After the public spoke out at the Jan. 21 Hollister City Council meeting, the council passed a resolution to censure Councilman Rolan Resendiz in a typical 3-2 vote, with councilmembers Marty Richman, Honor Spencer and Carol Lenoir voting in favor, and Resendiz and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez opposed.
A second resolution to censure Richman and Spencer was tabled until Feb. 18, but Velazquez hinted at what might be in store for Spencer when he said she could face hate crime charges.
Spencer initially requested the resolution to censure Resendiz on Dec. 16 for a “gender-based slur and for suggesting there was a sexual and promiscuous relationship between council members [Richman, Spencer and Lenoir].” Later, Velazquez requested a second resolution to censure Richman and Spencer for the “use of profanity, bullying and threatening of other council members” be placed on the Jan. 21 agenda.
Eighteen residents spoke during public comment, with some touting Resendiz as a good friend and noting the work he’s done in the community, while others recounted previous accusations made against him about personal insults related to other council members and the public. Many of those who spoke were in favor of remediation, forgiveness, dropping the moves to censure and getting back to governing.
Priscilla De Anda said she was there to support Resendiz and that she has known him for 16 years.
“It’s gotten really nasty on both sides,” she said. “I can tell you he is not against women, he’s not a woman-basher. This has come down to arguing semantics. Yes, he’s called people cockroaches. It’s a metaphor and however you interpret it is just how it goes.”
Elia Salinas addressed Resendiz directly, telling him he knew exactly what the word “cuca” meant when he called her that on Facebook.
“You got caught,” Salinas said. “People called you out on it. You had the opportunity at that time to make a statement and respond to them that that was not the word you meant to do. You chose not to and you continue to engage.”
When it came time for the council members to speak, Lenoir said she could not forgive nor forget the insults Resendiz had continually heaped on her and Spencer on social media. She told the audience the council had tried remediation, which, in part, recommended that council members refrain from using Facebook.
“You talk about we should respect,” she said addressing the audience, “but I’ve got to tell you I was insulted on his social media time and time again, and I let it go for a year. How much am I supposed to take? My sister and my niece want to know why I’m battered and bashed on Facebook daily. These are all terrible comments. What if they were directed at you? Could you turn the other cheek? I don’t think so and I don’t like it.”
Lenoir said when she first met Resendiz, she had high hopes for him as a rookie politician who she might even be able to mentor because of her 40 years in city government.
“I never thought it was going to be like this,” she said. “I was not prepared for Ignacio Velazquez’s leadership. It’s not been good for me. I was also accused of being lobbied by developers. You want to make that claim, come with the proof.”
Spencer said in the beginning she supported Resendiz, but said his “bashing and bullying on social media” began when he was a candidate. She said Resendiz accused her of taking bribes from developers. She admitted that she is friends with some developers because she has worked at San Benito High School for 22 years and knows many of their kids.
“Every time I do something up here, he puts it out on social media,” she said. “He even dared put a family member’s name out on social media. This is not about him being gay. This is about him calling people in this community names. It’s cyberbullying.”
Spencer also accused Velazquez of participating in cyberbullying for over a year. She showed the audience what she said were eight written statements asking him to stop.
“It hasn’t stopped; it’s gotten worse,” Spencer said. “Councilman Resendiz’s bullying has escalated and that’s why we’re here tonight.”
Resendiz responded that he likes to make statements based on logic and facts.
“These are the facts, folks,” he said. “I have filed a formal complaint through the City of Hollister about harassment by Honor Spencer and Vice Mayor Richman. Fact, we have a divided council. It’s no secret that we often disagree on the issue of growth. Another fact, I am Mexican-American. I speak both English and Spanish and I have never in my life heard of the word that they’re using in a derogatory manner. This, to me, is another example of lies that the lobbyists and their closest ally use in order to confuse and mislead the public for their own personal political gain.”
Salinas shouted a challenge: “Who are the lobbyists?”
The mayor responded to the disruption with his gavel.
“This is the issue we are having,” he said angrily of Salinas’ interruption. “This is the problem.”
After some more gavel-pounding, Resendiz continued: “What’s happening here is very retaliatory in nature. I have been attacked because of my views on growth. I cannot wrap my head around the logic that you would utilize to justify censuring me based on your interpretation of something I said in my native language.”
Velazquez said censuring someone was just politics. In response to earlier claims that his lack of leadership was the cause of what was happening, he said that any time he tried to take control, the three opposing council members voted to change the rules.
“I told Mr. Resendiz not to jump in the mud, that it was better to stand aside with a hose and wash them down,” Velazquez said. “That is tough when people are constantly attacking you. Some say they never attacked him, but their friends sure did.”
He went on to relate how Resendiz was maligned by a doctored photo during his 2018 election campaign to make him look like a criminal. He said if people believed the issue was Resendiz using a bad word, they were wrong.
“What this is really about is dirty politics here in San Benito County,” Velazquez said. “It is mainly funded by bloggers for the developers. I’ve been around long enough, I know exactly where this money comes from.”
“Name it,” Salinas called out from the audience.
“Again, this is what we have to go through,” the mayor responded, nodding toward her. “I will be naming it.”
“Now,” another woman shouted.
Velazquez said he would, but never did.
Lenoir apparently had had enough. “He’s accusing me of being on the take and I don’t appreciate it,” she shouted.
Velazquez pounded his gavel to silence her as they shouted over one another. He then said he had never claimed any member of the “present council” had taken money from a developer.
“The question was ‘has any council member in the past,’ I can tell you, absolutely yes,” Velazquez said.
“You’re talking about us,” Lenoir insisted, waving her hand to indicate the rest of the council. Then the mayor said a Gavilan College trustee, who he did not name, had accused Resendiz of “being mean-spirited and doing all these evil things.” He said the trustee had paid someone to draw caricatures to make fun of him. Irma Gonzalez drew the Resendiz and Velazquez caricature used in an opinion piece by Catherine Eva Booth-Vaughn. Gonzalez later accused Resendiz of defacing her art and using it on his own Facebook page.
Richman said the mayor’s claim that he witnessed an alleged conversation between Richman and Resendiz in which he supposedly called Resendiz “a puppet” was a complete fabrication.
Resendiz interrupted, “Marty, that’s just not true.”
The mayor told Resendiz to let Richman speak.
“I did tell Mr. Resendiz to ‘F you and the horse you rode in on,’” Richman admitted. He went on to claim that Resendiz was arguing with him and “he called me ‘despicable’ and said I didn’t deserve to be on the City Council. He called me everything he could think of and finally the only way I could get rid of him was to say ‘F off and the horse you rode in on.’”
Richman told BenitoLink the day after the meeting that he wants the second resolution to censure himself and Spencer to be placed on the Feb. 18 agenda because he hoped the mayor and Resendiz would agree to being sworn in along with him (he said they cannot be forced to do so) when the incident is retold.
“The mayor was not in the room when Rolan and I were talking,” he said. “Now he’s claiming I said ‘F you’ to him. He wasn’t even there. He’s lying.”
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