Councilwoman Pledges to Stay “Calm” and “Strong”

Written by MATTHEW WONG / Published October 9, 2009

Wong responds to latest news on Piazza controversy

In response to the latest wave of news coverage on the Piazza bribery scandal, Temple City councilwoman Judy Wong issued a brief statement at the end of the Tuesday city council meeting.

“I will stay calm and I will stay strong,” she said on June 16, 2009 to supporters and members in the audience.

Wong, along with former councilmember Cathé Wilson and former city council and state assembly candidate Scott Carwile, are defendants in a criminal trial alleging illegal solicitation and receipts of bribes.

The three defendants were indicted in Los Angeles on June 10. Superior court judge Patricia Schnegg unsealed the 21-count indictment that was delivered by a grand jury.

Wong, who is serving her second term as mayor, was charged with 10 felonies. She is being accused of asking for and receiving bribes, soliciting to commit a crime and perjury.

Sanford Perliss is serving as her legal counsel.

Former mayor Wilson was charged with 6 felonies for crimes of asking and receiving bribes and perjury under oath.

Scott Carwile, Wilson’s campaign treasurer, was charged with 4 felonies for perjury and 1 misdemeanor for violating the Political Reform Act.

Bail was set at $100,000 for Carwile, $150,000 for Wilson and $200,000 for Wong.

According to Jennifer Snyder, assistant head deputy district attorney, the defendants will appear in court on July 9.

Snyder also said all defendants would most likely be given prison sentences, if they are convicted.

All defendants have entered non-guilty pleas and have previously declared their innocence.

The developer, who admitted to bribing city officials, will not be charged. David Demerjian, head deputy district attorney stated Randy Wang was “very cooperative and forth right”; therefore, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office will not be filing any charges.

D.A. began investigating city officials in 2008

An investigation of city officials began in 2008 after Randy Wang, developer of the Piazza at Temple City, filed a counter-suit against the city of Temple City.

Wang claims he gave $13,000 to former councilman Dave Capra, Carwile and Wong during the 2007 city council elections. He also alleges that Wilson had demanded one of the 52 one-bedroom condominiums and $48,000 in cash.

A few months after an official probe began, the D.A.’s office conducted raids at City Hall and the homes of Capra, Carwile, Wilson and Wong.

On May 27, former Piazza construction manager Jay Liyanage pleaded guilty to a felony charge of giving bribes to Capra, Wilson and Wong in 2006. He is expected to testify against Wilson and Wong.

Capra, who was serving his second term as councilman, was forced to resign from office on June 2. Earlier in the day, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failing to report a campaign contribution of $1000 or more.

The D.A. will not charge the former councilman with any charges related to the Piazza corruption probe.

 Developer has less than 3 months to complete his project

 With a court-mandated settlement conference coming up in July, the City Council met in closed session on Tuesday, June 16.

“Due to the advice of the interim city attorney, I will recuse myself from the closed session,” said councilwoman Wong.

When the rest of the council returned, interim city attorney Eric Veil gave the following statement, “I’ll just report that the City Council met with the interim city attorney and its special legal counsel…to discuss an upcoming status conference.”

“There is no other reportable action at this time,” he added.

Councilmen Fernando Vizcarra and Vincent Yu will participate in the conference with the Piazza developer.

The $75 million project, formerly known as the “Temple City Galleria” and “Piazza Las Tunas,” was approved by a previous City Council in May 2006.

From 2006 to the present, the developer has held two groundbreakings, worked with three different construction management firms and proposed changes three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

According to the developer’s agreement signed by Wang and the city of Temple City, the developer has until August 23, 2009 to complete his project.

Failure to do so will allow the city of Temple City to purchase the 3.7 acre site for $5 million. However, if city officials are found to be guilty of Wang’s bribery claims, the contract signed between Wang and Temple City would be invalid.

Since the city and the developer sued one another, about $171,000 in legal fees has been spent by Temple City, as of April 30.

Temple City is being represented by Joe Buchman of Burke, Williams and Sorensen, LLP.

CORRECTION: The defendants will appear in court on July 9, not July 6 as previously mentioned.

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