Buyers Remorse for Bonny Garcia/
Burke, Williams & Sorenson clients?
Sweetwater racks
up large, clouded
legal bill

Descriptions of services left
off released forms

CHULA VISTA – The Sweetwater
Union High School District busted
its legal budget halfway through the
fiscal year that ended June 30.

Sweetwater reports it spent more
than $1 million on legal services for
the year, 77 percent more than in
the past fiscal year, with some
expenses for June yet to be logged.


Sweetwater's annual legal

2001-02 $ 495,267

2002-03 $ 451,425

2003-04 $ 639,494

2004-05 $ 603,919

2005-06* $ 1,070,863

Sweetwater's annual payments to
Burke, Williams and Sorensen:

2001-02 $ 104,357

2002-03 $ 102,760

2003-04 $ 442,441

2004-05 $ 521,304

2005-06* $ 778,481

* Not all accounts for 2005-06 have
been settled. Figures could

Source: Sweetwater Union High
School District

San Diego Union-Tribune
July 22, 2006 See article at http:
(Sorry, the SDUT has broken this
link.  See more

Attorneys cost over
$1.1 million last fiscal
By Chris Moran
San Diego Union Tribune, October
26, 2006

CHULA VISTA – South County's
high school board has scrapped a
$200-an-hour contract with its main
attorneys in favor of a $320,400-a-
year deal designed to rein in legal
spending that topped $1.1 million
in the year ending June 30.

The Sweetwater Union High School
District board renegotiated the
contract after The San Diego Union-
Tribune reported in July that the
district's legal bills rose by 77
percent in one year. Burke,
Williams and Sorensen, the
district's main law firm, billed the
district $840,279 for the year that
ended June 30.

The district used several other
firms on a smaller scale, which
accounted for $300,000 more in
legal costs.

“We look forward to our costs going
down this year,” said board
President Greg Sandoval. However,
he said, “In the end it depends on
what legal issues come up during
the course of the year.”

The board voted 4-0 Monday night,
with trustee Pearl Quiñones
absent, to approve the new
contract. It caps normal legal
services, but does not cover what
the agreement calls “extraordinary”
matters, such as lawsuits and
hearings, labor negotiations and
investigations of district employees.

There were at least two such
investigations last year.

One targeted an employee
suspected of conspiring with a
contractor to overcharge the district
for paving. Another was of a
principal who resigned amid
allegations that she stole from her
middle school, including a
treadmill so large she built a room
around it in her home.

Last year, the district also
assumed the costs of defending
and settling a lawsuit filed by a
former principal who contended
she was demoted for filing a sexual
harassment complaint. Yet more
legal bills mounted because of
construction-defect lawsuits as the
district nears completion of a
building program of more than
$300 million.

Under the old contract, the district's
main attorney, Bonifacio Garcia,
had been billing the district for drive
time and mileage from his Los
Angeles office.

The district was being charged
more than $1,100 per visit before
Garcia ever set foot in the district's
Fifth Avenue headquarters in Chula
Vista. He routinely attends board
meetings, though some other
sizable local districts have an
attorney present at board meetings
only when a legal issue is
identified ahead of time.

Sweetwater relied on Garcia for its
recently completed 14-month
search for a superintendent, much
more than other districts have used
attorneys in recent searches. In
fact, the district was billed for nine
hours of Garcia's time on a day the
board met with a former elementary
school superintendent who was
never officially a candidate for the
Sweetwater job.

The new contract is with Garcia
Calderon Ruiz, which Garcia
formed with attorneys he took with
him from Burke, Williams and

Attorney Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia
Rosemead puts cap on legal
Move comes after city billed
$100,000 in 3 months
San Gabriel Valley Tribune,
September 4, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

...In Arvin, Garcia was fired
because of his high bills, city
officials said. Garcia's firm
represented the planning
commission from November to

"The city did a financial review
of their legal expenses, and
based on that decided to let
the legal firm Garcia, Calderon
and Ruiz go," Christensen

Arvin's financial records show
that for eight months of legal
work to oversee the planning
commission, Garcia's firm
charged nearly $50,000. Half of
those charges came from two
months alone.

The flat fee charged by Arvin's
previous firm in 2005 was
$105,000 for city attorney and
planning commission
representation. That included
attendance at two council
meetings per month. Garcia's
contract required the attendance
of one planning commission
meeting a month.

Arvin city officials said they are
also asking for a refund for
work performed by attorney
Eva Plaza, who charged a
partner and associate rate of
$225 per hour. She was not
admitted to the California State
Bar until July...

The Kern County grand jury
alleges the Wasco City Council
violated the state's open
meeting law by deciding in
secret to fire the city attorney
and replace the firm with
Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz.

The report states that since
Garcia was hired, "the city is
incurring substantial
increases in the cost of having
a city attorney. It is estimated
that this will cost four to five
times more than the previous
city attorney."

Garcia denied the grand jury's
allegations. On behalf of the
city, Garcia responded, "The
grand jury's mistaken legal
conclusions could have been
avoided with a reasonable
amount of legal research and
factual investigation."

According to Wasco's finance
records, Garcia's firm billed
the city $148,024 for six
months worth of work. In
comparison, the previous law
firm billed the city $34,178 for
the previous six months of

"He is not overcharging the
city. Some people say that his
contract rate is too high, but he
is charging the city what the
contract rate is," said Wasco
City Manager Ron Mittag...

Wasco Councilman Tilo Cortez
said he thinks Garcia is
"screwing the city."

"Bonny says you get what you
pay for," Cortez said. "But I don't
see what we are getting for the
extra money that we are paying

As a customer of Otay Water District, one of the most corrupt public entities in
San Diego, I am still paying for the huge bills that Bonny Garcia charged for work
done BEFORE the Otay Water District authorized him to do the work.  
The Otay Water District indemnified Garcia for his actions, so when a customer
sued Garcia, I also had to pay
Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz to defend him.
Rosemead's city attorney already
$43,000 over his budget
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city attorney is
over his legal budget by $43,000,
with six months remaining in the
billing cycle, records show.

Rosemead City Attorney Bonifacio
Garcia of Garcia, Calderon and
Ruiz has charged the city
$205,000 since July, the start of
the fiscal year. The legal budget
for the firm's services in 2007-08
is nearly $162,000.

Garcia did not return calls.

"That is outrageous," said
Councilwoman Margaret Clark. "If
we are overbudget, we are going
to dip into our reserves. This is
the wrong time to be
overspending on anything."

The City Council on Tuesday will
discuss Garcia's billing practices.
This is after some council
members last month questioned
why he had not submitted four
months' worth of bills.

Since Garcia was hired nearly one
year ago on the recommendation of
Councilman John Nunez, the
council has adjusted its policies
and taken steps to lower the city
attorney's bills, which reached as
much as $58,000 in November.

"I find that (Garcia) gives us great
and sound advice, but in terms of
cost, obviously I am very concerned
about the bills," said Mayor John
Tran. "I've asked staff to closely
monitor the bills."

Since Garcia was hired a year ago,
he has charged $323,785 for his

"There was one month where a bill
was $56,000," said Rosemead City
Manager Oliver Chi. "That type of
situation can't happen anymore."

The bills prompted the city to place
a $30,000 cap effective September
2007. The cap does does not
include "extraordinary
circumstances" such as litigation,
court proceedings or investigations.

Garcia's $205,000 in fees since
July include work on a pending
personnel lawsuit against the city,
and a city legal dispute against
Councilman Gary Taylor that was
referred to the grand jury.

"During the last few months," Chi
said, "we have taken on
extraordinary circumstances, and
there is an additional cost for those

Legal costs vary among San
Gabriel Valley cities.

In Baldwin Park, home to more
than 80,000 residents, city attorney
fees range between $10,000 and
$20,000 a month. Invoices show
the city spent about $17,000 in
November, $17,000 in October and
$12,000 in December for work
performed by former City Attorney
Stephanie Scher.

In South El Monte, which has
21,400 residents, city attorney fees
averaged $31,000 a month last
year, records show.

In Rosemead, a city of nearly
53,000, Garcia's bills average
$36,300 a month.

Officials said they expect to present
the council with a balanced budget,
but legal costs could be an

"At some point, if we exceed the
appropriated amount, a budget
amendment has to be executed,"
Chi said. "This is one of these
areas where we will have to bring
back some sort of budget
amendment to be able to continue
to pay for this service."

Pasadena Star News, April 4, 2008


As city's legal fees rise,
confusion persists
By Jennifer McLain, Staff

ROSEMEAD - The decision to hire
two law firms for municipal work
is proving costly and confusing,
city officials said.

The law firm Garcia, Calderon and
Ruiz was hired in April to take over
as the city's and redevelopment
agency's attorney. But half of the
firm's work was taken away in
September when Burke, Williams
and Sorensen was hired to
represent the redevelopment

City officials said the move would
help reduce attorney's fees. But
since then, attorney's bills are
higher than in past years, and
officials can't agree on how to divvy
up the responsibilities.

"As of today, there still needs to be
more clarification," Mayor John Tran

Confusion remains on whether
Garcia's firm will be representing
the Planning Commission or if that
duty should be passed on to Burke,
Williams and Sorensen. The City
Council on Tuesday requested to
review both firms' contracts and to
discuss it at a future meeting.

The Planning Commission
handles issues related to land use,
and Burke, Williams and Sorensen
was hired to represent the city on
those matters. But Garcia's firm is
still representing the commission.

Councilwoman Margaret Clark is
concerned the city is being
overcharged by Garcia's firm.

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia has
charged the city nearly $164,000 for
five months of work, including an
August bill for $17,622, and a May
bill for $56,440.

Burke, Williams and Sorensen
charged $5,612 for the month of

"I've been disappointed in the
billing and the performance," Clark
said referring to Garcia's firm.

In the meantime, the city is also
paying its former law firm, Wallin,
Cress, Reisman and Kranitz, for
several cases it is handling. During
six months, the firm has charged
nearly $30,000, including $1,862 a
month for health insurance...

Garcia's high bills prompted the city
to place a cap on his contract,
limiting him to $30,000 a month...

Pasadena Star News,
November 26, 2007
School board names new law firm
By Sara Suddes

GILROY -- Trustees awarded the
school district's educational legal
services to the firm of Garcia Calderon
Ruiz, LLP of San Diego, at the Dec. 6
school board meeting.

After interviewing five firms, out of an
original pool of nine, trustees
narrowed the candidates down to two
firms, Lozano Smith and Garcia
Calderon Ruiz. Trustees Jaime Rosso
and Denise Apuzzo conducted
reference checks for both firms.

They presented the information they
collected at the Dec. 6 board meeting
and the
seven trustees unanimously
selected Garcia Calderon Ruiz.

Rosso contacted the chancellor for the
San Jose Evergreen Community
College District, Rosa Perez, as a
reference for Garcia Calderon Ruiz.
Perez rated them highly and gave
them a five out of five rating on
proficiency in special education

However, Apuzzo pointed to the Garcia
Calderon Ruiz's "massive overbilling
in the Sweetwater case" as a major
concern. As the general counsel for
the Sweetwater Union High School
District in Chula Vista, Garcia
Calderon Ruiz charged the district
more than $1 million in legal fees in
one year.

The district reported that it spent 77
percent more on legal fees to the firm
than in the past fiscal year.

The San Diego Union-Tribune
reported in July 2006 that the
newspaper received invoices
documenting the district's legal bills,
but the description of the services
rendered were redacted by order of the
district's general counsel, Garcia
Calderon Ruiz, and that no details
were offered by the firm.

Apuzzo expressed her alarm for the
"outrageous costs" the firm charged
the Sweetwater district. On the other
hand, her review of Lozano Smith's
references turned up no billing issues.

The firm has served the Morgan Hill
Unified School District for 16 years.

"Lozano Smith is a whole lot cheaper,
comparing apples to apples," Trustee
Tom Bundros said. "I'm leaning
strongly toward Lozano Smith."

[Maura's note: Going to
Lozano Smith would be
leaping from the frying pan
into the fire.  I suggest
hiring lawyers who have
represented students and
employees.  They'll give
better advice, and be less
likely to ignore the public

Superintendent Deborah Flores will
negotiate a contract with Garcia
Calderon Ruiz.

Gilroy Dispatch, December 13, 2007
Garcia Calderon & Ruiz, LLP
Contact Information. Phone:
213-347-0210. Fax: 213-347-0216.
March 2, 2002

Council decides on law firm
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - The city hired a new redevelopment attorney on
Tuesday, replacing the lawyer it hired four months ago to fill the

Law firm Burke, Williams and Sorensen, which began its public
law career in Montebello in 1938, beat out four other firms vying to
represent the city's redevelopment agency...

Bonifacio Garcia, a former attorney for Burke, Williams and
Sorensen, was hired in April to represent the city and its
redevelopment agency. He remains as the city attorney...

The unanimous approval on Tuesday for Burke, Williams and
Sorensen came after a failed motion by Mayor John Tran and
Nunez to hire Alvarez-Glasman and Colvin...

Alvarez-Glasman pulled papers Aug. 3 to run for city treasurer, but
later said he decided not to run after discussing it with his family...

Alvarez-Glasman, a former Montebello City Councilman, has also
served as city attorney for Baldwin Park, Montebello, South El
Monte and La Puente. However, his contract was not renewed
with these cities after new council majorities came aboard...

Among the firms, Alvarez-Glasman was the only one to give
campaign contributions to existing council members, according to
campaign finance records: $1,000 to Tran in 2004, and $1,000 to
Councilwoman Polly Low in 2007...

Tran, who just before voting for Alvarez-Glasman, added, "$1,000
does not buy my vote, Maggie."

[Maura's comment: Talk is cheap, Mr. Tran.]

Pasadena Star News, August 15, 2007
2. Montebello
Information on Selected
California Public Agencies

Records do the
Whittier Daily
News, April 14,

Big changes have come to
Montebello's city
government, and they're
coming at a lightning pace.
But do they signal
improvement, or are they
evidence for concern?

Recently, the City Council
has fired Community
Development Director
Ruben Lopez, fire Chief Jim
Cox, City Attorney Marco
Lopez and, just last month,
City Administrator Richard

After serving 18 years,
Torres wasn't dismissed for
cause, so the council's
impatience for "fresh blood"
and a "different direction" will
cost the city an estimated

But of equal interest are the
City Council's new hires -
Arnoldo Beltran as city
attorney and Randy
Narramore, Huntington
Park's former police chief,
as interim city administrator.

We've seen this type of rapid
overhaul before. It often
begins with the marriage of
elected officials to a
politically powerful attorney.

For example, South Gate's
suffering began with a
change in its City Council,
which produced a new
three-vote majority that
ceded power to city treasurer
Albert Robles.

Allied with city attorney
Salvador Alva, Robles
brought in a new city
manager, with no
experience, and a new
police chief. After plundering
$20 million from city coffers,
Robles was sentenced to 10
years in federal prison.

Similarly, Huntington Park
Mayor Edward Escareno
hired Francisco Leal as city
attorney. Later, Escareno
was charged with
misappropriation of public
funds and convicted of felony
grand theft.

In Lynwood, longtime mayor
Paul Richards was
sentenced to 16 years in
prison for municipal
corruption, while Beltran, his
city attorney, continues in

Bell Gardens
Councilwoman Maria
Chacon also partnered with
Beltran, creating an
ordinance that allowed
Chacon to become city

After the DA charged Chacon
with criminal conflict of
interest for her vote
approving the ordinance, her
unsuccessful defense was
that Beltran advised her she

These incidents weren't
entirely unexpected.

Back in 1999, a Los Angeles
Times story included
allegations that Beltran and
Leal had threatened to
launch recall campaigns
against councilmembers in
Lynwood, Commerce and
Bell Gardens, if they refused
to award city attorney
contracts to their law firm.

L.A. Weekly reported that
Jesse Jauregui, former
partner of Beltran and Leal,
said of his former
colleagues, "I'm glad to no
longer be a part of Tammany
Hall-style politics," a
reference to Boss Tweed's
infamous New York political

So, just what was in the
minds of Montebello
councilmembers when they
voted to employ Beltran as
city attorney and Escareno's
police chief as interim city

Whatever the answer, it's
hard to gain comfort from
reports that Councilwoman
Rosie Vasquez was not
concerned about Beltran's
qualifications or that Mayor
Norma Lopez-Reid had
been "very impressed" by
Narramore, a subject in
several well-publicized
discrimination lawsuits filed
against the Huntington Park
police department by
minority officers.

If nothing else, it's certainly a
time for the people of
Montebello to remain

Richard P. McKee is
past-president of
Californians Aware and a La
Verne resident.

City attorney fees still high
Rosemead looking to trim
spiraling costs

Pasadena Star News,
September 22, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff

ROSEMEAD - City attorney
fees remain high despite
shifts in billing practices and
the hiring of a new lawyer.

Bonifacio Garcia of Garcia,
Calderon and Ruiz was
hired in April to represent
Rosemead and its
redevelopment agency. In
four months, he has
charged the city nearly
$137,000. This includes an
invoice dated Sept. 3 for
$37,286, and a $52,677 bill
for work done in May.

Rosemead has budgeted
legal fees at $265,000 for
the 2007-08 fiscal year. If
Garcia's billing trend
continues, fees could cost
the city as much as
$500,000 for one year,
starting from the attorney's
hiring date.

Garcia did not return phone
calls for comment.

In part because of the high
fees, the City Council
decided to cap Garcia's
monthly bill at $30,000, and
as of Sept. 1, a new law firm
was taking over duties for
the redevelopment agency.

But city officials now can't
seem to agree just where
Garcia's responsibilities end.

City Manager Oliver Chi said
Burke, Williams and
Sorensen was hired last
month, replacing Garcia, to
represent the city on all land
use, housing and
redevelopment issues.

"The planning commission
handles land-use related
issues," Chi said.

But Garcia's firm has
continued to provide legal
advice at the planning
commission meetings. His
contract required that he
attend all planning
commission meetings. In a
revised contract, effective
Sept. 1, that was redacted.

Mayor John Tran and
Councilman John Nunez
said they intend for Garcia to
remain as attorney of the
planning commission.

"As far as I understand, he
will continue to represent the
planning commission,"
Nunez said. "The
redevelopment agency is
separate from the planning

Joe Montes, an attorney from
Burke, Williams and
Sorensen, will soon be
representing the city's
planning commission
meetings, Chi said.

Montes did not return calls.

"We are in the process of
transferring all of the
planning commission
related items to Joe
Montes," Chi said...

Councilwoman Margaret
Clark said she thinks Garcia
is milking the city's coffers. "I
would like Burke, Williams
and Sorensen to take over
all of the attorney
representation for the city,"
Clark said. Now, "we would
be paying double for some
of the same research on the
same issues."

A May billing statement
shows that Garcia charged
$7,478 for preparation and
attendance of two planning
commission meetings.

Clark believes that Garcia is
being "nitpicky" with his legal

"Where is all the money
going?" Clark said.

Nunez attributes the fees to
changes in City Hall.

"There's a lot going on in the
city," Nunez said. "I think the
costs are justified because
he is doing a lot of work that
is over and above in the last
couple of months."
Huge legal fees dog
Cities fired Garcia over
bill excesses
Pasadena Star News,
September 4, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

Concerns about legal fees trail
Rosemead's city attorney,
Bonifacio Garcia.

Officials at several cities have
complained about high bills,
questionable charges and lack of city
attorney experience.

Garcia's firm, Garcia, Calderon and
Ruiz, represents Rosemead,
Wasco, Garvey School District and
served Arvin's planning
commission until the city fired the
attorneys in July...

Garcia is relatively new to the city
attorney's business. He spent the
past 11 years representing Garvey
School District. In his 26 years as a
lawyer, his first city attorney job was
in January for the city of Wasco,
which is near Bakersfield.

Garcia's lack of experience was the
cause for an increase in costs in
Arvin, Wasco and Rosemead,
officials said...

In Rosemead, a May bill for $55,000
prompted the City Council on
Tuesday to place a $30,000 cap on
Garcia's contract.

Garcia charged the city $100,000 the
past three months. That is nearly the
total charged for a year's worth of
work by
the previous law firm, Wallin, Kress,
Reisman and Kranitz, according to
city records.

From 2000 to 2007, annual charges
from Wallin, Kress, Reisman and
Kranitz ranged from $137,583 to
$179,219, according to the city's
finance records.

Rosemead City Council members
Gary Taylor and Margaret Clark said
Garcia performed work that should
be done by staff and that is another
reason why his bills were so high.

Garcia was originally hired to
represent Rosemead's
redevelopment agency, city and
housing authority. Two weeks ago,
however, the council hired a
separate attorney to represent the
redevelopment agency and housing
authority. Now, Garcia only
represents the city.

Pasadena Star News, September 4,

Information on Selected California
Public Agencies

Cronyism continues
Attorney's bills prompt
San Gabriel Valley Tribune,
August 10, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff


The city attorney in May was
paid more than four times the
average monthly charge of the
previous attorney, the latest
billing records show.

Bonifacio Garcia charged
Rosemead $55,000, though
information on what the money
was spent for was redacted from
records. He declined to give an
itemized description of the
charges, citing "attorney-client

"I cannot go into detail," Garcia
said. "It was $55,000 worth of

The city attorney was hired in
April after longtime City Attorney
Peter Wallin and the firm Wallin,
Kress, Reisman and Kranitz quit.

According to the records,
Garcia's law firm worked 222
hours in May, and charged
between $210 and $225 per
hour. Garcia also gets a $5,000

The invoice issued for May is the
most recently paid. Invoices for
June and July are not yet

Garcia charged the city nearly
$16,000 in April.

During 2005-06, Wallin, Kress,
Reisman and Kranitz charged
$170,579, or $14,149 monthly,
for their work as redevelopment
agency and city attorney...

City officials said they were
surprised at the high charge for

"I'm shocked that it's such a
large amount," said
Councilwoman Margaret Clark. "I
plan to look into where the
money is going."

While Rosemead council
members have access to the
description of the 76 charges
listed, Garcia redacted the
information from the records the
city released...

"To not justify that cost to the
taxpayers is patronizing," said
Jim Ewert, general counsel for
the California Newspaper
Publishers Association...

"There may be specific
instances in the itemized
description where there may be
a greater public interest in
maintaining the confidentiality of
that information," Ewert said.
"But it is hard for me to believe
that every single item has that

Interim City Manager Oliver Chi
would only say that Garcia
blocked out this information
because it was privileged.

"There is detailed information
that the city is engaged with, and
(Garcia) wanted to redact certain
information so that nothing
confidential would be made
public," Chi said.

Monterey Park's deputy city
attorney, Adrian Guerra, said this
is not an unusual practice.

"Generally, that type of
information is protected under
the attorney-client privilege,"
Guerra said.

[Maura's comment: Don't
you mean to say that
public entity lawyers
frequently make this bogus
claim?  The public has a
right to know how it's
money is spent.]

City officials would not comment
on the redaction of the

Instead, it was the cost that
prompted Clark to request the
council to review Garcia's
performance at Tuesday's
council meeting...
City attorney fees still high
Rosemead looking to trim spiraling costs

Pasadena Star News, September 22, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD - City attorney fees remain high despite shifts in billing
practices and the hiring of a new lawyer.

Bonifacio Garcia of Garcia, Calderon and Ruiz was hired in April to
represent Rosemead and its redevelopment agency. In four
months, he has charged the city nearly $137,000. This includes an
invoice dated Sept. 3 for $37,286, and a $52,677 bill for work done
in May.

Rosemead has budgeted legal fees at $265,000 for the 2007-08
fiscal year. If Garcia's billing trend continues, fees could cost the city
as much as $500,000 for one year, starting from the attorney's
hiring date.

Garcia did not return phone calls for comment.

In part because of the high fees, the City Council decided to cap
Garcia's monthly bill at $30,000, and as of Sept. 1, a new law firm
was taking over duties for the redevelopment agency.

But city officials now can't seem to agree just where Garcia's
responsibilities end.

City Manager Oliver Chi said Burke, Williams and Sorensen was
hired last month, replacing Garcia, to represent the city on all land
use, housing and redevelopment issues.

"The planning commission handles land-use related issues," Chi

But Garcia's firm has continued to provide legal advice at the
planning commission meetings. His contract required that he
attend all planning commission meetings. In a revised contract,
effective Sept. 1, that was redacted.

Mayor John Tran and Councilman John Nunez said they intend for
Garcia to remain as attorney of the planning commission.

"As far as I understand, he will continue to represent the planning
commission," Nunez said. "The redevelopment agency is separate
from the planning commission."

Joe Montes, an attorney from Burke, Williams and Sorensen, will
soon be representing the city's planning commission meetings,
Chi said.

Montes did not return calls.

"We are in the process of transferring all of the planning
commission related items to Joe Montes," Chi said. "This should
be done by the next planning commission meeting."

Councilwoman Margaret Clark said she thinks Garcia is milking the
city's coffers. "I would like Burke, Williams and Sorensen to take
over all of the attorney representation for the city," Clark said. Now,
"we would be paying double for some of the same research on the
same issues."

A May billing statement shows that Garcia charged $7,478 for
preparation and attendance of two planning commission meetings.

Clark believes that Garcia is being "nitpicky" with his legal fees.

"Where is all the money going?" Clark said.

Nunez attributes the fees to changes in City Hall.

"There's a lot going on in the city," Nunez said. "I think the costs are
justified because he is doing a lot of work that is over and above in
the last couple of months."
Represented by Bonny Garcia:
Otay Water District's problems are
costing ratepayers

People entering Otay Water District board meetings on Sweetwater Springs
Road should be issued a program. You can't keep track of all the lawsuits
and grievances against the district without a program.

And at the meetings you won't hear about all the district's legal problems
involving employee practices. Those are only discussed in closed
sessions regarding litigation, which seem to be occurring before every
meeting these days.

Once upon a time, before the era of trouble-making board member Jaime
Bonilla, the district had little or no legal problems regarding employees. In
fact, the employees' association didn't even collect dues because it never
needed to pay for legal representation or anything else. Prior to Bonilla, the
association had never filed a grievance against district management.
Employees had a very good relationship with management.

Now, all that has changed. There are currently five separate lawsuits
against the district and a half-dozen grievances that may turn into lawsuits.
And the district is spending millions in ratepayers' money for outside legal
counsel -- Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP, of Los Angeles -- mostly for
representation on these lawsuits and grievances. Interestingly, it may have
been the advice of Otay's Los Angeles counsel that ultimately led to some
of the legal action. Otay's former insurer, which canceled the district's
liability contract, is forced to represent the district in some of the cases.

Here are thumbnails on some of the legal action against Otay:

-- Long-time Otay legal counselor Tom Harron was fired in 2001, shortly
after Bonilla took power, following secret meetings and phone
conversations among Burke, Williams & Sorensen attorneys and both
Bonilla and Otay General Manager Bob Griego. Those secret meetings
included talks about Harron's employment. After Harron's firing, Burke,
Williams & Sorensen took over as Otay's counsel. Harron is claiming racial
discrimination, defamation and wrongful termination.

-- Former auditor Reuben Rodriguez is suing for wrongful termination,
saying he was fired after he blew the whistle on illegal charges to the
district by Burke, Williams & Sorensen.

-- Five employees, including some with exemplary service records, have a
case that's before the Public Employee Relations Board and a federal court.
These employees allege they were fired without due process and because
they were involved in the employees association. Otay settled most of the
PERB case, providing $500,000 and stipulating that all five had been fired
improperly. A federal suit was filed for denial of due process and racial
discrimination. Two people swore under oath that Bonilla said he wanted to
fire one employee because she was African-American -- he allegedly used
a racial epithet -- and another because she was white. Burke, Williams &
Sorensen attorney Bonifacio Garcia denies all allegations against Bonilla.

-- A false claims lawsuit has been brought in state court by a ratepayer who
says Otay illegally paid Burke, Williams & Sorensen for legal services to
Bonilla, Griego and the water district before Bonilla was on the board and
before the board had voted to give the firm a contract. This lawsuit is not
against the district, but against Griego, Bonilla and Burke, Williams &
Sorensen attorneys. Garcia says he has retained counsel, but it's uncertain
who will be paying the bills. And who will be paying the legal bills of Bonilla
and Griego? Otay ratepayers should watch their wallets.

-- About a half dozen employee grievances against the district also have
been filed for wrongful termination, retaliation and other shoddy practices.
One recently became a lawsuit; others will follow. These employees allege
that intimidation, harassment and unfair treatment against anyone deemed
disloyal to Griego and Bonilla have become routine.

Recently, Otay Water District, through its outside public relations firm,
Marston & Marston (paid $10,000 a month), has been telling everybody that
Otay's problems are all in the past. They're not. The district's worst
problems are in the future, when the bills will come due for all the
shenanigans that have been pulled by Bonilla and company since the 2000
election. Ratepayers will be paying for this mischief for years to come.

San Diego Union-Tribune, May 3, 2003

Will somebody investigate shenanigans
at Otay Water District?
It's too early to know whether six former Otay Water District employees were
fired due to discrimination, as they allege in a recent federal lawsuit. They
say they were let go and replaced by Hispanic men who were associates or
former employees of Otay board member Jaime Bonilla.

Bonilla is a wealthy radio station owner who, during the 1980s, was the
protege of Baja Gov. Xico Leyva, who was ousted from office for extreme
corruption. Bonilla bought his way onto the Otay board in 2000 by spending
nearly $90,000 on his campaign in a district where candidates usually
spent one-tenth that amount. Today, he remains the power behind the
board and district management.

A judge and jury -- or a settlement -- will decide the validity of the
discrimination claims. But the favoritism and shady hiring practices of the
Otay Water District since Bonilla's election don't require a legal hearing to
uncover. They do, however, require more ink and paper than are available
here, so we'll mention just a few of them.

Shortly after he won in 2000, Bonilla began bringing in cronies, including
Leopoldo Valencia. Valencia was once the general manager of the Tijuana
Potros of the Mexican Pacific League, a baseball team owned by Bonilla. In
1988, Bonilla and Valencia were banned from the league for life.
Newspaper reports said the charges against them were for fixing games
and for paying players in excess of the league's salary cap.

Mateo Camarillo, a former business partner of Bonilla's, was brought in for
a short time as acting general manager of the water district. A board
majority led by Bonilla fired Otay attorney Tom Harron, who was replaced by
Bonafacio Garcia, who had done legal work for Bonilla, including, according
to documents obtained in an employee lawsuit, providing legal advice on
how to fire Harron, cancel department heads' contracts and lay off

Garcia, as an outside counsel on retainer, has charged the district nearly
$2 million in fees since he began working for Otay. No other water district
has incurred legal bills anywhere near that amount.

Bonilla isn't the only person guilty of favoritism at Otay. General Manager
Bob Griego, who is supported by the Bonilla majority on the board, is the
person who actually hired Garcia. Garcia also is the counsel for the
Sweetwater Union High School District, where Griego is a board member.

Griego just hired Manny Magana as Otay's chief of engineering and water
operations. The two worked together for the city of Whittier during the 1980s.
Griego also was a partner in a metal fabrication company with his top
lieutenant at Otay, German Alvarez, and Griego gave Alvarez a generous
raise and even a car in his job at Otay. After the outside business
partnership was revealed, Griego said he and Alvarez would divest
themselves of their interests in the company. Griego also has brought in
Bill Jenkins to Otay, first as a consultant and now as a permanent
employee. Jenkins helped Griego to set up a Web site for Griego's failed
attempt to run for the Chula Vista City Council last year.

There are many other serious problems at this water district, but you get the
general idea. Currently, the Local Agency Formation Commission, a state
agency, is conducting a review of Otay Water District practices. We hope the
LAFCO review will turn up enough questions to interest the county Grand
Jury or District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The beat goes on at this
out-of-the-way corner of local government. We wish somebody would take

San Diego Union-Tribune, March 19, 2003 is is an
Legal costs leaking funds from
Otay Water District;
But officials say troubles are over
by Anne Krueger, Staff Writer
From Bonny Garcia's website:
"Bonifacio Bonny Garcia is a founding partner of the Firm.  He received his Juris Doctor
degree from the Harvard Law School in 1981, and his B.A. magna cum laude, from Loyola
Marymount University in 1978...
Mr. Garcia is an expert on the Brown Act, municipal
California conflicts of interests and ethics laws binding on elected officials,
litigation and labor and employment matters.  Mr. Garcia has particular expertise counseling
governments on strategic planning issues. His...reported cases include Hopper v. Los Angeles
Unified School District, 91 F.3d 1261 (1996)."
Conflict of interest
in school deal?
By Jennifer Mclain

ROSEMEAD — A deal that appears
to benefit the community,
Garvey School
District and East
Los Angeles College

also raises questions about the
involvement of the mayor and city

The city on Tuesday granted
permission to the Garvey School
District to use Dan T. Williams
Elementary School as a satellite
campus for ELAC.

The deal came after years of
negotiating, said Garvey school
board member Bob Bruesch.

It will help Garvey supplement a
$512,000 budget shortfall and
satisfies ELAC's demand for more

But questions surfaced over the city's
and school district's legal
representation as well as to a
possible $20,000 that Rosemead
Mayor John Tran will make from the

Tran, who served on the Garvey
School Board until he left in 2005 to
take a seat on the City Council, is a
Realtor and served as negotiator
between Garvey and ELAC.

"There is nothing wrong with a
former trustee acting as a
negotiator," said Bob Stern,
president of the Center for
Governmental Studies, a watchdog
group. "But an attorney can't
represent two clients on the same
issue. He would have to disqualify

City Attorney Bonifacio Garcia's firm,
which represents the Garvey School
District, was expected to provide
legal counsel for the city's planning
commission meeting. But shortly
before the meeting, City Manager
Oliver Chi said he called another
attorney to represent the city on that
particular issue. Garcia's firm dealt
with the rest of the agenda.

Joe Montes of Burke, Williams and
Sorensen was hired last month to
take Garcia's place as the city's
redevelopment agency lawyer and to
be the counsel to the planning
commission. However, Montes was
not scheduled to start his new
position for another two weeks, Chi

The potential for conflict of interest
could have been there, interim
Redevelopment Director Brian Saeki
said, but it was avoided by having
Montes serve as counsel instead of
Garcia's firm.

George Yin, the attorney from Garcia,
Calderon and Ruiz, recused himself
from the agenda item.

"George Yin made a statement that
he has never worked on the project
and never provided any opinions on
the subject to the (city)staff," Saeki
said. "But he did recuse himself, and
Joe Montes stepped in and oversaw
the proceedings."

Bruesch said the only thing Garcia's
firm has done for Garvey in the land
deal is, "helping us with dotting all of
our 'I's' and crossing all our our 'T's'."

When Garcia was hired in April,
council members questioned
whether it was a conflict of interest
for him to serve as counsel to Garvey
School District and the city.

The day that Garcia was hired,
Councilwoman Polly Low asked him:
"Is there a conflict of interest for you
to represent the city of Rosemead as
well as the Garvey School District?"

Garcia said there wasn't, and in the
event that there was an overlapping
issue, "we would step back and ....
advise that you bring other counsel
to handle your relationship with the
school district."

Residents also raised conflict-of-
interest questions about the mayor's
connection to the lease deal.

Steven Ly, president of a community
group, Rosemead Partners, said
that he sent out a letter to several
hundred neighbors informing them
of the possible change in use to
Williams School. He also noted
Tran's involvement.

"We view what is going on as a
conflict of interest," Ly said. "(Tran)
will be profiting a large commission."

Tran, who will receive up to 4 percent
of the $500,000 deal, said that he
has been upfront with staff and
council members.

"This is another erroneous attempt
to mislead and deceive the public
once again," Tran said of Rosemead
Partners, formerly known as
Rosemead Guardians. "The
Rosemead Guardians should be
ashamed of themselves."

He also said that he plans on
recusing himself from the council
meeting if this comes.

Stern said as long as Tran doesn't
participate in the vote and doesn't tell
his colleagues how to vote, he is
within the law.

"I told everybody not to mention ELAC
in front of me," Tran said. "If it gets
approved, I will recuse myself."

Though the mayor said the district
contacted him, Bruesch said that
Tran approached the district.

"He is a Realtor, and before he went
into politics, that is what he did,"
Bruesch said. "When he said he
would negotiate the lease for us it
seemed logical because he knew
both parties and could work through
the issues."

San Gabriel Valley Tribune,
September 9, 2007
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City Governments
Otay Water

SPRING VALLEY -- With legal
expenses of more than $500,000
this year, the Otay Water District is
still spending a lot more for lawyers
than other water districts in the

But Otay officials say that much of
their legal bills now are for items
that a water district should be paying
for: dealing with contracts, advising
the board or settling with a
homeowner when a pipe breaks.

Otay General Manager Mark Watton
said the legal budget was a marked
improvement from what he called
"the dark days" when the district was
filled with dissension and legal
problems. Those issues culminated
in 2004, when the district spent $2.2
million in legal bills.

Otay officials say they're now able to
focus on providing water to about
48,000 customers in a rapidly
growing section of southeastern
San Diego County, instead of
worrying about infighting among
board members and lawsuits from
fired employees.

The water district serves southern El
Cajon, Rancho San Diego, Jamul,
Spring Valley, Bonita, eastern Chula
Vista, Eastlake and Otay Mesa...

At their meeting this week, board
members agreed to a yearlong
contract with the law firm of Garcia
Calderon Ruiz, which includes a
retainer of $262,500.

Yuri Calderon and Aerobel
Banuelos, the district's attorneys,
had been with the law firm of Burke
Williams & Sorensen, which has
represented the district since 2001.
Burke Williams is closing its San
Diego office, and Calderon and
Banuelos, along with 13 other
attorneys, are forming a new firm.

The law firm had been closely
involved with some of the
controversies the water district
faced. Ruben Rodriguez, the
district's former auditor, claimed in a
lawsuit that he was fired in July 2001
after he was told to investigate
questionable hirings and massive
legal bills. A Superior Court jury
decided in favor of the water district.

Tom Harron filed suit in 2001 after
he was fired as the district's attorney
and replaced with the Burke
Williams firm. Harron's lawsuit is
still pending.

Another pending lawsuit was filed by
six employees who said they were
fired in early 2001 because of a
scheme to have them replaced by
Latinos. The suit was filed in San
Diego County Superior Court after it
was dismissed in federal court.

The district also incurred legal
expenses to obtain a restraining
order in May 2002 against
then-board member Tony Inocentes,
prohibiting him from harassing two
other board members, then-general
manager Bob Griego and others.

The legal troubles caused Otay's
attorney fees to swell to $1.3 million
in fiscal 2002, more than $1 million
in 2003, and $2.2 million in 2004.

Watton said legal bills were starting
to go down. The district spent about
$852,000 in 2005 and $577,000 this
fiscal year.

He said actual legal expenses were
lower because the district had
recovered or expected to be
reimbursed by its insurance
company for some legal expenses.
The district also received a
settlement of almost $1 million
when it successfully sued its first
attorney in the Rodriguez civil suit,
claiming he wasn't prepared for trial.

In contrast, other water districts of
comparable size pay much less for
their annual legal expenses. The
Helix Water District, with more than
54,000 customers, paid about
$266,000 for legal expenses last
year, and $207,000 the year before,
General Manager Mark Weston said.

The Padre Dam Municipal Water
District, with more than 23,800
customers, paid about $157,000 in
legal bills last year, and $212,000
the year before.

Watton said Otay's legal bills were
high in part because the district was
growing so quickly. The number of
customers is predicted to nearly
double within the next 15 years, he
said, to about 80,000 a year.

Otay Water
District's legal
costs by fiscal year
(July to June):

2002 $1,348,480

2003 $1,026,061

2004 $2,215,608

2005 $852,284

2006 $577,691

San Diego Union-Tribune, August 6,

All is not well at
Otay Water District

Board members of the Otay Water
District claim a recent state study
shows that all its problems are in
the past, or, at least, can be blamed
on board members who have since

But that's simply not true. The district
continues to incur millions of dollars
in legal expenses, and will pay even
more attorney bills in the future, due
to ongoing managerial problems.
And one board member who has
been the focus of some of those
problems, and therefore some of the
lawsuits, is still on the board today --
Jaime Bonilla.

The study by the state Local Agency
Formation Commission noted that
the water district has undergone
serious management problems, but
that water service to customers has
not been affected. The report noted
that Otay has experienced the
highest employee turnover rates and
legal expenses of any water agency
in southern San Diego County. It
recommends that the district
improve its personnel practices,
seeking outside professional help to
create a better atmosphere between
management and employees. The
report also urges that Otay require
training for its board and
management in the state's open
meeting law. The commission found
that some of the complaints about
the board and management are
outside of its purview, and so they
have been referred to the county
grand jury, district attorney and state
Fair Political Practices Commission.

Otay's continuing legal bills show
that much is still amiss. The LAFCO
report quotes Otay officials as
claiming that a spike in legal costs
was due to past problems, and that
legal costs should diminish now
that those problems are in the
past. Those statements were
recorded no later than early 2003,
and probably in 2002.

However, a check register from the
Otay Water District last fall shows
nearly $1 million in fees paid for
legal services in a 50-day period.

For a small water district with a $36
million budget, such legal bills are
extreme and eventually will hurt
customer service if they continue.

And the district's biggest legal
challenges still lie ahead. Long-time
Otay legal counselor Tom Harron,
now chief deputy county counsel,
has a pending lawsuit against Otay
and board member Jaime Bonilla
claiming racial discrimination,
defamation and wrongful
termination. In a federal lawsuit, six
other former employees allege
discrimination, wrongful termination
and retaliation for labor activities.
That federal suit also names Bonilla
as a defendant. There's another
discrimination lawsuit pending by an
ex-employee and yet another one
waiting to be filed.

Otay's claim that all its problems are
in the past is belied by these
lawsuits and by the fact that Bonilla,
who is named in several suits,
remains a powerful board member.
The water district is not only paying
legal fees for itself, but also for
Bonilla and other district officials
named in suits. The result will be
mounting bills for years to come. If
judgments go against the district,
those will have to be paid, too.

The LAFCO study did not harshly
criticize the Otay Water District,
because the study was a service
review, and Otay's water service has
not been seriously affected by its
management or legal problems --
yet. But the Otay Water District is a
public agency and therefore must be
held to higher scrutiny than whether
the water flows. We hope the grand
jury, district attorney and Fair
Political Practices Commission will
also take a hard look at this troubled
public agency.

San Diego Union-Tribune, January
22, 2004

Otay Water District's
legal advice keeps
getting more

In yet another example of the Otay
Water District's irresponsibility
toward ratepayers, board members
have agreed to pay the legal costs
for defending their own outside
attorneys in a ratepayer's lawsuit
against the district.

Got that? Otay board members are
paying for attorneys to defend their
attorneys. They have no choice. At a
November 2001 meeting, in a move
that legal experts say was highly
unusual for a public agency, board
members voted to give the Los
Angeles law firm of Burke, Williams
& Sorensen blanket indemnity from
any legal action brought by anybody
against the firm for its advice or its
actions on behalf of the district.

Usually, when an outside law firm
represents a public agency, either
the firm indemnifies the agency
against bad legal advice or both
sides agree that each will be held
harmless. But not at Otay.

Among a half dozen legal actions
and complaints pending against the
district is a false-claims lawsuit
against board member Jaime
Bonilla, General Manager Bob
Griego, the firm of Burke, Williams &
Sorensen, and two Burke attorneys,
Bonifacio Garcia and Roberta
Sistos. The claim alleges Bonilla
directed Garcia and Sistos to
perform legal services for the Otay
Water District in December 2000,
months before the water district
board had hired the law firm. In fact,
Bonilla himself hadn't even been
sworn in as a board member when
he ordered the legal services to be

Nonetheless, the law firm submitted
bills for more than $32,000 for the
months before it had been hired,
and Griego and the board, led by
Bonilla, paid the bills in March 2001.

The false-claims lawsuit says that
money should be repaid to the water
district, plus damages and civil

Garcia and Sistos are closely
linked to Bonilla. On the first
meeting after Bonilla was sworn in,
he helped engineer the firing of the
water district's in-house counsel.
Burke, Williams & Sorensen was
retained shortly thereafter. The
district has paid the law firm over
$1 million and perhaps as much as
$2 million over the past 2 1/2 years.
Now, the water district board is
paying other legal counsel to
represent the law firm and board
members for actions taken by the
district on advice from Burke,
Williams & Sorensen.

Legal experts say the
indemnity given to
Burke, Williams &
Sorensen by the Otay
Water District is far
from normal procedure
for public agencies.
Most lawyers would
not ask to be released
from liability for
advice rendered to a
client. And why would
any client, especially
a public agency
supported entirely by
ratepayer dollars,
agree to such a deal?
What kind of legal
advice is Otay
receiving if its
attorneys won't stand
behind that advice
without indemnity?

Garcia says the
indemnity clause is
perfectly legal and
within the rules of
professional conduct.
He has a letter from
Escondido attorney
Ellen Peck, dated
yesterday, saying as

But Burke, Williams &
Sorensen does not
have the same
indemnity clause with
its other major South
Bay client, the
Sweetwater Union
High School District.
Attorney Dan Shinoff,
who is now
representing Otay in
the false-claims
lawsuit, said he has
seen such indemnity
clauses before. But
when asked if he had
such indemnity from
the district for his
legal work, his answer
was no.

The indemnity clause could
become very costly to Otay
ratepayers. The turmoil at the
district already has produced a lot
of legal action, and more may be
forthcoming. If Otay's pricey
outside attorneys are responsible
for giving legal advice that results
in harm to the district, ratepayers
will foot the bill. It's just more bad
news from the Otay Water District.

San Diego Union-Tribune, June 19,
Rosemead council delays
decision on law firm

San Gabriel Valley Tribune,
July 19, 2007
By Jennifer McLain, Staff Writer

...Despite Rosemead Mayor John
Tran and Councilman John Nunez
saying they were prepared to
approve an attorney on Tuesday,
the council voted 3-2 to interview
the five law firms vying for the post...

With one of the five firms
represented at the meeting -
partner Arnold Alvarez-Glasman -
Tran and Nunez voted against
interviewing all of the firms.

"I'm ready to choose one," Tran
said at Tuesday's meeting, with
Nunez echoing his comments.

...The search comes three months
after the city hired Bonifacio
"Bonny" Garcia as city attorney to
represent Rosemead and its
redevelopment agency.

Garcia was brought on as lead
attorney on the suggestion of
Nunez. The council did not accept
any other bids for the position.

The council's decision in April
drew some criticism from the
community. Residents questioned
Garcia's billing practices and why
the council didn't put the contract
out to bid...

According to Garcia's resume, he
"is an expert on the (Ralph M.)
Brown Act, municipal governance,
California conflict of interests and
ethics laws binding on elected
officials, litigation and labor and
employment matters."

...The resume does not make
reference to redevelopment work.

Nunez recommended last month
that the council hire a separate
attorney to represent the
redevelopment agency to avoid
conflict of interest concerns, and
stated it did not reflect his opinion
of Garcia's work at the city.

"I didn't think it is appropriate to
have the same law firm handle
development and be the city
attorney," Nunez said previously...

Garcia's contract calls for a $5,000
monthly retainer for the attendance
of two regular city council and
planning commission meetings
per month. For the redevelopment
agency, there is no retainer...
Water District
City reviewing law firm
Frank C. Girardot, Staff Writer
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, April 16, 2007

The City Council plans to review proposals from several
law firms seeking to represent the city in areas ranging
from code enforcement to workers' compensation.

City officials are paging through 28 separate proposals
covering four specific areas of legal expertise...

In addition to City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, West
Covina uses the services of at least five firms in litigation
involving the city. The city is also covered for some legal
services by an insurance policy through the Joint Powers
Insurance Authority, City Manager Andrew Pasmant said.
That policy covers claims over $1 million, according to
Debbie Domingues, the city's safety and claims manager...

Among the firms submitting proposals to act as city
prosecutor is Burke, Williams and Sorensen. Rosemead's
new city attorney, Bonifacio Garcia, a former attorney with
the firm, had his billings called into question last year. The
San Diego Union-Tribune learned he had billed the
Sweetwater School District in San Diego County for as
much as 15.3 hours in a day, and $131,708 between July
1, 2005 and the end of May 2006.

Garcia left Burke, Williams and Sorensen late last year and
was recently appointed to represent Rosemead. Other
firms that submitted city prosecutor proposals are Best,
Best and Krieger; Burke; and Jones and Meyer.

Best, Best and Krieger would charge $185 per hour for
their services. Burke, Williams and Sorensen billing would
be $225 per hour for the services of a partner; $175 per
hour for an associate; $150 per hour for a clerk; and $125
per hour for a paralegal.

Jones and Meyer, which currently represents the city, would
charge a flat rate of $160 per hour, according to their
Brown Act "expert" causes
problems with special meetings

[Maura's Note:  It seems that most lawyers who advertise
themselves as "Brown Act experts" are actually offering
the service of being able to help officials get away with
Brown Act violations.]

Town unhappy with report
Wasco citizens pack council meeting on grand jury statement
by Felix Doligosa, Jr., Californian staff writer

WASCO -- Residents yelled "the city is unhappy" in a packed City Council
meeting Tuesday night as discussion turned to a grand jury report that
accuses council members and the mayor of having too many 'special

"It's been quite a rocky two weeks and it's getting to a point where we
need a resolution," said Tilo Cortez Jr., vice mayor and council member
for the city.

A grand jury report stated that the council has "far too many 'special
meetings'" that leave a perception the city does not want public input.

On Jan. 24, the mayor, Danny Espitia, and one or two council members
met to vote on the appointment of an assistant city manager, fire the city
attorney and hire a new law firm, according to the grand jury report. The
meeting was announced Jan. 23, according to the report.

The grand jury report also said Councilman and former Mayor Fred West
Jr. met with the former finance director to discuss his taking on the job as
interim city manager. An unsigned contract showed up on the former
director's desk, according to the grand jury.

The grand jury report recommends that the City Council get additional
training on the Ralph M. Brown Act. The state law allows very limited
closed-door meetings concerning public business, according to the

The report also recommended that Wasco residents get more involved in
City Council meetings, the council stop having special meetings unless it
is an emergency and that Espitia should stop voting until the city receives
an opinion from the Attorney General of California.

Espitia said he does not want to forward the report to the attorney general
because there are lies in it.

"The grand jury was misinformed," he said. "It's wrong. They never
interviewed me."

The grand jury said in the report that it interviewed the mayor.

When Cortez asked if the report was telling the truth, Espitia replied, "So
we can agree the grand jury can make another mistake."

Dozens of citizens filled the seats and some stood in the aisles as they
argued with council members.

"This is just not right," said Wasco resident Susana Rios...

Garcia has made about $83,000 in four months as the city attorney, said
Councilwoman Cherylee Wegman. The grand jury report said Garcia
makes about four to five times more than the previous attorney.

Garcia said he would be happy to have an evaluation of his work another

"We have to talk about what's on the agenda," said Wegman who tried to
direct discussion toward the grand jury report. "It's the law."

After hearing pleas from the audience, the City Council voted to postpone
discussion of the alleged Brown Act violations and the hiring of Garcia
until a public meeting on July 3.

Bakersfield California, June 20, 2007
Mr. Garcia gained notoriety in San Diego while working for
Burke, Williams & Sorenson at Otay Water District.