We’ve seen this type of rapid overhaul before. It often begins with the marriage of elected officials to a politically powerful attorney. For example, South Gate’s suffering began with a change in its City Council, which produced a new three-vote majority that ceded power to city treasurer Albert Robles. Allied with city attorney Salvador Alva, Robles brought in a new city manager, with no experience, and a new police chief. After plundering $20 million from city coffers, Robles was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Similarly, Huntington Park Mayor Edward Escareno hired Francisco Leal as city attorney. Later, Escareno was charged with misappropriation of public funds and convicted of felony grand theft. In Lynwood, longtime mayor Paul Richards was sentenced to 16 years in prison for municipal corruption, while Beltran, his city attorney, continues in office. Big changes have come to Montebello’s city government, and they’re coming at a lightning pace. But do they signal improvement, or are they evidence for concern? Recently, the City Council has fired Community Development Director Ruben Lopez, fire Chief Jim Cox, City Attorney Marco Lopez and, just last month, City Administrator Richard Torres. After serving 18 years, Torres wasn’t dismissed for cause, so the council’s impatience for “fresh blood” and a “different direction” will cost the city an estimated $200,000. But of equal interest are the City Council’s new hires – Arnoldo Beltran as city attorney and Randy Narramore, Huntington Park’s former police chief, as interim city administrator. Bell Gardens Councilwoman Maria Chacon also partnered with Beltran, creating an ordinance that allowed Chacon to become city manager. After the DA charged Chacon with criminal conflict of interest for her vote approving the ordinance, her unsuccessful defense was that Beltran advised her she could. These incidents weren’t entirely unexpected. Back in 1999, a Los Angeles Times story included allegations that Beltran and Leal had threatened to launch recall campaigns against councilmembers in Lynwood, Commerce and Bell Gardens, if they refused to award city attorney contracts to their law firm. L.A. Weekly reported that Jesse Jauregui, former partner of Beltran and Leal, said of his former colleagues, “I’m glad to no longer be a part of Tammany Hall-style politics,” a reference to Boss Tweed’s infamous New York political machine. So, just what was in the minds of Montebello councilmembers when they voted to employ Beltran as city attorney and Escareno’s police chief as interim city administrator? Whatever the answer, it’s hard to gain comfort from reports that Councilwoman Rosie Vasquez was not concerned about Beltran’s qualifications or that Mayor Norma Lopez-Reid had been “very impressed” by Narramore, a subject in several well-publicized discrimination lawsuits filed against the Huntington Park police department by minority officers. If nothing else, it’s certainly a time for the people of Montebello to remain attentive. Richard P. McKee is past-president of Californians Aware and a La Verne resident. To comment, go to www.insidesocal.com/editors160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!