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California First Amendment Coalition
|Monday, September 27, 2010 6:00 am
Huntington Park's mayor John Noguez
demands $50,000 from Charter School
Developer in Exchange for project approval
Huntington Park, CA -
City council majority voted in early May 2006 in favor of a new charter school
being developed by Pacific Charter Schools. Pacific was then building a new
charter school campus partly funded by LAUSD. Pacific Charter provides real
estate and construction development services for charter school operators.
Pacific Charter's client was Aspire Charter which operates charter schools across
the state. Today Aspire Charter is now open and doing the business of educating
local students. But it almost didn't happen. This particular Aspire charter campus is
located on the northeast corner of Saturn and Alameda Streets in Huntington
In January 2006 WatchOurCity.com received an email from someone presumably
connected to Pacific charter school. The individual solicited WatchOurCity.com's
opinion as to why the city was putting up so many official roadblocks, hurdles and
red tape before the developer. Here's the email received, unedited:
The Editor at WatchOurCity.com responded to the concerned email by suggesting
that his organization should bring up the matter to Rosario Marin, political mentor
to Huntington Park's mayor John "Juan" Noguez; she was also the then-Secretary
of State under Governor Schwarzenegger's administration before leaving office in
disgrace (see WatchOurCity.com's report on that event here). See side panel for
WatchOurCity.com's response to Pacific Charter's email.
Remarkably, the folks at Pacific Charter took WatchOurCity.com's suggestion to
heart. Reportedly, Rosario Marin heard the concerns of Pacific Charter, because
next thing you know, Mayor Noguez and Francisco Leal call Pacific Charter Officials
to meet at the California Club over lunch to discuss the bureaucratic roadblocks
placed by Huntington Park officials on Pacific Charter's construction plans for the
new Aspire campus.
It was at this meeting that Huntington Park mayor Noguez, with city attorney
Francisco Leal sitting by, hit up the two Pacific Charter school officials for a
$50,000 campaign contribution to Noguez's phantom, and premature, bid for the
State Assembly, to replace Fabian Nunez. Noguez held Pacific Charter's project
hostage. Pacific Charter reported that they did not have $50,000 capital readily
available, and felt backed into a corner: either pay Noguez something and open a
much promised new charter school for some 200 area students, or call his bluff
and risk loosing an approximately $1 million investment Pacific and Aspire had put
in the project so far.
The school was saved, but at what cost? Reportedly, Noguez ended up with
about $5,000 to $10,000 in campaign contributions from Pacific Charter. The
school to this day still has no library due to lack of budget for books.
Noguez's campaign accounts do not account for any campaign contribution either
from Aspire, Pacific Charter, or from individuals associated with direct negotiations
with John Noguez and city attorney Leal. Nor did Noguez have a legal permit to
seek campaign donations for the state assembly race which he invoked. It is
illegal to seek campaign donations without registering an official campaign
account. Noguez eventually dropped out of the assembly seat race even before
the race began, elbowed out by L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who hand-picked
his cousin, John Perez for the seat, who is now the area's Assemblyman (see
WatchOurCity.com's report on how that episode went down here).
Then, after the project was approved in May 2006, according to a report in the
Wave Community Newspaper, city attorney Francisco Leal publicly stated that he
was "shocked" that the project had been approved since it was dead in the water
before city council voted to approve the project.
In fact, the project was opposed by planning staff, by the planning commission
and by city council. According to Leal, it was nothing short of a "miracle" that the
project was approved. Despite even a very negative Environmental Impact Report
citing concerns with the school's immediate adjacency to the Alameda Corridor's
submerged train corridor and a high statistical probability of causing related
health problems, and citing lack of green space, the school is scheduled to open
in September 2006 on time for the Fall semester.
The city's charter school approval is even more puzzling since Mayor Noguez
himself publicly expressed concern for lack of green space in the proposed Charter
school and even offered Pacific Charter to swap the land for another property with
more compatible use, even throwing in the city's power of Eminent Domain.
John Noguez had not yet opened any campaign account with the California
Secretary of State as required by law should he solicit campaign donations for a
State elected office. Nor would Noguez even run, aborting his short-lived intention
even before it started.
But that did not stop Noguez from asking for campaign contribution anyway. The
meeting scheduled at the California Club in Downtown Los Angeles was taken as
an opportunity that Noguez couldn't pass up.
The timing was such that right after the May 2006 meeting between Noguez, Leal,
and Pacific Charter, Huntington Park city officials immediately opened the
floodgates of rubber-stamp approval. First the planning commission approved, all
appointees of John Noguez, then, city planning staff, followed by, quite curiously,
city council's approval, despite the fact that just a few days later had expressed
grave concerns about the project, which just vanished. Pacific Charter reported
they gave Noguez a monetary consideration for the privilege. Noguez's campaign
statements to this day do not reflect any campaign donation.
If John Noguez asked for money in the form of campaign contribution in exchange,
then a few state and federal laws were slightly overlooked. Fact is, the charter
school was approved under highly questionable circumstances and despite
overwhelming odds against the project.
One Official at Pacific Charter reported that he felt under duress to give money
over to Noguez, after all, Pacific was heavily invested, not to mention the
hundreds of parents and students who were sold on a new school opening by
September of 2006.
The architect for the project, a firm specialized in Charter school design, stated
that he has never dealt with such a corrupt process for processing building
permits. The architect is the same one that designed the Oscar De La Hoya
Charter school in East L.A. and other prominent charter schools throughout
Southern California. The Architect was reportedly under orders from Pacific
Charter, its client, to not accept even a glass of water from Huntington Park's city
council. Pacific Charter was that jaded about the whole affair.
In 2004, Huntington Park's mayor John Noguez and Bell's mayor George Cole,
including HP's city attorney Francisco Leal, teamed up to raise campaign funds for
Rosario Marin's U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer. Bell's mayor George Cole
and Francisco Leal were Co-Hosts at a fundraiser for Marin at Leal's Hancock Park
House. Noguez approached a businessman in Huntington Park and demands
$11,000 cash for Marin's campaign. The businessman gives him the money, feeling
threatened by mayor Noguez. The $11,000 "donation" demanded by Noguez
never made it to Marin's official campaign reports and exceeded the maximum
allowed contribution by a factor of 4. That businessman is ready to talk to any
media or law enforcement authority who wishes to contact him about Noguez's
shakedown demands for cold hard campaign cash.
Mayor Noguez has a public record trail suggesting he has favored campaign
donors for multi-million dollar city contracts: Several city contracts have favored his
friend George Cole and his friend City Attorney Francisco Leal.
Noguez is currently the front runner candidate for L.A. County Assessor against
John Wong, Chairman of the County Assessor Appeals board. The election is this
John Noguez will take the Bell and Huntington Park way of doing business to the
assessors office. In fact his campaign already has (see WatchOurCity.com reports
on Noguez's Assessor's campaign here and here).
|"comments = I am interested in finding out information about Leonardos
being turned into a casino. I am involved in education and the city has
placed considerable stumbling blocks in front of a project that is scheduled
to benefit kids in the city. The project I am talking about is a new charter
school development that is almost in front of Leonardos. I have always
suspected that the reason why the project is getting quiet opposition from
staff and the council is that impending development of a card club."
"Finally the politicians have something positive developing, a couple of small
high quality schools, and they choose a casino development over what is
best for the kids. This is one case where the city can affect education, and
they choose not to. Is the casino project legit? Have you seen the dropout
rates from the city and the college graduation rates from the UC and CSU
system (from the supposed best students coming from HPHS)--appalling!"
|Friday, January 27, 2006
WatchOurCity.com Response to email from
anonymous individual at Pacific Charter
Thank you for visiting WatchOurCity.com.
You raise some very valid concerns.
Evidently, quiet diplomacy and negotiations
have not worked out for the charter school
you mention. What to do?
Now there is that new proposed LAUSD
school site on West Park (Gage/Alameda)
that is also near Leonardo's; city council is
allowing that to go through, evidently.
Complicating matters, there is a law suit
underway by one local charter school
operator against the city for this same site
(attorneys for the plaintiff emailed a press
release to this website). If it's the same
charter school you mention as the one in
the lawsuit, then, bingo, there's one reason
why city and staff is not too endeared to the
Another reason for the city's attitude: The
school District has eminent domain powers
and city council is really powerless before
this; their only choice is to negotiate.
Charter schools, on the other hand, have
more liberties but lack such potent power (i
know I'm preaching to the choir, here, but
bear with me). Thus, the city can afford the
luxury of turning a deaf ear to this particular
charter school that is almost a stone's throw
away from Leonardo's casino on Alameda
Wait! Time out. Stop the pressess. A
stone's throw away from Leonardo's, you
say? Now, isn't there a proximity clearance
requirement to schools that casinos and
places of gambling have to abide by?
This particular charter school is perhaps
within this proximity zone and city council is
strategically guarding the zone jealously.
Why? Is it to benefit a campaign contributor
at the expense of the public interest? The
LAUSD site is a bit farther away by
comparison. You may want to look into this.
Now the Orwellian argument can be made by
the city attorney, and city council, that
approving a charter school at the site you
mention is not in the best public interest
since a casino can bring in many thousands
of promised dollars to the city coffers that
the charter school cannot do, thus, it is in
the best interest of the city to "pursue a
card club casino". Councilman John Noguez
has, in fact, already made this most
improbable argument in public.
WatchOurCity.com has reported on this;
Noguez was also quoted in the Wave
Community Newspapers (see following links
04.html; see also
I am currently working on an investigative
report on the politics of charter schools in
Southeast L.A. County cities (tentatively
titled "Yes In My BackYard! Unless it
conflicts with the interests of my campaign
Would you mind if I interviewed you for the
report? You can choose to ramain
anonymous, but if I write about the
particular charter school, you may not be
If you've been reading the website, the dots
are connected. Try to connect the following
1. Leonardo's is planning to convert back
the dance club into a casino in HP. (He just
did it in Pico Rivera, with H.P's councilman
John Noguez as a front man).
2. Leonardo's is councilman John Noguez'
3. Leonardo's gives a $5,000
"non-monetary" contribution to the slate of
Noguez, Gomez, Hernandez during their
2003 election win.
4. Leonardo's donates $25,000 to
huntington Park's Police Dept for the JADE
program. The PD has the biggest chunk of
the city's purse allotted to it, in the millions,
why would they accept chump change like
$25 K from Leonardo's? Why didn't
Leonardo's just give the money to a really
needy cause, like the YMCA, or to pay for all
little league park fees that city council
raised by 100%; or to the Salvation army?
But to the Police Dept? something is up with
In Mexico, this is easily recognized for what
5. John Noguez spearheads agenda item to
"pursue" casino operation at Leonardo's
night club on Alameda despite the fact -
damn the torpedos- that there is a State of
California moratorium on issuing new casino
licenses until 2010; more importantly, damn
the conflict of interest for pursuing a casino
operation for a campaign contributor and
Noguez "family relative.
6. The Police "Management" association
endorses John Noguez, Hernandez and
7. The HPPD seems to look the other way
with "activity" inside of Leonardo's.
7a. Rosario Marin is a known good and
intimate friend of Leonardo's.
7b. Leonardo's son sits on the board of the
Greater Huntington Park Chamber of
8. Rosario Marin is a good friend of the D.A.
9. Rosario Marin controls 2 or 3 votes in HP
city council, depending on which side of the
fence Ofelia Hernandez sits on (this by
Marin's own account in last week's La
Opinion newspaper article
9a. John Noguez controls 2 or 3 votes in HP
city council, depending on which side of the
fence Ofelia Hernandez sits on (John
Noguez paid for the campaigns of both
Mayor Ofelia Hernandez
ch5.html and councilwoman Elba Guerrero).
10. Rosario Marin is good friends with the
PD chief and the city attorney.
11. Francisco Leal, city attorney, is a
"gaming" attorney and was paid by the city
for "gaming" related issues regarding
Leonardo's plans for a casino.
12. FL was selected in closed door session
to be city attorney by recently convicted,
then-mayor, Rosario Marin protege Edward
escareno and voted for by Noguez,
escareno, hernandez, gomez.
13. [edited for privacy reasons]
14. Rosario Marin's protege slate of Noguez,
Hernandez, Gomez gets a phenomenally
unprecented $130,000 in total contributions
in the 2003 campaign, of which $72,000 is
from 5 individuals alone who are not known
to be good samaritans, one of them is
And what does Rosario Marin have to say
about all this? that she was "traicionada"
(betrayed) by Escareno with his "cosas
extranas" (strange things); How about her
stange things and the strings she pulls in
If the Charter school you mention is looking
to be successfully built by any means
possible, take the low road and hire Rosario
Marin to get things done for you in city
council. This will test her on many levels:
- Her allegiance to "No child Left behind"
which she campaigned for.
- Her allegiance to campaign donors and
friends, especially Leonardo's and the oily
slick city attorney Leal.
- Her control of city council.
Or, just give up, lick your wounds and find
another corrupt city to bring a chance of a
brighter future for a few local students. Oh,
and don't bother mobilizing any parent or
senior citizen group: Ofelia Hernandez, with
the help of George Cole's henchmen, has
dibs on them since they've been infiltrated
by her "comadre" and "senior" network.
Every local school, church and community
group is under their control.
Or, call the Dept. of Justice to look into
irregularities and interests of city council
that are not in the best "Public Interest"
(bypasss the DA, remember, he's Rosario's
friend). Just make sure you move out of
town and are under the witness protection
program (just kidding). Not really.
Tough choices. The school you mention is
probably deeply vested in the site.
Leonardo's and city Council, too, are vested
in their "site".
Which way will the balance tip?