The first Santa Ana City Council meeting following the arrest of Councilman Carlos Bustamante on sexual assault charges, could be a long one. Sources say that Bustamante is expected to attend and participate in the entire meeting. Even though the Council will not be discussing Bustamante’s arrest, it is expected that residents will express their disapproval of Bustamante, including calls for him to resign.
But the subject of Busamante will generate only a portion of the entertainment for Monday evening’s meeting.
First there will be the closed session discussion of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez by her Parks and Recreation Commissioner Max Madrid challenging the determination that Alvarez is ineligible to run for an additional term on the City Council due to the term limits established by the voters in 2008.
The city’s Public Information Officer Jose Gonzales indicated, in response to a question from Liberal OC’s Dan Chmielewski, that Alvarez had previously not participated in discussions on the matter of term limits. “She has previously abstained from participating in closed sessions regarding this matter,” Gonzales said. Members are required to publicly disclose whether they are conflicted on an item and the public should be notified that the member has abstained from participation in the discussion if that happens during the course of a closed session meeting. It appears that that is what happened at the July 2nd meeting. According to the minutes of the last weeks meeting, “Mayor Po Tem Alvarez recorded a Conflict of Interest and left the room at 5:12 p.m. She returned to the meeting at 5:59 p.m. and noted for the record that the Clerk of the Council should have also recused herself.”
Apparently Alvarez does not understand that since the City is responsible to defend the City Clerk in the lawsuit naming the Clerk in her capacity of the Clerk of the City. Since the Clerk and the City are both the defendants in this case, there was no cause for the Clerk to recuse herself. This conflict was probably what was being played out for the public when Alvarez tried to “school” the City Attorney over council member recusals at the last Council meeting. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m betting City Attorney Sonia Carvalho had handled Ms. Alvarez with the same confident poise she displayed during the unprofessional theatrics Alvarez engaged in for public consumption.
Next there is the matter of Item 19D on the Consent Agenda related to the Downtown Santa Ana Community Assessment District. Mayor Pro Tem Alvarez is likely to pull this for discussion so that she can, once again, try to get enough votes to kill the assessment district. Staff is recommending that the Council take two actions:
Only upon City Council action to authorize the Downtown Inc. annual report/budget can the Downtown Community Management District special assessment data be submitted to the Orange County Auditor-Controller by the August 10, 2012 deadline. The council needs a quorum of four members to take up the matter, and three votes to approve or reject the item. It is anticipated that Alvarez will oppose this item and Council members Benavides and Bustamante will support it.
That leaves Council member Tinajero as the wild card vote. He supported bringing up the discussion of the Assessment District earlier in this month by joining Alvarez in placing the matter on the agenda. It is not known at this point whether Tinajero’s previous agreement to discuss the Assessment District indicates a change in his prior support for the District. His comments during the unofficial discussion at the last council meeting seemed to indicate that he is moving away from his support of the District. It is possible that Tinajero will support the option of killing the funding mechanism (this agenda item) rather than attacking the Assessment District itself. A tie vote would do just that.
This is similar to the way the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to kill the Affordable Care Act. Since they can’t actually repeal the whole thing, they trying to kill the funding that implements it.
Then we have agenda item 85A. Members Benavides, Tinajero and Sarmiento are requesting that the Council assign to the Code of Conduct and Ethics Committee “discussion of proposed ballot measure regarding an oversight committee and other Charter and Ethics related matters.” This item is related to the discussions between community groups and the committee members regarding a proposed Sunshine Ordinance. It appears that the committee would like to manage the process to ensure that all ethics and sunshine matters proposed be codified in the city charter.
This is followed on the agenda by 85B which is a proposal, yet to be publicly disclosed, to institute changes to the City Charter to establish term limits for the office of Mayor and possibly alter the limits for members of the City Council. This item is proposed by Councilwoman Michele Martinez. This may be an indication of a possible weakening in Mayor Miguel Pulido’s ability to keep mayoral term limits off the ballot. With the changes in Statewide term limits, several Council members have limited options for advancement in their political careers. Establishing term limits for the mayor could potentially open up that position without having to challenge Pulido directly.
Since the meeting is technically a “Study Session” the council is scheduled with agenda item WSA to study City Hall Open Government and Transparency efforts. This item could potentially be moved ahead of 85A, since it is somewhat related to a possible ethics ballot initiative.
If you plan on attending the meeting, please note that it will be held at the Police Community Room at 60 Civic Center Plaza in Santa Ana. The room is smaller than the Council Chambers, and given the matters scheduled for discussion, there should be a good public turn out for the meeting. The Closed session begins at 5:00 p,m, followed by the Council meeting at 5:45 p.m. or later is the closed session goes long. You can also watch the meeting online through the city website at www.santa-ana.org.
With all the dueling items on the agenda, I am reminded of the “Dueling Banjos” scene from the movie Deliverance below.