Alvarez: Brown Act Investigation! Quick we need a distraction, Michelle dump another commissioner.

Councilwoman Michelle Martinez

In another demonstration of their flair for distraction from their own mistakes, the Santa Ana City Council is again using the power to remove members of city commissions as a diversion. This time they needed a way to distract from their collective failure to stop Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez from violating the right of Albert Castillo to address his grievances to his elected officials. The action by Claudia Alvarez has drawn the attention of the Attorney General’s office.

In a Facebook comment Mayoral candidate Al Amezcua stated regarding the incident:

“I am outraged by recent incidents in which our mayor has violated residents’ constitutional rights. Blocking public comment is an abuse of power. Elected officials must be beholden to all  voters. When I am Mayor, I will welcome all voices so together we can build a better Santa Ana.”

In response to the publicity surrounding their clearly unlawful action the Council needed a way to distract attention away from their Brown Act violation to something else, anything that could be used to cause people to look at something else. They didn’t have to look far, because the thugs over at Orange Juice Blog had been sensationalizing the resignation of a city student commissioner on the Parks and Recreation Commission as a result of alleged harassment by Commissioners Julie Stroud and Tish Leon.

The unfortunate reality here is that in this case a young man, who clearly had not matured enough to know when he was being played, got swept up in the heavy breathing claims made by Art Pedroza and Sean Mill by allegedly telling others in Santa Ana that former candidate for Mayor and City Council Thomas Gordon is a racist. Things went downhill from there and the student, being unable to cope with the embarrassment that resulted, resigned.

While it is reasonable for a teenager to feel intimidated when an adult challenges their actions or decisions; the act of giving friendly advice or healthy criticism, cannot and should not be characterized by responsible adults as bullying.  Bullying would be better described as getting in the face of a political enemy and challenging them to a fistfight.  Bullying would be sending text messages threatening to destroy some one’s life.  Bullying would be making threats about sending known gang members to one’s residence.  Can you guess who we’re talking about here?

At any rate, this situation provided the perfect opportunity for some members of the council to exact some political retribution and create a diversion at the same time. Although Ms. Leon’s term is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, Councilwoman Martinez was more than happy to offer up Leon, who she had appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission in 2007, as the sacrificial distraction. Without giving any reason for her action, Ms. Martinez asked the City Clerk to seek the resignation of Ms. Leon. Having received no communication from Martinez on the matter, Leon declined to resign without speaking to the Councilwoman first. At 4 pm on Friday August 13th the City Clerk informed Leon that Martinez had placed an action to remove her from her commission appointment on the August 16th council agenda.

In an interview with Dan Chmielewski immediately after the agenda was posted, Michelle Martinez claimed that her action had “nothing to do with the incident involving the student commissioner or influence from Art Pedroza or Sean H. Mill.” She claimed that she was pressured by her colleagues on the Council because of “things Leon had done over the past couple years.” Martinez would not specify what those “things”were but stressed at the time that she had “no choice” but to remove Leon. She asked Dan if Leon had described their working relationship over the past two years indicating it was not positive, but Matinez would not be more forthcoming than that.  A couple hours later, after Sean H. Mill posted his commentary over on the Orange Juice Blog stating the Leon was being removed by Martinez “because of the incident with the student commissioner,” Martinez stated in response to an email from me seeking clarification that:

“I put the item on the agenda. This was my decision. I was not pressured by anyone. I will have an explanation for my decision on Monday at the meeting. I did talk with Dan and explained that I was not pressured by those he told me (Pedroza or Mill). I want to be very clear I was not demanded by anyone. I have the discretion to replace any of my commissioners. It is up to my colleagues on Monday if they wish to support my decision.”

Maybe it’s just me but it almost seems that after reflecting on her initial answers to Dan, in relation to what Sean H. Mill had written, she decided to revise her remarks. This of course isn’t the first time Martinez has acted to remove a commissioner for the purpose of creating a diversion, and it is also not the first time she has asked he colleagues to remove a commissioner without first speaking to her appointee. In January Martinez took the same course of action with Jeff Dickman, who was a commissioner on the Historic Resources Commission. Dickman was one of the plaintiffs who sought an injunction against the City to halt their plans to bulldoze homes in the Station District without appropriate review of all options. My colleague Claudio Gallegos wrote in January;

“I think this explains it all. The Santa Ana City Council hates nothing more than city residents standing in the way of “their vision” for Santa Ana, which is pretty screwed up. Jeff is being punished for his disloyalty to the city and all commissioners who are not kissing Claudia Alvarez and Miguel Pulido’s rings are slowly being pushed out.”

Doug Irving of the Orange County Register reported on April 20th that the city has settled the lawsuit and agreed to step back from its plans to demolish the houses until it better studies the alternatives. It has already tweaked its review of possible future development around downtown – including the Station District – to take the old houses into consideration. The City also agreed to  pay $19,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs.

It has been suggested that the removal of Leon from her commission appointment might have something to do with Leon’s support of Miguel Pulido’s opponent Al Amezcua for Mayor. Apparently it was okay for Leon to support Martinez when she challenged Mayor Pulido for mayor in 2008, but not any more since Martinez is now supporting Pulido.

Whatever Michelle Martinez’s real motivation is, the fact remains that people who serve on city commissions, serve at the pleasure of the member who appoints them. Ultimately Martinez can do whatever she wants and the Council majority will likely support the action. That doesn’t make it right; it just makes it the price of the political game.

Sal Tinajero

It is no different than the price Councilman Tinajero had to pay to get former Planning Commissioner Sean H. Mill to resign. He had to provide Mill with a city recognition certificate for his years of dedicated service; even though Tinajero told me personally in a meeting shortly before Mill resigned, that he intended to remove Mill as his commissioner because his antics as a blogger had proven to be an embarrassment to him and the city, if he did not resign.

Mill, like Pedroza, always references that he resigned from the commission.  And that’s true.  But he clearly would have been removed if he hadn’t and Mill can deny as long s he’d like to but it wouldn’t make what Mill says true.

This City Council Meeting will be held a couple of blocks away from the Council Chambers at the Yost Theater, Fiesta Market Promenade, 307 N. Spurgeon, Santa Ana. The Closed Session portion of the meeting begins at 5:00 pm and the open session will followas soon as Closed Session concludes. With the meeting being held off site, it will not be broadcast on cable TV. How convenient.

C’est la vie. Just another day in what Gustavo Arellano over at OCWeekly has appropriately called the “Banana Republic of SanTana.”

  9 comments for “Alvarez: Brown Act Investigation! Quick we need a distraction, Michelle dump another commissioner.

  1. booper
    August 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Wow, what a mess things have become. Santa Ana must be the “pride and joy” of Orange County these days. :-)

  2. cook
    August 16, 2010 at 8:28 am

    It should be tape delay.

    Show be a great show too, the yost is a good choice for a council meeting that may approach being “theater”

  3. Steve
    August 16, 2010 at 8:59 am

    The price of the political game indeed. You hit the nail on the head. For everyone involved, but ESPECIALLY Mill and Pedroza, this is nothing more than the way they play the game. It’s all about creating divisions and jostling for power. I love how they try to portray themselves as “progressive”, yet have zero tolerance for disagreement and dissention. It’s really quite pathetic.

  4. jose s.
    August 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

    hey prevatt instead of a pic of martinez and the heading you have why didnt you just call this post “i want to take the time to whine about mill and pedroza again” ? thats what this post is all about. no need to create a diversion with the heading you have and the pic of martinez just say my name is chris prevatt and i want to whine about mill and pedroza again.

    • Repulsed
      August 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

      jose s
      You are completely clueless

      • jose s.
        August 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

        yes i have my moments thank you.

  5. Bladerunner
    August 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    You’re absolutely correct that the gag job on Mr. Castillo was a Brown Act violation. It was stupid and clumsy and only served to give an issue to the Mayor’s opponenets(you even give some ink to one of his opponents in your post). But I think you are incorrect when you characterize the agendized vaporizing of City Commissioner Tish Leon as a distraction from the Affaire de Castillo. Distractions are meant to focus people’s attention away from one’s conduct. Here, the Leon mugging is hardly a distraction-although different in important features it brings attention to a pattern of wanting to shut people up. While I have to admit the Castillo debacle was pretty stupid, I simply can’t believe the Council’s motive would be to try and distract people by pulling the plug a little early on Ms. Leon’s term, arguably acting once again to try and shut someone up and intimidate others.
    I suspect the motivation was independent of Affaire de Castillo and directly related to old fashioned loyalty/payback. You go with the candidate your appointing member supports or feel the hammer. The intimidation issue with the young man and perhaps past issues w/ Ms. Leon may provide cover but it’s doubtful she would be facing the guillotine had she supported the Mayor.

    Of course, if you are correct that it is a diversion, you play into their hands by merging the two issues. People forget about the Brown Act violation and the conversation shifts to whether Leon should keep her job. Stick with the Brown Act violation; its clean, clear and without legitimate defense. I’m not suggesting ignoring the Leon dismissal but the Brown Act violation is the better target.

  6. art lomei
    August 16, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Bladerunner is right on target. They are two separate issues but related.

    The violation of the Brown act was a result of obstructing public criticism of the council to avoid council individual accountability,in particular the mayor.

    Removal of the recent commissioners is strategy to eliminate from commissions individuals that disagree with their agenda and to disassociate the Mayor from those labeled as “usual suspects…..defined by Pedroza and Mill as racists.

    This strategy is position the Mayor as protector of the Hispanic Community from the racists usual suspects.

    This they believe will take some of the Hispanic support from Pulido’s challenger. To enhance this strategy through Pedroza and Mill they are trying to associate the usual suspects with Amezcua.

    This is crystal clear in the efforts of Pedroza and Mill over at the OJ blog.

    Attention needs to be placed on both issues but separately.

    - Violation of the Brown Act
    - Removal of usual suspects:
    1. for not supporting the Mayor’s agenda
    2. to disassociate the Pulido from the usual suspects in order to present the perception of the protector of the Hispanic Community. They hope this weakens Amezcua’s support in the Hispanic Community
    3. associate the usual suspects with the Mayor’s challenger….Amezcua. They hope this weakens Amezcua’s support in the Hispanic Community

    THE BROWN ACT VIOLATION BY THE COUNCIL AND REMOVAL OF RECENT COMMISIONERS ARE DIFFERENT BUT REATED IN THAT THEY ARE POLITICAL TOOLS TO RE-ELECT MAYOR PULIDO.

    AGAIN AS BLADERUNNER SUGGESTS …KEEP THE ARUMENTS SEPERATE.

    • Repulsed
      August 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm

      I have a riddle
      What do Sean Mill, Art Pedroza and Michele Martinez have in common……… FORECLOSURE

      They feel compeled to pass judgement on and give advice to everyone they come in contact with, yet their own lives are in complete disarray. Lets just pretend that we are good upstanding citizens, nobody will notice what we really are….NOT
      Now I have a question, since Michele Martinez is no longer Paying for her condo can she still claim to be a resident of Ward 2

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