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As Downey's Blanca Pacheco draws scrutiny over El Monte contract, texts add intrigue

Downey City Council Member Blanca Pacheco, who usually escapes criticism at Council meetings in light of the controversies surrounding the other Council Members, has recently come under fire by members of the public. At the November 9th meeting of the City Council, she was accused of working with El Monte City Attorney Rick Olivarez to launder money for campaign contributions.

Now, residents of Downey have provided Political Life with records of Pacheco’s texting conversations with Downey resident and L.A. City Attorney Vijay Patel. The records, from early 2021, reveal an intriguing new connection between Downey and former El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, who lost reelection after Political Life interviewed his former City Clerk.

Pacheco’s texting

The records begin on February 18th, 2021, when Patel thrust himself into the public spotlight by penning an op-ed in the major local publication, The Downey Patriot, criticizing newly elected Council Member Catherine Alvarez for her actions on the issue of rent control. Patel sent the link to the article to Pacheco, and Pacheco responded, “That was well written. Great job!!”

By the late afternoon on February 23rd, The Downey Latino had published an op-ed in response to Patel, written by Public Works Commissioner Carlos Aranibar, leading Patel to say “Looks like I got somebodies attention LOL.” Pacheco commented “Nothing but lies in the article.”

Later in the evening that day, at the Downey City Council meeting, female speakers made controversial comments related to Patel, which he appeared to reference in his texting with Pacheco (“What the heck…”) Pacheco said “That’s terrible. I’m sorry”

L.A. City Attorney Andre Quintero enters record, Orange County Attorneys hired

By the next morning, Wednesday February 24th, Patel asked for a phone call with Pacheco. The records do not show if the call occurred, but they do show that, before the call, Patel told Pacheco “I am going to jump on a call with Andre Quintero from my office.” That is, from the Office of the L.A. City Attorney; Quintero and Patel are work colleagues.

Although the content of their apparent conversation is currently unknown by our Downey resident sources, it is notable that Quintero had a meeting with his colleague Patel the day after Patel had been the subject of controversial statements at Downey City Hall. The comments against Patel led him to file a defamation lawsuit, which Political Life covered independently in another article.

Following the apparent meeting with Quintero, who gained a reputation while elected for silencing the public, Patel texted Pacheco to inform her of his efforts to regulate the speech of posts on social media profiles of the Downey Democratic Club ("I requested the post be edited or deleted"). On this topic, Pacheco said “Unfortunately I can’t help you there. I don’t have a good relationship with the Downey Dems. In fact they even endorsed my opponent in the last election.”

Yet, what is most striking considering the text records from Pacheco is that Court records show that Patel used an Orange County law firm: Kimura, London, & White. This was the same firm that had been hired by then-Mayor Andre Quintero, alleging defamation by Irma Zamorano, the community member who is now alleging that Pacheco and Quintero's former City Attorney Olivarez, are engaged in the laundering of campaign contributions.

Regardless of the details involved in either case, Political Life notes the very high bar that public figures face in defamation lawsuits. The key Supreme Court case, N.Y. Times v. Sullivan held that "no court of last resort in this country has ever held, or even suggested, that prosecutions for libel on government have any place in the American system of jurisprudence.”

Cease and desist letter sent to Irma Zamorano by Kimura, London, & White, LLP, on behalf of then-Mayor Andre Quintero (left). Complaint filed in L.A. Superior Court by Kimura, London, & White, LLP, on behalf of Quintero’s colleague at the L.A. City Attorney’s office, Vijay Patel, against Carlos Aranibar and others (right).

The Downey-El Monte connection

Many politically engaged residents had suspected a strong connection between the established political figures of the Cities of Downey and El Monte, but the texting records of Pacheco turn suspicions into facts—El Monte’s former Mayor Quintero is integrated into an Attorney communication network that includes Patel and Pacheco, and which expands into Orange County where Kimura, London, & White are fielding legal actions against outspoken residents in Downey and El Monte.

The communications are especially concerning given that Pacheco is compensated not only by the taxpayers in Downey, but also by the taxpayers of the City of El Monte, as she works for Rick Olivarez, the El Monte City Attorney. Pacheco explicitly connects her Downey elected position to her work with Olivarez, describing herself on Olivarez’ OMLO firm’s website as “the first Latina to serve on the [Downey] city council and as Mayor.”

El Monte resident Cosme Jimenez provided Political Life with a tabulation of the compensation received by Olivarez’s firm, showing that in 2021, OMLO has made more than $200,000 a month from El Monte alone, raising concerns regarding overbilling by Olivarez and Pacheco, and the bidding process itself. "This is too much money," said Mr. Jimenez.

Pacheco, OMLO under scrutiny

One member of the public, Armando Herman, who we interviewed in connection to his report to Downey police that he was threatened by Downey’s Mayor, has now sent us a video of similar treatment at the hand of Olivarez in El Monte.

The video shows that, when Herman went to sit in the front row as Pacheco was giving a presentation to the El Monte Council, Rick Olivarez preemptively approached Herman in an aggressive manner, saying “if you’re going to distract her, you need to leave. So you can sit here and you can record, but keep your mouth quiet.”

Political Life notes that Olivarez, acting without input from the Chair of the meeting (El Monte’s Mayor), often attempts to run the meeting by regulating the behavior of members of the public. Notably, he intervened when residents called Quintero a “bully.”

Irma Zamorano, a resident of El Monte who has been a victim of Olivarez’ attempts to curtail speech, told Political Life, “For a long time, we focused on Quintero, and we got him out. But now I see that Olivarez is just as bad, and so is his puppet Blanca Pacheco. Getting $200,000 a month from our poor City of El Monte, when they live in rich cities like Downey and Pasadena. Wow. We need all these people out.”

Political Life is a collective of citizen-journalists in Los Angeles County.

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