WEEKLY EXCLUSIVE: Hitting home
Private eye posts ‘incriminating’ mailing address as DA investigates District 3 candidate’s residency
Recently, people began talking about a private investigator who’d come to town and was secretly snooping into the backgrounds of certain people.
Not long after that, a Pasadena City Council candidate’s estranged wife complained about her mail being tampered with.
But as all that was happening, operatives for one candidate started claiming their political nemesis lied about his residency. That’s when the District Attorney’s Office began taking a keen interest in what has been going on.
What sounds a little bit like a storyline from a Lifetime or USA Network melodrama, or an example of Nixon-era campaign dirty tricks, is actually a condensed update of what’s been happening in the red-hot race for the City Council District 3 seat between John J. Kennedy, Ishmael Trone and the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson. The three men are competing to replace former Councilman and now state Assemblyman Chris Holden in the March 5 municipal election.
On Thursday, LA County Deputy District Attorney Anne Ingalls confirmed her office is looking into a complaint filed against Trone, alleging he lied about his residency when he filed papers at City Hall to run for the seat left vacant by Holden, and that Trone is actually living in Altadena with his wife, from whom he is legally separated.
“There is an inquiry regarding Mr. Trone’s residency,” Ingalls told the Weekly Thursday. “We will look into it and review whatever we need to review.”
Ingalls would not tell the Weekly whether Trone had been notified of the DA’s probe or what charges he would face if found to be lying about his residency. “I can’t go that far,” Ingalls said. “We don’t know if we would file charges. I can’t really talk about that at all.”
Trone expressed shock when told by the Weekly he was being investigated by the DA’s Office, but said he was not worried.
“Well, where the hell am I sleeping every night? That’s where I am every night. I have not heard anything about this from the District Attorney’s Office.”
During an interview with this newspaper, Trone provided several years’ worth of utility bills listing him as residing at a four-plex he purchased in 2000 which also houses his business at 83 E. Orange Grove Blvd., home of F&M Financial, a bail bonds and tax business started by his mother, Madelyn, and his stepfather, Felix, in the early 1970s.
City Clerk Mark Jomsky told the Weekly Trone used that address on nomination papers and on an affidavit of eligibility to vote in the district. According to the state Election Code, candidates cannot run for a council seat unless they are able to vote in that district. They sign the official documents when completed “under penalty of perjury.” The maximum penalty for perjury is one year in jail, according to the California Penal Code.
Said Trone, “I understand that I signed the forms under penalty of perjury; I read it. There is nothing more I can say. This is getting ridiculous.”
Actually, it is not as ridiculous as it is extreme, with Torrance-based gumshoe Jan B. Tucker, who owns and operates the Web site “The Detective Diary,” now playing a role in the campaign. On his Web site, Tucker calls Trone, who has the support of Holden, part of “The Holden Machine.” A blog listing on that site shows copies of mailers and letters addressed to Trone at an Altadena home that he purchased with his wife.
It was unknown who may have solicited the services of Tucker.
“Legally I can’t say if I have been hired or working a case on this,” Tucker told the Weekly. The private investigator also would not reveal if he had gone through Juanita Trone’s mail to scan or copy the pieces posted on his blog.
Tucker is loosely connected to Pasadena Unified School District school board member — and Kennedy supporter — Ramon Miramontes, through membership in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Miramontes said he knows Tucker, but did not hire him.
Although Ingalls declined to say who wrote the complaint about Trone, and no other newspapers have reported on the DA’s inquiry, Miramontes seemed to know all about the investigation, according to a series of text messages he sent to his friend, local restaurateur Robin Salzer, a former District 1 candidate rumored to be considering a mayoral run in two years.
According to Salzer, who also supports Trone, Miramontes wrote “Ish is going to lose dude.” Another message from Miramontes reads “The DA is going after Trone. There is an investigation on him for not living in the district. I’m no longer backing U for mayor and NW [Northwest] Latinos will not back you.”
Miramontes said he knew nothing about the DA investigation and said he was not working with Tucker, whom he described as a “well-known private investigator.”
Miramontes also refused to say whether he sent any text messages to Salzer, who shared them with the Weekly.
In his candidate interview, Kennedy said Miramontes is not working for his campaign, a point which the school board member himself confirmed. Miramontes did tell the Weekly, however, he believed Trone was working with Martin Truitt, a well-known political consultant who works mostly with politically conservative candidates.
“If I was working for John Kennedy, I would expect him to tell the truth and be proud of it,” Miramontes said. “Unlike Ishmael Trone, who is not being truthful about Martin Truitt being his consultant.”
Truitt did not return phone calls, and Trone has, on several occasions, denied having any involvement with Truitt.
Kennedy denied any connections to Tucker or the DA’s investigation.
“I am not responsible for it, and no, I am not aware of an investigation,” Kennedy said. “My goal is to discuss the issues that are important to the residents of District 3, and that is what I have been doing by knocking on doors and talking to the residents about the real issues that impact their lives on a daily basis. Dr. Benson and Mr. Trone have every right to talk about the issues as well.”