The Hollister City Council voted unanimously June 15 to deny two claims against the city made by resident and Gavilan College Trustee Irma Gonzalez amounting to $500,000. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez told BenitoLink the two claims, each for $250,000, were on the consent agenda because they were claims against the city rather than lawsuits, which would have gone into closed session.
“They do this every other month,” Velazquez said of the claims. “Either Elia [Salinas] does it, or Irma does it, or one of their other friends does it. It’s Councilwoman Honor Spencer’s little group doing an intimidation, ‘we’re going to sue the city if you don’t agree to give us some money.’ We say, ‘ok, go right ahead.’”
In her first complaint, filed May 26, Gonzalez stated that Councilman Rolan Resendiz “willfully harassed, bullied, intimidated, photographed, audio and video recorded a mentally disabled adult [her daughter] without permission of parents. He has on more than one occasion stood directly in front of and shoved his cell phone in her face in an effort to willfully scare and cause physical and mental anguish to a disabled person. He has mentioned her and her siblings in social media posts in an attempt to embarrass her parent and cause both mental anguish and intimidate, bully and harass the disabled special needs person who is legally conserved due to her mental and physical disability.”
In her second complaint, filed on the same date, Gonzalez told of the incident that took place at Mechanics Bank when Resendiz allegedly harassed her and Councilwoman Honor Spencer, and also allegedly told Gonzalez to “watch her back.”
Gonzalez, Salinas, Spencer and Councilwoman Carol Lenoir have all brought complaints against Resendiz and Velazquez going back to mid-2019, after both men posted comments about them on Facebook. A number of residents spoke out against Resendiz in December concerning his perceived sexual harassment and slanderous comments.
Then during the Jan. 21 council meeting, Spencer, Lenoir and the late Marty Richman passed a resolution to censure Resendiz. Spencer had requested the censure on Dec. 16, accusing Resendiz of a gender-based slur and for suggesting there was a sexual and promiscuous relationship between Richman, Lenoir and herself. Velazquez, in turn, offered a resolution to censure Richman and Spencer for their “use of profanity, bullying and threatening of other council members.”
Even after numerous members of his constituency spoke in support of Resendiz, the censure passed with a 3-1 vote, whereas the same voting block of Richman, Spencer and Lenoir defeated Velazquez’s attempt to censure the other two councilmembers.
During the June 15 meeting, after Resendiz and Spencer recused themselves, Salinas spoke during public comment and recommended that the council accept the claims against the city. She said that the allegations against Resendiz were “well-documented” and that he had already admitted to them.
“There is no reason to deny if the council member has already admitted that this is what he did,” she said. “I think the city should take responsibility and ownership of what Mr. Resendiz has done out there while representing the city and violating people’s civil rights. I think it would be the most economical way and to make sure Mr. Resendiz is reprimanded. The city should settle these claims without having to go to litigation.”
Velazquez responded that Resendiz had not admitted to anything. However, in the past Resendiz did admit to calling Salinas and others “cockroaches” in Spanish, which Gonzalez and Salinas both claimed had a double meaning, including a sexual connotation. Resendiz denied that there were sexual connotations.
“This all comes back to the same group of people,” Resendiz told Benitolink. “Elia Salinas filed the same type of claim two weeks ago. Honor Spencer and Irma Gonzalez are the ones who called me a faggot; the ones who put out a flyer making me look like a criminal; the ones who come to City Council meetings week after week. They make caricatures of me, making fun of me. Now they’re trying to shake down the city. It’s just shameful.”
Spencer denied ever using a homophobic slur regarding Resendiz or any other person.
“This is a constant barrage of attacks, including the speaker [Salinas],” Velazquez said. “I’ve said many times in the past to please move past these behaviors and start working for the city rather than threats of lawsuits.”
Lenoir said, “Sometimes there’s consequences for your actions. I think there’s a little bit of blame on both sides, and I wish you’d admit there was inappropriate behavior by Councilman Resendiz. You never seem to quite say that, but you do say a lot about Councilmember Spencer being inappropriate. I do respect their rights to voice their opinions. Elia is a member of the public and there’s no rule that tells her what she can say.”
Lenoir then made a motion to deny Gonzalez’s claims, and since only she and the mayor were left on the dais, the motion passed.
“We do them all that way,” Lenoir said. “It’s not just this one, so we should let it run the course.”
According to interim City Manager Brett Miller, the denied complaints will now go to the city’s insurer, which will decide if the city should settle or simply leave any further action up to Gonzalez to either pursue a lawsuit or drop the complaints.
“The reason they do this is in the hope they will get some kind of money,” Velazquez said, “or it’s just a way for them to throw mud. It’s non-stop harassment of Rolan. There’s nothing there and it would be laughed out of court.”
Gonzalez declined BenitoLink’s request for comment.
Updated to include additional comments.
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