a re­cently can­celed con­tract with a Perez fam­ily com- pany, say­ing that city staff were cor­rect to cancel be­cause of pos­si­ble law­suits.

The el­i­gi­bil­ity of eight vot­ers was chal­lenged by city of­fi­cials. Whether their bal­lots will be counted will be de­cided Mon­day, when the re­sults are cer­ti­fied.

In­dus­try’s strange elec­tions are a prod­uct of its un­usual de­sign, said Vic­tor Valle, who wrote a 2009 book about the city. Founder James Stafford drew the city’s bor­ders to in­clude rail­roads, free­ways and valu­able industrial land — but so few res­i­dents that the pro­posal was re­drawn to in­clude the 169 pa­tients and 31 em­ploy­ees of El En­canto San­i­tar­ium to meet the min­i­mum res­i­den­tial re­quire­ments for ci­ty­hood, Valle said.

Stafford never held of­fice in the city, but ex­er­cised his in­flu­ence to award ex­clu­sive rights to In­dus­try’s trash gath­er­ing to his busi­ness part­ner, Vi­cente Perez, with­out a bid­ding process or public hear­ings, Valle said. Stafford was later con­victed of ac­cept­ing con­struc­tion kick­backs and spent three years in pri­son, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports at the time. Perez’s rel­a­tives Manuel and David formed the com­pa­nies that won the lu­cra­tive city con­tracts cur­rently un­der scru­tiny.

The city has al­ways been run like a fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to Stephen Stafford, the city founder’s son. Coun­cil mem­bers typ­i­cally served long terms and elec­tions never re­ally served a pur­pose be- cause the fam­i­lies in power wanted to keep things sta­ble, he said. Stephen Stafford never lived in In­dus­try or par­tic­i­pated in its pol­i­tics, but he main­tains friend­ships in the city and at­tended the Perezes’ an­nual Christ­mas party.

Even the city’s streets re­flect the city’s fam­ily ties.

There is Par­riott Place, which shares the name of City Coun­cil­man and for­mer Mayor Jeff Par­riott, whose fam­ily has been in In­dus­try from the start. Fer­rero Park­way shares the name of Coun­cil­man John Fer­rero, and his fa­ther, who was In­dus­try’s mayor for decades and co-owned cat­tle with Stafford. Radecki Court shares a name with Radecki and his brother, City Manager Kevin Radecki. The street that leads to City Hall is named for C.C. Stafford, the founder’s fa­ther, Stephen Stafford said.

Fam­ily ties are also ob­vi­ous on the 2015 reg­is­tered vot­ers list, where 10 last names ac­count for 37% of the elec­torate.

With so much power con­cen­trated among so few fam­i­lies, elec­tions don’t of­fer much hope for change, Valle said.

“They’re be­holden to their land­lords, whether it’s the city or the Perez fam­ily,” he said. “What­ever hap­pens, it’s not go­ing to change the sys­tem that is op­er­at­ing in In­dus­try.”

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

CORY MOSS, left, cel­e­brates her win with hus­band Erik Moss, cen­ter, and win­ning can­di­date Mark Radecki, the es­tranged brother of the city manager.

Brian van der Brug Los An­ge­les Times

DAN PAVLICH, left, loads City Coun­cil bal­lots as Ryan Martin watches bal­lot count­ing. Less than 100 votes were cast in the small industrial sub­urb.

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