Downey man says he was harassed by former mayor

Downey resident Leonard Zuniga claims former mayor Anne Bayer stole a sign he created to welcome the NBC-4 morning news to the Columbia Memorial Space Center last Friday. And he is likely to sue.

"I predict this will end up in civil litigation," Zuniga told this newspaper Monday.

Zuniga, a Downey resident for the past 15 years, claims he and his wife, Valerie, showed up at the space center at 4:30 a.m. Friday to welcome the NBC "Today in L.A." morning show, which was broadcasting portions of the program live from the space center.

Zuniga, a former candidate for state Assembly and an announced candidate for the Cerritos College Board of Trustees, says he had constructed three "welcome to Downey" signs. The posters were made using altered campaign signs and wooden stakes.

Zuniga alleges that Bayer, a Downey councilwoman from 2002-08, snatched a sign and stored it in a space center closet, with the help of city staff.

Bayer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I don't know what her motivations were," Zuniga said. "I respect her as a person but this was harassment."

Zuniga called the police Friday to report the incident.

Sgt. Brian Baker of the Downey Police Department said no arrests were made.

"No crime was committed. All we did was keep the peace," Baker said.

Zuniga claims to have photographs and video of Bayer taking the sign. He e-mailed city officials Sunday night and said he plans to publicly address the matter at the May 22 City Council meeting.

"I just want to know why they're harassing me," Zuniga said.

Zuniga and Bayer both belonged to the Downey Coordinating Council until last year, when internal conflicts prompted the organization to file a restraining order against Zuniga, keeping him away from the volunteer recognition luncheon.

Zuniga also sued the Cerritos College Board of Trustees last year, prompting the board to change their electoral voting system.