John Noguez' Roots Trace Back to Huntington Park Political Culture

By Brian Charles; Sgvn twittercom/JBrianCharles | Pasadena Star-News, November 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

John Noguez' Roots Trace Back to Huntington Park Political Culture


Brian Charles; Sgvn twittercom/JBrianCharles, Pasadena Star-News


HUNTINGTON PARK - The mere mention of county Assessor John Noguez around his old haunts in Huntington Park exposes deep divisions in the city of 58,000 that lies on west bank of the Los Angeles River.

To some Noguez's recent arrest on suspicion of 24 felonies, including solicitation of bribes and misuse of public funds, only exacerbated wounds that have been festering since Noguez was appointed city clerk in 2001.

To others, like his attorney, any allegations of impropriety by Noguez, currently held in county jail in lieu of $1.16 million bail, come from folks jumping on the bandwagon.

"Mr. Noguez has been honored to serve his community and has done so ethically and legally," said Michael Proctor, his attorney. "The current case will be fought in court, and other pile on allegations we are not going to respond to right now."

Nonetheless, Noguez is suspected of reducing property tax bills for his campaign donors. In return, Noguez allegedly took $185,000 in campaign cash and payments.

He was arrested along with longtime political ally Ramin Salari and Deputy County Assessor Mark McNeil.

The three face stiff prison sentences if convicted. Some say it's the tip of the iceberg and the outcome of years of corrupt practices by the one-time golden boy of Huntington Park.

"It's unfortunate that it has taken this long, and that the citizens of Huntington Park have had to live this long in such a corrupt climate," said Marilyn Sanabria, founder of Huntington Park Citizens Unite, a city watchdog group. "But with that said, I am glad to see him arrested, and as long as he goes to jail it was not a waste of time."

In the beginning

The tussle between competing points of view is nothing new in Huntington Park.

"It's been like this for more than 20 years," resident Alex Young said.

Young moved to the city as its demographics began to change from a predominantly white community to a mostly Latino one.

"It became very contentious in the mid-1980s," Young said. "Latinos started to come in and flex their power."

It was in that environment that young Juan Renaldo Rodriguez cut his teeth.

Huntington Park City Councilwoman Rosario Marin took the young man, who had become John Noguez under her wing.

Marin served as Noguez's political mentor. And, like her apprentice, Marin knew how to turn a part-time political post into a career. First elected to the Huntington Park City Council in 1994, in 2001 Marin was appointed Treasurer of the United States by President George W. Bush.

"Here was the very good looking guy, kind of smooth, being shown around by Rosario Marin," said former Huntington Park City Councilwoman Linda Caraballo. "He comes out of nowhere and Rosario Marin introduces him as Mr. Huntington Park," Caraballo added.

But she would later discover that Noguez was actually Juan Renaldo Rodriguez. He would later go by another name, but would never legally change his name, according to court documents. He was also married and openly gay.

Caraballo became suspicious and she started to keep tabs on the man known as Noguez.

In 2001, Marin appointed Noguez to the city clerk post, giving him a foothold in Huntington Park politics, according to city documents.

Marin abruptly left the Bush administration in 2003. She later admitted to three ethics violations during her time as secretary of the California State and Consumer Services Agency between 2004 and 2009.

In 2003, Noguez was ready for a run of his own.

Before the beginning

Founded in 1906, Huntington Park takes its name from railroad kingpin Henry Huntington. The city was built to house factory workers as Los Angeles was in the throes of its first expansion.

The city borders Maywood, Bell, Cudahy, South Gate and Los Angeles. Its commercial corridor, which runs east to west along Florence Avenue bustles with people walking on wide sidewalks lined with pepper and palm trees. …

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