Here is how the Pasadena Star News broke this story yesterday on their website. The story is in today's edition. You can access the shorter on-line version by clicking here:
Nick Conway, the executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, surrendered Friday on a felony warrant alleging multiple counts of conflict of interest regarding his time with the COG, officials said.
Conway, 60, was recently placed on administrative leave in his position with the COG. His arraignment for the charges was set of July 23. He was released on $100,000 bail.
Conway is accused of having his personal business, Arroyo Associates, Inc., gain financially from contracts obtained for the COG, according to a Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office statement. Conway's company is contracted with the COG to serve as the joint powers authority's staff.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office alleges Conway's company received "more money to manage specific state and county grants, which prosecutors allege Conway obtained as executive director. As a result, the COG was charged an additional $143,000 in one fiscal period, according to the statement.
Sierra Madre is one of the member cities in the SGVCOG, and as anyone who reads this blog knows, Conway's corruption of the COG for his own personal aggrandizement was no secret. Repeated calls by residents for us to get out of this organization were met with anything from indifference to stonewalling by City Hall. With City Council liaisons Joe Mosca and Nancy Walsh repeatedly assuring us that all was just fine there, and that continued membership was vital to our interests. How wrong they were, and on so very many levels.
So now that the guy who ran the SGVCOG all of those years has been dragged off to Justice, maybe we as a City can finally take off the happy glasses and look at "The COG" for what it really is?
I received an e-mail last evening from the man whose hard work and personal sacrifice won us some justice in this case, Gil Aguirre. I had requested his take on yesterday's stunning events, and as always he has been glad to oblige. Apparently there is more work that needs to be done. Gil has been very generous to this blog, with The Tattler being the place he went when he had new information to reveal to the world. It was quite a privilege for a little blog from Sierra Madre.
The current COG representatives, and their legal counsel, have known about these conflicts for months if not years, and done nothing. And they continue to do nothing. Conway's company still has the staffing contract and Conway is getting paid anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 per month in taxpayer dollars. I think it is time the COG be dissolved, but at a minimum, each and every member city should fire their current representative and place someone new on the Governing Board. (Mod: the list of COG representatives can be found by clicking here).
Further troubling is the response received from the SGVCOG legal counsel related to the security of the current SGVCOG public records including vital financial documents. NO ONE is securing those records and Conway continues to have unfettered access to these records.
It really is shameful that our elected officials have allowed Conway to use the SGVCOG as little more than his own personal piggy bank. I believe that the current crop of SGVCOG officials are responsible and should be held accountable for the abuses they have allowed to occur. My research indicates that there are still more issues that should be addressed at the SGVCOG, including some COG representatives holding incompatible offices. We will have to see if the COG survives this fiasco, but hopefully the current batch of representatives will be replaced by their member cities.
Gil's point is a good one, and at least Nancy Walsh should be asked to vacate her position as one of our two SGVCOG liaisons. After all, it was Nancy who so famously declared that "the distractions at The COG are over" when residents last demanded we get out. Now that the COG's buffet master has been dragged off by the DA's office in cuffs, maybe even she can see the how false her words were. Maybe not.
One more point. Justice is not automatic in the San Gabriel Valley, and a parasitic criminal enterprise can apparently live off of the taxpayer dime for years without our vaunted forces for justice lifting a finger. And had not the likes of Gil Aguirre and Tom King worked so hard to bring all of this to light, Conway would still be in power at The COG, and still pocketing our tax money unhindered.
Here in Sierra Madre we have an ongoing situation, one that is going to take determined private individuals to remedy. Certainly we cannot depend on government to take care of it, because in this case government is largely responsible. Our City Hall, working on the behest of invested private interests, is engaged in an attempt to undermine Measure V, thereby stealing our right to a legitimate vote on over-sized downtown development projects. Clearly the law is on our side, and should the Mayor and his cronies attempt to steal our vote, they would be engaging in clear criminal behavior.
Yet justice will not automatically intervene here. The City Attorney, along with her firm, Colantuono and Levin, are apparently not working for us. Rather they are on the side of the private developers and Realtor corporations, along with the City Councilmembers they control, who aim to steal our vote. And in order to do this they have created an enormous bluff designed to give the appearance that Measure V somehow doesn't apply to the Kensignton project, when it so clearly, and legally, does.
It is time for Sierra Madre to follow the example set by Gil Aguirre and Walnut Mayor Pro Tem Tom King and call them out on this bluff. This is not North Korea, and the public's right to a legitimate vote is a very serious issue. Going into the 4th of July weekend we should not be sitting idly by while the very freedoms we celebrate with our parade are being stolen by some extremely shady interests. Interests that are using our tax money against us.
As we saw in the case of Nick Conway, justice can prevail. But it takes determined individuals who are willing to put it all on the line to make it happen.