About this iReport
  • Not verified by CNN

  • Posted August 1, 2012 by
    Los Angeles, California

    More from TheTruth53

    This Should be a Rude Awakening to Any Elected Official in Violation of the Public Trust, Who Steals, etc., etc. Citizens, Any Jurist, Judge Will Hold the Violators Accountable!


    Two Former Lynwood Officials Guilty of Illegally Boosting salaries, Former Lynwood Councilmen Louis Byrd and Fernando Pedroza are convicted of misappropriating public funds. The case could expand the definition of public corruption.

    by Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2012

    Two former Lynwood council members accused of illegally boosting their salaries were convicted Tuesday in a closely watched case that legal experts said could expand the definition of public corruption.

    The guilty verdicts marked a significant victory for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office in its efforts to crack down on city officials who pay themselves excessive salaries. The Lynwood trial was seen as an important test case for prosecutors as they prepare to try former Bell council members accused of similar charges in a much higher-profile corruption scandal.

    During the month-long trial, prosecutors used a novel legal argument that Lynwood officials broke the law by accepting tens of thousands of dollars in stipends for sitting on city commissions that appeared to do little, if any, work — an arrangement Deputy Dist. Atty. Sean Hassett called "clearly a scam."

    The added pay boosted the part-time council members' income from less than $10,000 a year to as much as $112,000 in one year for Louis Byrd and $72,000 for Fernando Pedroza, prosecutors said.

    Deputy Dist. Atty. Ed Miller said the verdicts sent a clear message to other government officials "that there's an assembly of people much more powerful than any city council in this country, and that's a jury of one's peers."

    Lavish compensation has become a heated issue in cities across California since the Bell scandal broke in 2010, and experts said the Lynwood ruling is likely to force municipalities to take notice.

    "It will certainly ... be helpful in providing guidance to cities and other public agencies in terms of what do they need to be careful about in compensating their elected officials," said Patrick Whitnell, the general counsel for the League of California Cities.

    Jurors in the Compton courthouse deliberated more than four days before convicting both men of misappropriating public funds.

    Prosecutors also accused the former council members of misusing city credit cards, charging the city for lavish travel expenses and accepting stipends for attending events that were unrelated to city business. Among the most salacious bills: a $1,500 night out at a Guadalajara strip club, where dancers allegedly performed sexual favors for Pedroza and a city manager. Pedroza denied the claim.

    Jurors, however, said they were ultimately swayed by the allegation that it was illegal for the council members to collect $450 per meeting for a pair of city commissions that often met for only a few minutes at a time.

    Juror Natalie Luker, 34, said the jurors looked carefully at the 1998 decision by the council members to create the commission stipends and ultimately decided that the compensation was illegal because the bylaws for the commissions specified that members were not to be paid.

    Former Bell council members are also accused of accepting generous stipends for commission meetings, boosting the annual pay for most council members to nearly $100,000.

    Attorney Stanley L. Friedman, who represents former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, said he believed the Lynwood jurors' reasoning might help his case because, unlike in Lynwood, there were no city documents in Bell prohibiting its commissions from paying stipends to members.

    But part of the reason for the outrage over the Bell salaries is that council members appear to have been paid for some meetings that never took place, a fact that prosecutors are expected to raise in the trial.

    Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said Tuesday's convictions show that jurors are willing to accept that public officials cross a legal line when they pay themselves too much. She also said the verdicts will probably reverberate beyond Lynwood.

    "There's nothing better for deterrence than seeing other people go to jail," said Levenson, a former federal prosecutor. "It's a pretty good taking of the temperature of prospective jurors in the upcoming cases."

    Supporters of the defendants, particularly of Byrd, an 80-year-old former school principal who sat on the council for 16 years, packed the courtroom during much of the trial. The attorneys for the men argued that they had relied for legal advice on city attorneys and city managers who never alerted them that the commission pay might be illegal, and that they had put in many years of service to the community.

    After the verdicts were read, both defense attorneys vowed to appeal. Albert Robles, who represented Pedroza, said he was "really shocked, really disappointed" by the jurors' decision. Byrd's attorney, Tomas Requejo, accused the district attorney's Public Integrity Division of selecting which public officials to pursue based on political reasons.

    Byrd and Pedroza, 47, showed little emotion as they emptied their pockets of valuables and were led out of the courtroom to be booked into jail, over the objections of their lawyers. Byrd, who faces up to six years in prison, was accused of taking about $330,000. Pedroza was charged with taking more than $160,000 and faces a maximum sentence of five years.

    "This is a violation of the public trust, and that is most disturbing to this court," Superior Court Judge John T. Doyle said as he ordered the two men into custody.

    Beginning in 1998, The Times began reporting on the City Council members' boost in salary and later detailed their lavish perks.

    The two men were criminally charged in 2007 along with three other former council members. Arturo Reyes pleaded guilty to grand theft and testified against his former colleagues. The charges against the others were dismissed after a judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired in their cases.

    The trial brought an end to a drama that had played out over more than a decade. Miguel Figueroa, 57, a Lynwood activist who sued the city years ago after officials would not turn over information about credit card spending and council earnings, said he felt a sense of closure. Figueroa testified against Byrd and Pedroza.

    "I really feel sorry for them, but they didn't want to listen" to the residents, he said. "I hope that what happened today, people from many other cities in public office learn about it."


    Times staff writer Matt Stevens contributed to this report.

    Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times


    Ms. Sunshine at 9:03 AM August 1, 2012

    Time to go after the BELL 8 PIGS who stole from taxpayers....they deserve the MAXIMUM FEDERAL PRISON SENTENCE!!!!!!!

    Highpressure at 8:40 AM August 1, 2012

    ...but not a whisper when it comes to illegal Mexican aliens looting our social services.

    LosGangeles at 8:27 AM August 1, 2012

    Tijuana styled government is here to stay.

    Dunworkin at 8:02 AM August 1, 2012

    Let's hope that this verdict will send a clear message to elected officials that it is NOT acceptable to steal from the taxpayers anymore. Corrupt officials have been feeding illegally at the public trough for way too long.

    JCS1956AZ at 6:21 AM August 1, 2012

    "...who never alerted them that the commission pay might be illegal, and that they had put in many years of service to the community."

    This argument sickens me. There was no "service to the community". These thieves time on the council was nothing more than a long term plan to enrich themselves, line their pockets and fulfill a desire for power. True service comes from an altruistic desire and demands no compensation.

    London-2012 at 6:15 AM August 1, 2012

    The cities in southwest Los Angeles County were once well-managed suburban cities. That was back during the 1960s and 70s. Today those cities are like managed by a Mexican Drug Cartel. Is that what we get from the influx of Hispanics into the USA? More Hispanics to come . . . .

    Doug Platten at 1:07 AM August 1, 2012

    Hey, you want a raise? Yea. you? Yea.

    osiris1964 at 10:03 PM July 31, 2012

    the democrats are killing this state

    JCS1956AZ at 6:23 AM August 1, 2012

    No, the thieves are killing your state, and every state, and this country. This has nothing to do with partisanship, this has to do with power and selfishness and a person that's ethically and morally bankrupt.

    lisette_90034 at 10:01 PM July 31, 2012

    Ya gotta love the LA Times, if these were GOPers it would be a 28 part expose on why the Republicans suck. ALL OF THESE MORONS (all democrats)--Rizzo the Rat, all of Bells thiefs, Vernons, San Bernadino and now Lynwood, citizens are taxed at high rates in lough times and for what, so some over weight buffoon, whose only skill is having more votes than the other buffoon, so then this buffoon who got more votes then lines his pockets. Its disgusting and cruel. But the worst part is we have one group of people mainly Democrats who are always protected by the media and so the story DOES NOT GET REPORTED. That this party will sink California with all of their "smart ideas" like Bullet Trains from Fresno to Murrietta, Hooray progress!

    Chillipepper at 8:08 PM July 31, 2012

    i am sure that these two are Democrats. What else do you expect from people that panders to public union and legislature.

    milbuncy at 7:33 PM July 31, 2012

    Corrupt Politicians need to spend some time in prison. The Lawyers (w#073s) who represent these guys should also have some skin in the game. Like you lose, you go spend some time in prison...with your clients.



    "My Pappi Said Your Going To Drive Me To Drinkn' If You Don't Stop Driving That Hot Rod Lincoln! Vote him out of LA!" by TheVideoMan

    Well TheVideoMan, since you state that you've been a resident of this area since 2008, some of this information must not be a new revelation!


    Be it through votes, or major demograhic changes that are in the place, Councilman Herb "Sleasy" Wesson and other misfits who are a disgrace to the office will be removed from political office.

    Fact being there are not enough black voters in California, Los Angeles County, the Cities of Compton, Lynwood, Los Angeles, etc., etc., now to promote a black elected official to hold any elected office position.


    "A conversation between President Obama and the black community" Published on Jun 7, 2012 by drboycewatkins

    Typically disgraceful elected black leaders, including Al Green singing delegating his duty to serve law abiding blacks to Reverend Al Sharpton no good President Barack "the Magic Negro" Obama will do more to serve undocument illegal aliens, criminals, and misfits than serving law abiding U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, U.S. born blacks being included in this set of citizens not being served.











    YouTube: "Demon-crats, & their Negro slaves" published on Jul 4, 2012 by 5723michael


    YouTube: "Diane Watson - Race Baiting Political Whore"Uploaded by TheWatchdog on Jun 6, 2006


    Honestly speaking, the black community can't say it never had a chance. A disgraceful set of elected black leaders such as Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, Walter Tucker, Herb Wesson, Nate Holden, Dave Cunningham, Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, Mark Ridley Thomas, Yvonne "Brentwood" Burke, Louis Byrd, Rodrick Wright, etc., etc., etc., missed the many opportunities presented to step up to the plate to uphold his or her opportunity to competently serve especially law abiding U.S. born descendants of slavery egregiously violated by government, as mandated by law and sworn under oath.









    Add your Story Add your Story