Villain or Man of the People? A Profile of Ex-Cudahy City Manager George Perez

Ex-Cudahy City Manager George Perez is the kind of guy they make movies about: a shady yet powerful political figure who evokes contempt or pride, depending on who you’re asking. The ambitious kingpin began his career as a city janitor, scrubbing toilets for $6.50 an hour. He worked his way up to the top within six years, becoming the town’s lead executive despite no formal education or training.

It would be the quintessential American Dream story if it weren’t for one little thing: Perez—once affectionately known as “Mr. Cudahy”—has been accused of nearly every sin in the book. Bribery, election rigging, and even drug use at City Hall are just some of the allegations against him contained in federal documents. Even his ascent up the ladder of city government became a subject of suspicion. And despite the fact that he was never arrested, the stain on his reputation remains as permanent as the city seal tattooed on his leg.

The Los Angeles Times recently profiled the once popular Perez, who was fired in 2011 but somehow managed to escape a courtroom. Three other city officials, including two council members, weren’t so lucky. They were convicted of bribery charges and sent to prison.

As for the accusations against Perez, “they’re all false, and I’m not the one who went to jail,” he says. But you won’t find his portrait hanging at City Hall any longer. In a town which has struggled mightily to overcome its legacy of corruption, "Mr. Cudahy" has become persona non grata. It’s an ending he likely never imagined as part of the script.


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