|Photo: U.S. Department of Justice|
Earlier this month, the feds reported that former City Council member Marcelo Co agreed to plea guilty to what could have been one of the worst examples of developer pandering in Moreno Valley history. Co accepted a multimillion dollar bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a real estate broker in return for favorable land use decisions. Such an act is a disgrace to democracy. Such special interest pandering is so bad that bending the law simply doesn't go far enough for those involved. It's no doubt that if one is planning to commit a white collar crime behind closed doors, the feds may be watching. That's intelligence-driven enforcement at work.
Co's days of such corrupt power are over. Had the politician got away with this and had the good citizens not risen up against the corrupt madness, Moreno Valley as a whole would be in grave trouble. The FBI reports that a single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars. All three occurred last decade in the Enron fiasco.
The elected Council governing body of any city is supposed to represent the values of their residents, not the special interests. Elected officials should know that both intelligence driven law enforcement and voters will hold them accountable if they try to game the system. The Press Enterprise has reported that both the justice system and concerned residents have risen up before to stop such madness.
- In 2004, Highland voters recalled three City Council members after they used about $11 million of the city’s reserve funds to balance the budget. The LA Times further reported that recall supporters charged that the three council members attended a water board meeting in November, where they allegedly offered to buy a parcel from the district for $10 million.
- One year later, in 2005, Murrieta residents upset about traffic congestion, zone changes and urban sprawl projects recalled the mayor. The LA Times reported that the mayor had lobbied city planners to approve his daughter's day-care center, a clear conflict of interest. The city also approved zoning changes questionable to the will of the residents. The overwhelmed north/south transportation corridors between Murrieta and Temecula are still recovering from that unchecked growth. Voters kept two other council members from being recalled.
- In 2010, San Jacinto residents ousted four City Council members busted for money laundering, tax fraud, bribery and other charges. Their days in power are over. All four pleaded guilty.