Concerned Residents and Business owners had protested the Huntington Park City Council, demanding a state audit that investigates the finances controlled by City Council members and executed by the Finance department.
On October 2, 2021, a small group of protesters gathered at the intersection of Pacific Boulevard and Florence Avenue in Huntington Park, catching the attention of ongoing drivers and pedestrians. They were wearing bright yellow shirts that stated, “Rompe la cadena de corrupción,” (Break the chain of corruption).
Flyers plastered with accusations of corruption against the current Huntington Park City Council members Graciela Ortiz, Marilyn Sanabria, Karina Macias, Eduardo “Eddie” Martinez, and 59th State Assembly Candidate Efren Martinez, were passed around to anyone walking by the protest.
The protest roots from concerns regarding how finances are being allocated in the city, as it is heavily dependent on taxpayer money. Felix Romero, a business owner for the past five decades in Huntington Park, is the organizer of the protest and has expressed that a strong economic shift had been occurring ever since the current council members occupied their roles.
“Many things they’re doing aren’t good for our community. They continue raising taxes, letting go of police officers that overlook the safety of the residents, and they’re not being honest about finances in the city. An audit lets us know why and where the money is being spent” Romero said.
The protesters’ main objective is to have the California auditor perform an external audit that looks into the financial statements approved by the City Council. An external audit is an inspection by a third party that checks the credibility of financial records to find out if there are any misstatements due to embezzlement, error, or fraud.
Earlier this year in June, L.A. Times reported that employees in the Finance Department of Huntington Park were placed on leave and escorted from City Hall after the arrest of a city budget analyst for allegedly breaching confidential records. The employees on leave allege that they were targeted in an attempt to cover up suspicious city contracts and bank transfers that were awarded.
Efren Martinez isn’t an elected official in Huntington Park but has been involved in the allegations of corruption with the council members by operating a cannabis dispensary without a license, alleged a former employee who was laid off for reporting this. Martinez was a candidate for the 59th State Assembly Election in 2020. He got endorsements from the current council members and used Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) in a campaign ad.
Sanders responded to the ad on Twitter and stated it was political deception, as he endorsed Reggie-Jones Sawyer (D-Los Angeles). Martinez failed to unseat Sawyer, who later spoke out with assembly member Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) about having a state auditor look into awarding of contracts and cannabis licensing in Huntington Park.
Among the protesters was Richard “Ric” Loya, who is the former mayor of Huntington Park. He was supporting protesters from the sidelines and has been praised by the U.S. attorney for reporting a bribe attempt to the FBI back in 2001.
Loya commented, “City council should be audited every year. The staff prepares the audit. Audits take time and cost money but no one should have anything to hide. City staff can be helpful and process the audit or cause a roadblock that was ordered.”
When emailed for questioning regarding the accusations of corruption, audits, taxes, and an $8 million wire transfer to New York, Graciela Ortiz, Eddie Martinez, Manny Avila, and Karina Macias didn’t respond. Marilyn Sanabria deflected the questions and decided to not comment until a community resident addressed the “allegations.”
By Brianna Andrade, Co Editor-in-Chief