Cities

Bell Gardens gets interesting again

The city council of Bell Gardens has hired itself a new city manager — and it's Steve Simonian, the former chief of investigations for District Attorney Steve Cooley. What's intriguing about that is that Cooley once set himself up as the lawman bent on cleaning up the corrupt little cities that lay across the southeast corner of Los Angeles County. Bell Gardens was one of his targets, and last September Cooley even convened a grand jury to investigate Bell Gardens councilman Mario Beltran and his associates.

And Simonian, the DA's former chief investigator? He recently endorsed the election of two council candidates whose campaign manager was Beltran, according to a CityBeat story by Jeffrey Anderson:

Simonian, according to veteran gang detectives, is the same investigator who once probed the suspected political ties of alleged Mexican Mafia member Armando “Pericho” Ochoa, a Primera Flats gang member from Bell Gardens. Simonian was assistant city manager in Bell Gardens in 2000, so he recused himself from the investigation into former City Manager Maria Chacon, who was convicted of conflict of interest charges earlier this year. A prolonged legal battle yielded no jail time.

Chacon’s case stemmed from her vote in 2000, while a council member, that allowed her to become city manager, a well-salaried position. However, it took six years and numerous appeals by Cooley’s office to sentence Chacon to a year of probation and the possibility of $76,000 in restitution. (She also is prevented from ever holding public office again.)

Meanwhile, Aceituno, one of the city council members who voted Chacon into power, was re-elected November 6 in a contest marred by threats, intimidation, and allegations of electioneering. And Rodriguez is the daughter of Rogelio Rodriguez, another councilman who supported Chacon’s felonious power grab.

So by all appearances, it seems that after six years, Cooley is back to square one in Bell Gardens – with his former top investigator stumping for officials with strong ties to Beltran, an aggressive and potentially doomed politician.

Oh, did I mention that story ran last year? Now Simonian has been hired to run the city — but at least Beltran, still on the City Council, recused himself from the vote. Just to complete your picture of Bell Gardens, Simonian also used to be police chief there.

Where is Jeffrey Anderson?: The former LA Weekly investigative reporter is now kicking ass for The City Paper in Baltimore, most recently writing about the indictment of some City Hall power players there with L.A. and Hollywood ties.


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