Looting Hawaiian Gardens
Panel Investigating Hawaiian Gardens
by Joe Segura
Originally published 06 November 1999
in Long Beach Press-Telegram

Card club: Deal may violate law approved in 1996.

HAWAIIAN GARDENS A state legislative committee has launched a probe into business deals between the city of Hawaiian Gardens and card-club developer Irving Moskowitz.

Assemblyman Scott Wildman, chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, has ordered city officials to provide documents on their dealings with Moskowitz over the past 10 years.

The committee's probe is focusing on "possible noncompliance" with a state law that prohibits any form of direct assistance to a gambling business. The law, known as the Isenberg Bill, went into effect April 1, 1996.

The city's Redevelopment Agency has been involved with Moskowitz for the past few years in an effort to build a multi-million-dollar card club.

Among other things, the city recently agreed to borrow $4 million from Moskowitz to pay for improvements on and off the card club property, at 11971 Carson St., about a block east of Pioneer Boulevard.

The city will make the improvements and repay the loan from projected earnings from the card club, City Administrator Anthony Lopez said Thursday.

Moskowitz' attorney Beryl Weiner said the improvements were spelled out in the city's original development agreement for the project. However, the project was stalled for years because former City Attorney Julia Sylva argued that the original development pact with Moskowitz was for a major food and drug retail center.

That agreement was later amended to allow a commercial development, Sylva said. She said the city's agreement did not specify a card club until May 1997, more than a year after the Isenberg Bill went into effect.

On Thursday, Weiner disagreed, saying the development agreement was amended in August 1995, when voters approved a card-club ordinance.

The Wildman committee wants a number of documents that might shed light on other dealings between City Hall and Moskowitz. Among them: The application for, and renewal of, the permit for the city's Bingo Club, which Moskowitz also owns. The city's response to a 1996 lawsuit filed by the ABC Unified School District-against the city and card club developer. Information since 1988 on present and past city employees who also were on Moskowitz' payroll.

The probe comes as a review is pending in Sacramento on Moskowitz's application for a permanent gambling license. He has a temporary license, and the second of three phases of the card club is expected to open at the end of this month.

Copyright 1999, Long Beach Press-Telegram. For education and discussion only. Not for commercial use.

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