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Beaumont Council could keep status quo as city tries to move beyond corruption cases

Four years ago, Beaumont voters swept out three incumbents, replacing them with a trio of newcomers.
Mike Lara, Mark Orozco and Lloyd White soon found themselves and the city in the midst of a scandal after seven former high-ranking city officials were arrested in May 2016 as part of a corruption probe involving the misuse of tens of millions of dollars in public funds. All have since pleaded guilty and been sentenced .
Orozco then became caught at corruption himself . He resigned from the council in September 2017 after being convicted in a bribery and perjury case.
When the 2016 election came around, two more new members — Nancy Carroll and Julio Martinez — were elected, meaning the entire council had turned over in two years.
But no newcomers appear on the Nov. 6 ballot when three seats are up for election this year.
Lara and White are each seeking second terms, while Rey Santos, who was appointed to replace Orozco in October , is seeking a full term.
Their only challengers are familiar to voters. Victor Dominguez and Ron Roy have each run for council in the past but have never been elected.
“I’d like to think it’s because we’re doing a good job,” White said of the small field of challengers. “We went from near bankruptcy three years ago to an A-plus credit rating and we’re in the middle of tackling some big projects.”
Lara and Santos expressed similar thoughts.
“When I hear comments from constituents, they say they can start to see the results, see that things are definitely turning around,” Lara said.
Santos said people he meets throughout the city have been supportive of the current council.
“They’re happy with what’s going on in the city,” he said. “That’s the reason there isn’t much participation in the election.”
But Dominguez said the economy is good, so residents don’t watch their government as closely.
“Everyone is working, having fun. They don’t pay attention anymore,” he said. “They assume everything is getting done correctly.”
Beaumont, located along the 10 Freeway in the San Gorgonio Pass, remains one of the fastest growing cities in the region. Its population quadrupled in the past two decades to more than 46,000 residents.
Former Councilman David Castaldo, who served one term before being voted out in 2014, said that has put more scrutiny on elected officials.
“The Beaumont Council position now comes automatically with a target on your back,” he said. “It’s no longer about politics. It’s about what they can dig up on you. The position isn’t worth the aggravation.”
Dominguez brings some baggage with him to the ballot. He was arrested in April 2015 on suspicion of murder in the shooting death of 40-year-old Mario Lara, the cousin of Mike Lara.
He claimed self-defense and was never charged.
“Everybody has the right to defend their life,” Dominguez said.
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Riverside County prosecutors declined to file criminal charges and referred the case back to the Beaumont Police Department for further investigation.
“The BPD considers this case closed,” Beaumont Police Chief Sean Thuilliez wrote in a message Tuesday, Sept. 18. “The person responsible for the death of Mr. Lara was arrested and the case was filed with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.”
Mario Lara was the cousin of Mike Lara.
Dominguez said the incident didn’t seem to be an issue in the 2016 election, where he finished third in a field of six for two seats.
“I think the voters already responded to that,” he said.
Like many elected officials seeking another term, both White and Mike Lara said they have more work to do.
“I want to finish what we started,” Lara said. “I want to keep Beaumont moving on the right path.”
He said so much of his first term was spent digging the city out of trouble that it’s now time to move projects forward.
But, Lara said he realizes that voters have no problem replacing their leaders based on the past two elections, in which four incumbents were defeated at the ballot box and one did not seek another term.
“I’m not complacent in any sense,” he said. “I’m just excited about what’s happening. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and I want to be a part of that.”
And Santos said there still are residents who lump the current council in with past regimes, which were criticized for not paying attention as the former administrators robbed the city.
“They think the council is still part of that,” Santos said. “I tell them, ‘No, it’s not.”
He praised current administrators and touted his background in finance saying he keeps a close eye on the books.
Roy declined to comment for this article.
Victor Dominguez
Lloyd White
Mike Lara
Ron Roy
Rey Santos

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