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Thursday, 14 July 2011 10:39

In Case You Missed It: New Woes Cap off Bad Week for City of Vernon

SACRAMENTO – In case you missed it, this week has seen a plethora of new stories on the City of Vernon undercutting Vernon officials’ credibility as reformers, pointing out the staggering debt load those officials have accumulated and new legal woes for former Vernon officials.

  • On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed by Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of Law at UC Irvine, who forcefully argued that Speaker John A. Pérez’s (D-Los Angeles) effort to disincorporate Vernon is on solid constitutional ground, stating “simply put, since it is the Legislature that ultimately creates cities, it is the Legislature that can decide to disincorporate them. There is no authority, in California or elsewhere, that once a city has been incorporated it has a constitutional right to exist forever. Nor have developments in the last century lessened the Legislature’s power in this area.” To date, every independent legal expert who has weighed in on the question of disincorporation has affirmed the Constitutionality of the Speaker’s effort, seriously undercutting the claims of lawyers on Vernon’s payroll who argue otherwise.
  • On Tuesday, Fox 11 reported that “even with its future in question, Fox 11 has learned that Vernon is still racking up debt big time—issuing more than $19 million in bonds on top of the more than half a billion Vernon already owes.”  In fact, if Los Angeles County had the same level of debt as Vernon, the total would be more than 50 trillion dollars.
  • On Wednesday, KCBS Reporter Dave Bryan reported that Vernon officials have seriously undercut their credibility as reformers by paying the medical bills for Bruce Malkenhorst—the former Vernon City Administrator and admitted felon who claimed to work six jobs simultaneously to collect a pension of more than $500,000 per year (which is by far the largest taxpayer-funded pension in California). The City Council also approved $68,000 in payments to Eric Fresch, the “poster child for out of control municipal compensation,” whose inappropriate practices as a Vernon official have been well documented by numerous news outlets. The payments were approved at the June 21 City Council meeting—just one day before Vernon City Administrator Mark Whitworth appeared before the Senate Committee on Government and Finance where he claimed “I have enacted reforms that addressed every concern from the speaker’s office .” As the Speaker noted in the interview with Mr. Bryan, these actions prove that Vernon’s reform rhetoric is merely that—rhetoric.
  • On Thursday, Capitol Weekly reported that “inch by inch, the move by Assembly Speaker John Pérez to abolish the city is moving forward” while noting that Vernon spent $560,000 taxpayer dollars in the first quarter of this year, with this quarter’s numbers expected to be significantly higher. Yet despite the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars Vernon is spending to fight disincorporation, the pro-disincorporation effort has been successful in seeking approval at every single legislative forum where the issue has come up—four votes in the Legislature, a vote of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and by the councils of the three cities bordering Vernon.
  • Also on Thursday, Eastern Group Publications reported that Donal O’Callahan, another former Vernon official accused of corruption, will begin his trial on self-dealing charges. O’Callahan served as Vernon City Administrator before being indicted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for illegal self-dealing when he was “accused…of hiring his wife, Kimberly McBride, as a $40/hour bookkeeper for the city.” The story also reported a comment by O’Callahan’s attorney noting that “McBride was hired with the knowledge of city officials.”

See below for article links:

Erwin Chemerinsky: Can a state dissolve a city?

Stripping Vernon of cityhood making headway

Trial For Ex-Vernon Official Expected To Begin Today

CONTACT: John Vigna (916) 319-2408

Website of Speaker John A. Pérez: