Commerce councilor blatantly violates own city’s laws to pursue campaign

By Brian Hews

June 4, 2022 ~ Commerce adviser Leonard Mendoza apparently doesn’t think local laws apply to him and his campaign, and he refuses to quit when told of a violation.

Scary to think what else he would try inside the city, considering he could win a city council seat on Tuesday.

Mendoza imprints the Commerce City seal on its campaign materials, flagrantly violating two of the city’s municipal codes, sections 2.09.030 and 2.09.040.

Stripped as mayor a few weeks ago, Mendoza is also sending material via USPS proclaiming he is the city’s mayor, which could lead to prosecution for mail fraud.

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A campaign flyer sent by Mendoza last week clearly showing the seal of the city (on the mat). He also calls himself “Mayor Leonard Mendoza.” Both are violations he was warned about by the Commerce City clerk.

Image posted three days ago on Mendoza’s Facebook calling himself mayor. He was warned not to do so on April 20, 2022 by the city clerk.

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Mendoza was repeatedly warned by Commerce City Clerk Lena Shumway, but he did not listen or stop his unethical behavior.

Shumway was forced to write a letter to Mendoza on June 2, 2022, obtained by HMG-CN, outlining his violations and asking him to stop using the city seal and calling himself mayor on campaign materials.

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“The city is aware that you have produced [campaign materials] who use the city seal.

“Please note that Section 2.09.030 of the Municipal Commercial Code (“MCC”) makes it illegal and prohibits the use of the official seal or logo of the city by any person.

“Further, CMC Section 2.09.040 prohibits the use of the City Seal in a manner that leads people to believe that the document is an official document of the City or represents the position of the City.

“Your candidate flyers contain the city seal and violate CMC Sections 2.09.030 and 2.09.040. As such, please remove immediately [everything] immediately using the city seal from all locations, websites and social media platforms.

A check today, June 4, of Mendoza’s social media post and flyers, two days after receiving Shumway’s letter, shows that Mendoza has not removed the city seal.

And he probably won’t delete everything, given that he hasn’t obeyed Shumway’s earlier requests.

On April 20, 2022, Shumway sent a letter regarding Mendoza’s illegal use of his former title as mayor; Mendoza responded and assured Shumway that he would stop; that was six weeks ago.

Mendoza wrote, “Lena, as a courtesy, I may stop using the title mayor in my literature.”

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An email sent from Mendoza to Lena Shumway telling her that he would “stop using the title of mayor”. Click on the image to view a larger document.

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But Mendoza did not stop.

Shumway wrote in his June 2 letter, “You have assured me that you will no longer use your old title of ‘mayor’ in future campaign materials. I have received several complaints that you continue to use your old title of “mayor” in all of your campaign materials. Please immediately stop using this title on any of your campaign materials or social media platforms.

The larger question is whether Mendoza was committing mail fraud when he placed the city logo and his title as mayor on campaign materials he sends to Commerce residents.

There are three elements of mail fraud under USPS laws; scheme to defraud, intention to defraud and use of mail to promote fraud.

“A scheme to defraud means using dishonest means to communicate a false statement or a lie.”

Mendoza did this by mailing in his campaign materials with the city seal while calling himself mayor.

“Intent to defraud means that the defendant intends to be deceptive or dishonest; an individual cannot commit fraud if he believes his statements were true and honest.

Mendoza had been warned on April 20 by the city clerk, who was very clear that he could not call himself mayor anywhere, but since then he has mailed several USPS campaign materials calling himself mayor. .

The use of e-mails within the framework of the scheme is in this case obvious. Mendoza used the mail to send his lies, paying for it with his own campaign money.

Shumway’s letter is a good blueprint for a Los Angeles County prosecutor’s complaint, mail fraud might be harder to prosecute, but the elements of fraud are there under USPS laws.

An email sent to Mendoza was not returned, but he is aware of the June 2 letter.

After HMG-CN released a screenshot of Shumway’s actual letter, Mendoza [ironically] pointed out that the city logo was missing from the letter; HMG-CN had taken a screenshot of the letter without the logo, but the screenshot bore Shumway’s signature.