With election near, newsletter under fire

first_imgDuring their special meeting today at 11 a.m., the City Council will consider three items related to the release of the newsletter, Molinari said. Two of those items will be addressed in closed session. Both are prefaced with a notation that they will involve anticipated litigation. The first closed session item has to do with a potential case regarding the state Political Reform Act. A second item is not identified. A third item is titled “discussion of Montebello Tomorrow, Inc. status.” Montebello Tomorrow publishes “Montebello Today.” Molinari said some of the publication was paid for with city checks that were apparently signed by an unauthorized city employee. MONTEBELLO – A city-funded newsletter, set to be published this week, is the subject of a special council meeting today, officials said. Last published in 2004, the scheduled release of “Montebello Today,” has at least one elected official questioning the timing of the publication, while another said the release is long overdue. “You’d have to be very naive not to think there’s not a political connection between the timing of the publication and the election,” City Councilman Bill Molinari said Monday. Councilman Jeff Siccama said the release had been held up for months and called the newsletter an opportunity for residents to learn about their community. He did not identify the employee. Interim City Administrator Randy Narramore said he could not comment on the newsletter or Montebello Tomorrow, Inc., a nonprofit corporation founded in the 1970s to help publicize city activities. Molinari said the content was authored by city staff. “I’m not comfortable giving information to the press before presenting it to the council,” he said. Open government advocate, Terry Francke, general council for Californians Aware, agreed the timing of the publication raises some eyebrows. He said there are several legal prohibitions about expending public funds for election materials. “The state Supreme Court is deciding right now,” he said, “how explicit the message must be to be considered unconstitutional. “Must it be `Vote for so and so’ or is the law subtler than that.” Francke said whether politically or ethically, people are free to draw their own conclusions. Although Councilmembers Molinari, Bob Bagwell and Rosie Vasquez said they had seen a copy of the newsletter Monday afternoon, they all agree it put a positive spin on the city. “I’m curious to see it,” said Bagwell, who is running for re-election, along with Mayor Norma Lopez-Reid. Lopez-Reid requested today’s special meeting. Siccama said the council has been trying to publish the newsletter for more than 18 months. Much of the pre-printing costs were paid for earlier this year, he said. “We’re trying to get information to the community, that we’ve paid for,” Siccama said. The cost of the newsletter is approximately $12,000, Molinari said. The funds for Montebello Tomorrow come from the city and the city’s redevelopment agency, officials said. Both Lopez-Reid and Bagwell are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Also running are Kathy Salazar, Robert Urteaga, Giuseppe “Joe” Veneziano and Leo Rodriguez. Vasquez expressed concern that the council did not see a copy of the newsletter prior to its printing. “Taxpayer money is being used for this publication,” she said, “and we have an obligation to approve or not approve something paid for using the public’s money.” Neither Lopez-Reid nor City Attorney Arnoldo Beltran returned calls seeking comment. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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