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Misdeeds Shock Quiet Local Gambling Mecca

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Some Angelenos assert that the 88 disparate municipalities that make up Los Angeles County serve to further fragment the region. This might be the case, but this huge number of independent cities also creates friendly small towns within the metropolis, and sometimes provides us with idiosyncratic drama. Not to mention gambling venues, the presence of which has stirred up trouble in the sleepy City of Commerce.

City of Commerce, located off the 5 freeway southeast of Los Angeles, is home to some of the area’s most popular casinos. What’s more, its local government has maintained a squeaky clean reputation. As the LA Times reports, however, this significant feat has come to an end, with recent allegations of councilmembers’ misdeeds that are more familiar to residents of neighboring municipalities such as Bell and South Gate than the 13,000 people who live in Commerce.

With only approximately 7% of land dedicated to residential use and a municipal budget that consists of nearly 40% card club revenues, Commerce is not your typical town. To outsiders it seems that the pronounced role of gambling equals fertile ground for corruption, but residents claim otherwise. Their pride and the demand for justice can be seen at the Save Commerce website.

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The poker trend put Commerce in the public eye before these scandals broke. The popular World Poker Tour broadcast showcases the world’s largest poker room at the Commerce Casino (but to television viewers it could be anywhere, really). Even poker-crazed celebs such as Ben Affleck have been known to venture into this industrial part of LA. LAist assumes that the rich and famous would not otherwise head out on the 5 to Commerce, unless they find themselves in a parsimonious mood and need to indulge in some outlet shopping at the Citadel.

But back to the controversy. Councilwoman Nancy Ramos is busy defending herself after a $1,991.24 charge on her city-issued credit card from the Bellagio in Las Vegas was subsequently paid for by the Commerce Casino. Residents are outraged at the violation of the credit card policy for Commerce employees and public officials, which specifies that credit card use is restricted to approved charges only. Ramos apologized for abusing the card and addressed the other ethics issue by recusing herself from voting on Commerce Casino-related matters. The councilwoman also claims that she hasn’t misspent city funds or accepted too large of a donation, but rather she took too long to turn in her expense reports. Hmm, OK.

In the meantime, Councilman Ray Cisneros denies charges of molestation put forth by a Las Vegas man who claims Cisneros abused him as a child.

Most of us believe in and insist on governmental accountability, but frankly don’t too riled up over scandals anymore. The Commerce community’s response to these indignities proves that some folks in LA aren’t jaded and insist on holding their elected officials to respectable standards.