Only in the Banana Republic of SanTana do the appointment and dismissal of commissioners who oppose the reign of Mayor-for-Life Don Papi Pulido turn into nasty, bare-knuckle knockdowns that make Bell politics seem absolutely Mayberry by comparison. Earlier this year, it was the dismissal of Jeff Dickman from the Historic Resources Commission; years before that, Claudio Gallegos and Art Pedroza, two of the city's most prominent bloggers (with the Liberal OC and Orange Juice!, respectively) and former allies whom the former is now suing the latter (along with others) in the media pissing match of the year.
The latest commissioner on the chopping block? Tish Leon, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Committee and is scheduled to be removed this because of conversationsl she sent to a 16-year-old student commissioner--that would be the official story if Councilmember Michelle Martinez (who appointed Leon) ever bothered to tell her.
Instead, Leon--who is a friend, so no more opinions by me on
issue--was advised by the City Clerk that the council wanted her off the commission. Leon refused, so an action item was added late yesterday to this Monday's city council agenda, a nice Friday afternoon massacre if ever there was one (oops, I let an opinion slip!).
Leon refuses to resign and plans to address the council this Monday. So does the student who alleges Leon annoyed her. Fun!
The background...actually, let's go right to the sources. The following is a letter sent July 13 by the Parks and Rec student representative (whose name the Weekly is withholding because he is a minor--after all, we're not the Orange County Register), sent to Parks and Recreation Agency director Gerardo Mouet:
It is with great sorrow that I am hereby tendering my resignation to you. Although there is much to say, I believe the reasons leading to this decision are many, and I will therefore leave them unsaid at this time. I appreciate having had the opportunity of being a member of the Parks and Recreation Board for some time, and hope for your continued success and success in all of your endeavors in the coming years.
My experience with the Parks and Board has been very rewarding. I appreciate having had the opportunity to work with such fine community leaders and citizens of the City of Santa Ana. I wish you and the Board continued success.
There are many reason for why I have chosen to resign from the Parks and Recreation Board, however, I will [Gustavo note: redacted to protect the student's identity] and remain involved in our community. There are several and multiple reasons for this decision, but I am sure that it is best for me at this time. I hope to one day serve as a Board Member once I am able to serve as one, and again, I wish you all continued success in all of your endeavors. Please, accept this letter of resignation, and again, Thank you all for your courtesy and service to our community.
This will confirm my resignation as Student Representative to the Parks and Recreation Board.
Please feel free to contact me at any time should you have any questions regarding my resignation and I wish the Board and all of the Board Members the best in all of your future endeavors.
Now, a different tune sent July 28--three days after Orange Juice broke the story--by the same student representative:
Mr. Mouet, As you may recall, on the late evening of June 13th, 2010, I submitted my letter of resignation as Student Representative for Board of Parks and Recreation. In my letter, I did not give a specific reason as to why I had decided to take such action. At the time being, I believed that it was highly unprofessional for me to include names of individuals that greatly influenced me to take such actions. I did not disclose the reasons as to why I resigned, as I did not want to create any further obstacles for both yourself, and the council. However, I have now taken action as I have come to realize that the actions taken by these individual were not only in violation of the City's Code of Ethics, but as well as normal decorum for a fellow appointed official.
The day following the normal board meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board in which we discussed the dog park, I received an email from Commissioner Leon. In it, she advised me that I needed to "watch out" on who I trusted and "who I let into my inner circle." She proceeded to some extent, in advising me about Mr. Art Pedroza. Long before serving on the Parks and Recreation Board, I had knowledge of the issues between Commissioner Stroud, Commissioner Leon and Mr. Pedroza. In response to this email I responded to Commissioner Leon with the following:
"Tish, I appreciate your concerns, but we need to put personal issues aside, and do what is best for the community. We are public servants appointed to do what is best for our community, and we can't let personal issues get in the way of suggestions and proposals by our constituents."
The incident was left there. However, on May 1st, 2010 at 9 AM, I was in school, and I received an email from Commissioner Leon via Facebook. In the email she asked that I call her. At about 9:30 I proceeded to calling Commissioner Leon, and I asked her if I could give her a call back because I was in class. At about Noon or 1 PM I returned Commissioner Leon's call, and engaged in a lengthy conversation that was about an hour in duration. During this time, Commissioner Leon proceeded in questioning me as to why I supported Sal and not Mr. Thomas Gordon, she further proceeded to telling me that I should not talk to Mr. Art Pedroza, or read his blog, or even be his friend on Facebook. She went on to tell me that she had blocked Mr. Pedroza on Facebook and that I needed to do the same. I was also confronted for supporting the Dog Park idea proposed by Mr. Art Pedroza. Again, I reminded Commissioner Leon, that I took my appointed position very seriously, that I was not going to let personal issues get in the way of doing what I believed was right for the community, and that I was not about to pick sides on whatever dilemma Commissioner Stroud, and Leon had against Mr. Pedroza. I was also not prepared in endorsing any candidate for Ward 6 elections.
Furthermore, I was advised to apologize to Commissioner Stroud and Candidate Gordon. I did not know what I needed to apologize for, but I proceeded to calling both Commissioner Stroud and Candidate Gordon to let them know that I would stand in support of the idea, and that I would not be endorsing anyone. Commissioner Leon told me that someone had said that I had said that Mr. Thomas Gordon was "racist".
The incident got to the point where I thought that it would be best if I resigned from the Board as Student Representative because I was not about to pick sides in supporting Commissioners Leon's and Stroud's personal agenda. I was going to side with what I believed to be best for the Students in Santa Ana and out community as a whole. It took me over a month to finally decide that I would resign, but I was worried that this would be a constant problem should I remain on the Board. Therefore, I resigned due to Commissioner Leon's and Commissioner Stroud's actions.
Lastly, may I just add that I had no voting power on the Board, therefore I do not understand why Commissioner Leon and Stroud proceeded to taking such actions against me. Nonetheless, unfortunately because of these two individuals I was left no choice but to resign.
Leon's response, submitted to the City Council last week:
I am writing to say how disappointed I am in Councilmember Michele Martinez and those who have chosen to believe the accusations made by [the student] & the Orange Juice Blog.
Since this whole thing started I have been waiting for a call from Michele or someone from the city staff to hear my side. Instead, I get a phone call asking for my resignation.
Yes, it is true that I spoke with [the student] a couple of times, and I want to take this opportunity to clarify what the conversations were about.
One conversation lasted about 20 mins which was about him wanting to get more involved with politics. I suggested he contact Lou Correa or Jose Solorio since they both are running for office. I also warned him to be careful about whom he allows in his circle of trust. We also spoke about a dog park where we shared a difference of opinion, but I felt this was pointless since the dog park is not an action item. I felt that it would never happen because the city is a park poor city and I can't believe "they" would take a park away from people for dogs.
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Another conversation was about a rumor circulating about [the student] apparently calling Thomas Gordon a racist. I wanted to help him stop the rumor and warned him to take care when talking to other people. I advised him to speak to Thomas or anyone for that matter before he speaks. Of course he denied the rumor, and I believed him. I did not tell him to support Thomas or anyone for that matter, just to talk to him to find out for himself. He told me that he wasn't supporting anyone for council including the current Councilmember [Sal Tinajero] since he never calls him except to ask for his support. Again, I warned him about who he says things to especially about City Council members. [The student] felt the need to keep apologizing during our conversations but I told him numerous times that he had nothing to apologize for.
I have said from the start that this is a classic case of "he said she said," and it is sad that Michele has decided to pass judgment and has proven me guilty before exercising due diligence and getting all the facts. I am being falsely accused of violating the code of ethics, but the only things I have done is mentor a young man and warn him of a certain person and a blog.
Serving the residents of the city is an honor. I was planning to step down in November to give someone else an opportunity to serve and to allow me to pursue other activities in my community.
This letter is not about being asked to resign from the Board of Recreation and Parks, it is about a lack of due diligence on the part of the council and how council & staff are influenced by others that I believe do not have the city's best interests at heart.