A Backstory to Today's City of Cudahy Sacking

The city of Cudahy is in Southwestern L.A. County | View Larger Map

Interesting news out of the tiny city of Cudahy this morning. Longtime city manager George Perez has been given the boot along with city attorney David Olivas. Cudahy Mayor Josue Barrios told the LA Times he was looking to change the "general direction of the city" with the moves. Anyone who knows the slightest bit about Cudahy must be laughing at what a massive understatement that is.

Those of you recently made acquainted with the scandal-plagued city of Bell and its high-paid city administrator Robert Rizzo, let me assure you, Cudahy makes Bell look like a model Jeffersonian democracy.

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Back in 2009, when I was an editor with the now defunct LA CityBeat, I covered the election which elevated Mayor Barrios to power. At the time, Barrios was known to be closely aligned with Perez and some of the other power players in town like then-vice mayor Osvaldo Conde. Barrios' loyalty had its rewards. In a tiny, 1.2 square-mile, working-class town, Barrios' campaign somehow had money to hire multiple stretch limos to patrol the town, pick up residents at their doorstep, ply them with top-shelf alcohol and drop them at the polls. Not surprisingly, Barrios and running mate David Silva won by a landslide.

The election was just the second in Cudahy in the past 10 years--perhaps not-so-coincidentally around the time Perez came to power as city manager. Several opposition candidates who considered running against the Perez power structure found themselves faced with anonymous death threats. One even had a molotov cocktail thrown at his property.

Prior to my own forays into Cudahy, former LA Weekly reporter Jeffrey Anderson was knee-deep in the Cudahy backwaters for years, reporting on corruption, graft and violence. Anyone curious about what Perez's resignation means for that small city should read Anderson's seminal piece southeast L.A. County corruption "The Town the Law Forgot."

Among other sordid details, Anderson's piece identifies Perez's associations with a litany of shady characters.

In May 2006, according to a Maywood Police arrest report, police were attempting to pull over 20-year-old city employee Robert Garcia in traffic, when Garcia drove into Perez's driveway and started yelling, "George! George! George!" Police searching Garcia's car found a knife and less than a gram of meth and booked Garcia, identified in the report as an 18th Street gang member, for possession of drugs. Garcia pleaded guilty and is receiving drug counseling, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Back in 2001, Perez survived a grand jury investigations into his alleged misbehavior. Needless to say, he isn't the type to go quietly. His sudden departure, at the hands of a former ally no less, leaves me to believe there's going to be a whole lot more news coming out of Cudahy in the near future.

The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the Cailfornia Endowment.

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