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City of Industry May Have to Pay $6M Fine for Messing Up San Gabriel River

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When the City of Industry bought a former gold-mining camp in the San Gabriel mountains north of Azusa in 2011, the plan was to turn it back into an active recreation area. Instead, a chain of very costly events was set into motion that could end up costing the city almost $6 million in federal fines because unapproved construction at the site knocked "880,000 gallons of rock and sediment" into the river and harmed the spawning grounds of a "federally protected sucker fish," reports the LA Times.

Industry paid $5.25 million for the 100-acre property four years ago. Called Follows Camp, it was founded in 1891 as a sort of outdoor sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, but over time was used by fishermen and gold panners alike, says the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. When Industry took charge of Follows Camp, it was in rough shape and city officials did approve Zerep Management Corp., which is operated by Perez, to do some cleaning up—namely, remove structures that posed health and safety hazards, like clearing away old, boarded-up buildings on the site.

But Zerep ended up going way beyond what it was authorized to do, and was actually performing construction when a fish and game warden checked up on the land in 2012. The State Water Resources Control Board wants Industry to pay $5.8 million in fines to make up for it. (Industry's trying to negotiate the fine down.)

Responsibility for the fine and the unapproved construction, many say, falls on Industry's then-mayor, David Perez, who spurred unpermitted work on, some officials claim. Perez also contracted a company that he owned to do the work and then billed the city for that work, even though it wasn't permitted. Perez invoiced Industry for $714,000 in total for the project; Industry's city manager believes that about 80 percent of that is for work they weren't supposed to be doing. "At one point they just started doing things on their own. There was no telling what was going on — just that they were billing us," he says. The city manager says that Perez himself gave the greenlight to the work, despite not being cleared to do so.

Perez, who resigned as mayor in 2012 for health reasons, definitely flourished during his tenure as leader of Industry. A recent city audit shows that "Perez family businesses have been paid more than $326 million by the city over the last 20 years for services including building maintenance, trash pickup and street sweeping." The city is working now to disentangle itself for several contracts entered into during the Perez years, include a $12-million-a-year one for trash collection with the Perez-family-affiliated Valley Vista Services.
· Land deal has been costly debacle for City of Industry [LAT]
· Industry scoops up 100 acres in mountains north of Azusa [SGVT]