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Montebello Claims Former City Council Members Awarded Contract For Campaign Contributions

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The city of Montebello is suing three former council members for their alleged role in awarding a city contract in return for campaign contributions.

The city filed the conflict-of-interest complaint Monday against former council members Rosemarie Vasquez, Kathy Salazar and Robert Urteaga. Ex-City Administrator Richard Torres was also named as a defendant.

The contract in question was awarded to Arakelian Enterprises Inc. in July 2008. Salazar, Urteaga and Vasquez cast the deciding votes to award the exclusive waste hauling contract to AEI.

The city is seeking a court order requiring those “found to have been financially interested in the AEI contract to disgorge to the City all amounts they received from AEI,” the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, Urteaga had just been elected to the council in November of 2007 when he contacted an AEI official, suggesting he submit a proposal for an exclusive contract. Torres also suggested to AEI that it ask for an exclusive agreement and the city administrator later helped negotiate the terms of a contract, the lawsuit stated.

Montebello officials believe Vasquez “voted for, and possibly signed, the AEI contract with the expectation that AEI would financially support her reelection,” according to the lawsuit.

A form AEI filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission states it contributed $45,000 to Vasquez’s reelection campaign.

Vasquez was not reelected to the City Council for another term.

Montebello officials also claim Urteaga and Salazar voted in favor of the AEI contract, hoping their future reelection campaigns would receive support from the company, according to the lawsuit. The suit says AEI contributed more than $350,000 to prevent a voter recall of the pair, but both were ousted from office in February 2010.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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