IRWINDALE — Four current and former officials of this small Southern California city were charged Wednesday with spending $14,000 of taxpayers' money on baseball games and Broadway shows when they were supposed to be working to improve Irwindale's bond rating.
The charges are the latest in a string of corruption allegations directed at leaders of several nondescript suburbs ringing Los Angeles. Other small cities whose officials have been charged with corruption include Bell, Vernon and Temple City.
In Irwindale, Councilman Mark Breceda, Finance Director Abe De Dios, retired City Manager Steve Blancarte and former Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez were charged with misappropriation of public funds.
During trips to New York between 2001 and 2005, prosecutors say the four attended such hit musicals as "The Producers," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Mamma Mia," sticking the city with the cost of tickets. They also attended New York Yankees and Mets baseball games on the public dime, according to Deputy District Attorney Nipa Cook.
Three of the four were to be arraigned Wednesday. De Dios, who is out of town, was to be arraigned Thursday. Prosecutors said they didn't know if any of the officials had retained attorneys.
Irwindale's interim city manager, Sol Benudiz, issued a statement saying the city was cooperating with the district attorney's office and did not expect the arrests to disrupt any services.
"Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment on the investigation and criminal charges," he said.
Irwindale, a city of about 1,400 residents 20 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, has been known for a costly failed bid in the 1980s to attract the NFL's Oakland Raiders. The largely industrial city, which had hoped to build a stadium on the site of a sprawling hole in the ground that had been a rock quarry, lost a $10 million deposit when the team decided not to move there.
Other cities facing corruption charges include Bell, a working-class suburb of about 40,000 people where eight current and former officials are charged with misappropriating $5.5 million in public funds, much of which authorities say went to fund inflated salaries.
In Vernon, an industrial town of about 100 residents, the city's former administrative officer was charged last week with conflict of interest after prosecutors said he obtained city jobs for his wife that paid her $140,000.
In Temple City, the former mayor was sentenced to 16 months in prison in September after pleading no contest to bribery and other charges.
Temple City, with 38,000 residents, is about 10 miles east of Los Angeles.
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