Mayor Chris Garcia is 28-years-old. He says "I'm proud I'm the youngest mayor ever in the city." He also is pleased with the report issued by State Controller John Chiang. It's not a great report. But, he says "It may be a blessing." The city had been through a nightmare. It was, says Garcia, like a "mafia movie."
Government corruption and bribes he describes as "shameful."
Arrested were the City's then-mayor David Silva, a councilman Osvaldo Conde, who was finally taken into custody after a 4 or 5 hour standoff with the FBI, and a former enforcement code manager. All arrested, convicted and sentenced for taking part in a scheme to shake down the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary who was working as an FBI informant.
Before being elected Garcia was part of the opposition against city hall as it operated back then. A year ago he got elected. Then the current council asked the State Controller to do a forensic audit. That report has now come out highlighting "significant weaknesses" in the city's systems and "potential for waste, fraud and abuse of public resources." And, many of those problems are not yet fixed.
Says Garcia, "The internal controls are non-existent in our city. The pervasive abuses of the past in our city on how contracts have been awarded in our city. How checks get disbursed." I asked, "You're trying to fix those things?" He replied "I would say we are 50 steps ahead of many other cities in our region."
The Controller's report also wants Cudahy to repay the state 22.7 million dollars in redevelopment money as a result of the lack of control that led to questionable spending.
Garcia says the city has that money in the form of real estate for such things as a senior center on this property on Atlantic and on another property an office building that "Ucla is looking at to potentially have a satellite office" there.
His alternative plan to paying $22.7 million dollars will be to ask the state to let Cudahy keep the money/real estate and let the developments go forward so more jobs and opportunities can be created.
He'll make that pitch to the State Department of Finance next week. But, to an activist who complained about how City Hall operated, and now helps run it, he believes the Controllers report is a demonstration of turning the corner. Especially, since Controller John Chiang, said in his report that the City "Should be commended for taking these matters seriously and being proactive in resolving the noted deficiencies."