Cudahy, California Mayor Resigns Amid Bribery Scandal

Cudahy Mayor David M. Silva steps down. A councilman and the former head of code enforcement are also accused of taking money from a marijuana clinic owner.
by | July 5, 2012
 

By Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times

The mayor of Cudahy resigned Tuesday after he, a councilman and a former official were charged in late June with federal bribery in an unfolding corruption scandal, officials said.

The resignation of Mayor David M. Silva was announced at the start of a standing-room-only City Council meeting.

Silva, Councilman Osvaldo Conde and Angel Perales, the former head of code enforcement, are accused of taking $17,000 in bribes from a marijuana dispensary owner who was working as an FBI informant. The officials allegedly took the bribes in exchange for their help in opening a store in the small blue-collar city, according to federal authorities.

The June 22 arrests, followed several days later by a Santa Fe Springs councilman pleading guilty to a similar federal charge, are the latest corruption scandals to taint the cluster of small cities in southeast Los Angeles County. Two years ago, a City Hall scandal in Bell sparked community outrage, led to criminal charges against eight former city officials and helped usher in new leadership in the heavily Latino immigrant community.

In the Cudahy case, a 146-page criminal complaint indicates that the arrests were part of a larger investigation that includes allegations of election fraud. The complaint also refers to the possible involvement of a towing company and a sheriff's deputy.

The federal document, which includes about 130 pages of wiretap transcripts, paints a picture of unchecked power by officials who boldly plotted taking bribes and talked about accepting cash as a way to avoid public disclosure required for campaign contributions.

On Tuesday, the 100 or so people who packed the council chambers cheered when Silva's resignation was announced. Outside the chambers, some held signs, including one that said "Justice 4 Cudahy."

"The news of this resignation brings an end to a term of public service by Mr. Silva," Vice Mayor Frank Gurule said in a statement at the council meeting. "It's unfortunate this news comes on the heels of some alleged criminal activity."

Tracey Roberts, 55, a longtime resident, said in an interview at the council meeting that the federal investigation will lead to positive changes in the community.

"It will weed out the bad ones," she said, "so the good ones can take control again."

A group called CAUSA -- Cudahy Association Unidos Salimos Adelante or "United We Move Ahead" -- had called for the salaries of Silva and Conde to be suspended, along with a full investigation into any misconduct by all city officials and an independent audit of city-awarded contracts.

Less than a week after the Cudahy arrests, Santa Fe Springs Councilman Joseph Serrano Sr. agreed to plead guilty to one federal count of felony bribery in connection with allegations that he repeatedly shook down a dispensary operator who was working as an FBI informant.

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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