Chacon blamed Beltran for giving the advice that she relied on for making the switch. That defense was shot down by the California Supreme Court in February, paving the way for Chacon’s trial later this year. Beltran defended himself and pointed to the accusations against him as business as usual. “When they see Arnoldo come out and be hired as city attorney, all these other people come out and say, `I’m going to get that so-and-so,”‘ he said. “It took me a while to get used to it. But now, I really don’t care.” Beltran said he did nothing wrong in the Chacon case, but the finger-pointing was understandable. “What else was she left with?” he asked. A resident of Pasadena, Beltran, 56, is a Stanford-educated lawyer. After graduating law school in 1977, he began practicing corporate law. He has also represented the governments of Mexico and El Salvador as well as the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. It was only after the Los Angeles riots in 1992, and a stint with Rebuild L.A., that Beltran partnered with H. Francisco Leal and began representing cities. At first, the newly formed firm represented Commerce and Cudahy, Beltran said. The firm expanded into Bell Gardens in 1994, with Beltran taking the reins as city attorney. Despite being in the heart of industrial southeastern Los Angeles County, Commerce and Bell Gardens are cities with a solid source of revenue generated by card clubs. Both have similar demographics. According to the 2000 Census, Commerce was almost 94 percent Latino. Neighboring Bell Gardens had a 93 percent Latino population. Because of their often divided councils and lack of consistent news coverage, cities in southeastern Los Angeles County are perfect clients for attorneys like Beltran, Leal and others, according to deputy District Attorney David Demerjian, who heads the Public Integrity Division. “They are looking for the dynamic of a council that’s split 3-2,” Demerjian said. That sort of split was evident in 2000 in Bell Gardens. At the time, Beltran and his associates on City Council came into the spotlight when a suit filed by a political opponent alleged Beltran was behind a political hijacking of the Bell Gardens City Council and “other political jurisdictions of Los Angeles County.” The suit claimed Beltran’s agenda was to appoint like-minded city employees and pay them well above what neighboring cities were paying. Identifying Beltran and his allies as the “Beltran Group,” the suit alleged the lawyer ran a Tammany Hall-style operation, with all the trappings of political patronage, funds skimmed from public coffers, and influence peddling. “\ have worked together since 1994 towards the common goal of seeking, obtaining and exercising control over the political, executive, legislative, quasi-judicial, administrative and ministerial decision making of the government of Bell Gardens,” the suit alleged. The attorney who filed the suit against Beltran was Peter Wallin, who recently resigned his post from Rosemead and was himself a former Bell Gardens city attorney. The suit also claimed that the so-called “Beltran Group” took control of city appointments, paid their allies salaries in “excess of the value of their services,” and “form\ grass-roots … groups to support the campaigns and political decisions of the Beltran Group.” Among those employed by Bell Gardens during Beltran’s reign was Montebello Councilwoman Rosie Vasquez, who was the city’s community services director. Vasquez was one of three votes in favor of hiring Beltran as Montebello’s City Attorney. The others, Jeff Siccama and Bill Molinari, make up a majority in the otherwise divided council. The Bell Gardens suit was ultimately settled out of court. Bell Gardens officials did not respond to a Public Records Act request seeking the settlement amount. The current Bell Gardens City Attorney, Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, who holds the same post in West Covina, did not comment on the settlement. Beltran said he didn’t recall the lawsuit. “I don’t remember the allegation or premise,” he said. Ultimately, Beltran split from his firm. Leal continued representing Commerce, while associate David Olivas, currently a Baldwin Park city councilman, took over as city attorney in Cudahy. Beltran stayed on in Bell Gardens before he was removed in 2001. He moved on to represent Lynwood in 2003. He also represents the Cerritos-based Water Replenishment District, which manages ground water distribution in 43 cities in southeastern Los Angeles County, including Montebello, Commerce, Cudahy and Lynwood. While elected members of the Water Replenishment District have been able to stay out of the District Attorney’s investigative cross-hairs, two current and three former Lynwood council members were indicted earlier this month for using hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money to increase their income, pay off personal expenses and hire a stripper at a bar in Mexico. Beltran was not involved in any of the decisions that led to the criminal charges, and he declined to comment on the case. While plenty of his associates were willing to open up about Beltran off the record, others simply refused to comment on the attorney, his practice or his record. Among them: Montebello’s Vasquez, who did not return two phone calls seeking comment. Molinari, a Vasquez colleague in Montebello, who voted to hire Beltran in February. “I don’t have time to discuss him,” Molinari said. Olivas, the former law firm associate, now city attorney in Cudahy and member of the Baldwin Park City Council. “I don’t feel comfortable talking about him,” Olivas said. Jesse Jauregui, a former partner of Beltran and attorney H. Francisco Leal. “I wish I could, but I can’t,” said Jauregui, now a corporate lawyer with Weston, Benshoof, Rochefort, Rubalcava, MacCuish LLP. Nonetheless, Jauregui recently told the L.A. Weekly that he quit working for Beltran and Leal several years ago and added, “I’m glad to no longer be a part of Tammany Hall-style politics.” To which Beltran responded Thursday: “I wish somebody would identify what Mr. Jauregui could have been referring to.” Beltran has his share of defenders, too. Among them is Siccama, the third Montebello city councilman who voted to hire Beltran in February. “My experience has been that he is very ethical and even-handed all the way through,” Siccama said. firstname.lastname@example.org (626) 962-8811 Ext. 2717 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEBELLO – J. Arnoldo Beltran speaks with the rhythmic cadence of a lawyer who has argued his fair share of cases over the past three decades. Appointed city attorney in February by a 3-2 vote of the Montebello City Council, Beltran is known for his advocacy of Latino causes and his sometimes gruff manner. Though his arguments are seldom presented in court – more often than not, they are laid out in closed session – Beltran is accustomed to the limelight. He was a key player in Bell Gardens when the council there voted to promote a councilwoman to city manager. That led to a District Attorney’s Office investigation and criminal charges against Maria Chacon, the Bell Gardens councilwoman.