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Bell Gardens Council Member Resigns From His Seat at Central Basin

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pedro aceituno
Pedro Aceituno

Pedro Aceituno, the Bell Gardens councilman and Central Basin Water District board member, resigned his southeast Los Angeles water board post Thursday and filed nomination papers Friday to run against controversial Democrat Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia.

The resignation comes as the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office continues its investigation into the communications between what Aceituno did as a Central Basin member and as a councilman. He held the overlapping elected positions simultaneously. 

While the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office wouldn’t immediately give comment, Aceituno hung up the phone on Friday when asked about his resignation. He did not reply to emails requesting comment. 

On April 24, the district attorney’s office’s public integrity division requested the Central Basin send them public records which included “copies of any writings, regardless of physical form or characteristic, to or from Pedro Aceituno and/or the city of Bell Gardens, its government administrators, city attorney, council members, staff or employees for hte period of Jan. 1, 2012 to the present.” 

Kevin Hunt, general manager of the Central Basin Water District, described Aceituno as “a very honest and honorable man” on Friday.

Hunt confirmed that the water board member resigned on Thursday and wanted to run for Garcia’s seat. He said he did not know anything about Aceituno resigning because he held two positions at the same time. 

In a letter to the district obtained from sources on Friday, Aceituno didn’t address why he was leaving his District 1 seat but said he decided to resign “after careful consideration.” 

“I thank each of you for your cooperation and efforts to enhance water quality and service both for my division and throughout the region,” Aceituno wrote. “My best wishes are extended for the future success of the district.”

The probe into Aceituno's dual roles — he was elected to the Bell Gardens City Council in 1999 and the water board in November 2016 — follows a series of investigations into the multiple titles of other elected officials. Some have been taken to court by the district attorney’s office because serving multiple offices is a conflict of interest and violates state laws. 

In January 2016, the district attorney’s office filed a civil lawsuit against Carson Mayor Albert Robles for leading the City Council and holding a position at the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.

According to the civil complaint filed at the time, “the WRD and the City of Carson have overlapping territory, duties and responsibilities, and a clash of duties is likely to arise in the exercise of both offices simultaneously.” 

On Feb. 27, it was reported a judge issued a tentative decision in favor of the district attorney’s office to remove Robles from the WRD position. A spokesman from the office on Friday declined comment except to say the next court date with Robles is April 17.

In Maywood, former Councilman Sergio Calderon resigned from his city council post in December to settle a district attorney’s office lawsuit against him for holding that position and one on the Water Replenishment District of Southern California board.

According to a district attorney’s office statement, a civil trial was set for Jan. 25 but Calderon agreed to resign from the Maywood position in exchange for a dismissal of the lawsuit. Calderon stepped down on Dec. 13. 

The lawsuit, district attorney’s office officials said, was filed in November 2016 after officials alleged that holding both offices simultaneously was a conflict of interest and violates state law because “the WRD and the City of Maywood have overlapping territory, duties and responsibilities, and a clash of duties is likely to arise in the exercise of both offices simultaneously.” 

Meanwhile, the statewide primary election for the 58th Assembly district that Aceituno has decided to run for has its own controversy. 

Assemblywoman Garcia, whose district includes Bell Gardens, said on social media Feb. 14 that she went on voluntary, unpaid leave “to follow the process” after previously denying sexual misconduct allegations made against her.

Aceituno, who was issued nomination papers on March 5 for the statewide primary election, described himself as a “city councilmember/businessman” with a Long Beach mailing address and registered as a Democrat. 

The election is set for June 5.

Karen Foshay and Marie Targonski O'Brien contributed to this report.

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