Downey community members have written to Political Life, alerting us of potentially criminal editing of public records on Downey City’s YouTube channel. The alarm is in the context a controversial public comment period that occurred at the February 23rd meeting, wherein two callers made allegations of domestic abuse against Mr. Vijay Patel, an L.A. City Attorney and Downey resident who recently penned an op-ed criticizing Council Member Catherine Alvarez.
Community members noted that the video of the meeting uploaded to YouTube on March 5th continues to include the two accusers who commented live, but is missing at least half a minute of content from Mr. Vijay Patel’s public comment. The segment in question is found just after the two-hour mark, when Mayor Frometa is giving instructions to the public in regard to calling in for non-agenda public comment.
Starting at timestamp 2:00:46, Frometa says “Each speaker shall have three minutes to address the Council on the issues that are within the City’s jurisdiction, and since we’re under a federal, state, and local emergency declaration and Los Angeles County Safer at Work and in the Community Order, I will limit this non-agenda public comment,” and is abruptly cut off mid-sentence at 2:01:00. The audio, one second later, at 2:01:01, features Patel speaking with the screen showing “00:31” (seconds) had elapsed into his allotted time:
When alerted to the missing components of this public record, Downey City Attorney Yvette Abich Garcia stated that she would look into the matter and "follow up with IT and the City Clerk." Yet, what might be most striking is that this is not the only Patel-related record to be edited during the ongoing public controversy.
A resident of District 3 who chose to remain anonymous provided Political Life with a printed version of The Downey Patriot’s op-ed as penned by Patel. The resident noted that Patel's biography at the very bottom of the op-ed reads “Vijay Patel is a product of the Downey Unified School District and currently serves as a prosecutor for the City of Los Angeles.” This same resident stated to us that the online version had also stated that he worked as a prosecutor for L.A. City.
Yet, as of the time of our publication, the biography published online by the Patriot reads “Vijay Patel is a product of the Downey Unified School District and is a homeowner. Mr. Patel does not own any rental properties.”
The community member who brought these editorial changes to our attention asked, “Is it possible that, in an op-ed regarding alleged conflict of interests, Patel or the Patriot had second thoughts about using Patel's employment as an L.A. City prosecutor on the online, more easily shared, version of the op-ed?”
While The Downey Patriot is a private publication and is thus free to alter the presentation of its articles, the same cannot be said of the City's official meeting records. Notwithstanding, it remains possible that human error or technical issues could explain the curiously specific (and timely) alteration to the City's record of the controversial meeting.
As such, it remains a mystery how segments of Patel's speech were truncated, while his accuser's voices are intact. The mystery is further augmented by the different versions of Patel's biography published by the Patriot.
Community members are expected to speak out against the alteration of public records at the upcoming meeting of the City Council on March 9th.
Edit: Downey City has published a full version of the public record. Viewers can now watch and listen to the previously missing 30 seconds of public comment, wherein Mr. Patel identifies himself and claims Alvarez’ prior speech refers to himself:
“Good evening Madam Mayor, Members of the City Council, City staff. Thank you for your continued hard work. My name is Vijay Patel. I want to thank Ms. Alvarez for giving me so much love and attention during her public comment period. I’m truly flattered. I am the so-called Attorney referenced by Ms. Alvarez.”
The City has decided not to allow its public records to be shown on separate websites. The video linked below can be played here: https://youtu.be/xJ13iLjZBJI?t=7249
The question as to how the video could have been altered so specifically remains unresolved.