Maywood Council Can’t Duck the Blame or Shame

Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2010

The city of Maywood can’t be trusted to hire a school crossing guard.

That’s the verdict of assorted insurance companies. And after spending several hours this week at Maywood City Hall, watching in stunned silence as the City Council laid off just about every employee who works there, I have to agree.

{snip}

In the back of the meeting room, the council’s supporters cheered. They see the layoffs, which included the dismantling of the Police Department, as the purge they’ve long been waiting for.

“Let them all go,” said Juan Ayala, an L.A. County employee and a Maywood resident since the 1960s. And then he added in Spanish: “Es una limpieza de casa,” a housecleaning. He used another Spanish word to describe the city’s employees: una cochinada, a herd of swine.

{snip}

The people running Maywood came to office in 2007 promising a government friendlier to the large immigrant population. They’re backed by a handful of community groups with Spanish names.

They said they were going to remake City Hall, but instead they’re dismantling it. And it’s the people who keep Maywood streets paved and parks clean who are paying the price. The school crossing guards were the last group of employees added to the official layoff list on Monday night, almost as an afterthought. {snip}

Now employees from neighboring Bell will perform most city functions, under contract. The Sheriff’s Department will take the place of the Maywood police. {snip}

The members of Maywood’s current council say the crisis isn’t their fault. {snip}

“This city has been in a bad situation for a long time,” Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Veronica Guardado told me after the meeting was over. “I inherited these problems.”

But the public record says otherwise. Most damning is a memorandum on Maywood issued on May 26 by the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, a government entity formed by more than 120 cities and other public agencies to share insurance costs.

In its 32-year history, the JPIA has never terminated a member’s coverage. Until now.

Last July, the insurance authority issued Maywood a warning, telling the city it had to end a long pattern of “passive administration.”

{snip}

After a while Maywood even failed to send the JPIA periodic reports. And the council never hired a city manager. Finally the JPIA had enough. Saying Maywood had demonstrated “a consistent pattern” of missing deadlines and not fulfilling its obligations, it canceled the city’s insurance.

I asked Vice Mayor Guardado how the council had managed to keep from filling the city manager position for an entire year. After all, the recession has created legions of applicants for every other job in local government.

Guardado blamed the council’s political opponents, a small group whose most vocal leader is Sandra Orozco, a City Hall gadfly who uses a walker and will proudly tell you about her bigger battle–with multiple sclerosis. Her group “scared off” the council’s preferred candidate for the city manager job, Guardado said.

{snip}

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