High school students got a lesson in civics gone wrong at the Feb. 18 Hollister City Council meeting when Mayor Ignacio Velazquez’s admitted retribution for the censure of Councilman Rolan Resendiz that led to the proposed censure of Councilmembers Marty Richman and Honor Spencer. The censure vote failed 2-3.
Councilwoman Carol Lenoir cast the tiebreaking vote to defeat Velazquez’s effort to punish Richman for using profanity in City Hall and Spencer for threatening Resendiz with physical harm.
After Velazquez made a motion to approve the censure, seconded by Resendiz, Spencer read a 16-minute statement where she accused the pair of carrying out a 19-month campaign of “systematic harassment and intimidation” against herself, Lenoir and members of the community on social media. Spencer said the two began bullying her and her friend of 15 years Elia Salinas, claiming that both were “in the pockets of developers.”
“This led to many negative comments and threats to me and my friends,” Spencer said.
The councilwoman admitted that she did use threatening language toward Resendiz, such as “don’t make me slap you” and “don’t make me kick you;” she maintained the comments were figures of speech and not literal, and has apologized on more than one occasion. She said she cussed at Velazquez by calling him “an f-ing liar.”
Following a mediation session for council members in May 2019, Spencer and Resendiz signed a contract to refrain from personal attacks. Spencer said she has not broken the contract, but that Resendiz almost immediately began to bully her again on social media. She recounted how Velazquez said during the Jan. 21 council meeting that she may be the subject of an investigation into a hate crime.
“This was malicious and totally a false allegation,” she said. “He intended to do harm and claimed I did something wrong without any evidence. This man has put me and my family in a very dangerous situation. I’ve been getting threatening phone calls and verbally assaulted in public. Mr. Velazquez had no evidence and no inside information. He did not care about the ramifications of his false accusation.”
She recalled the incident at Mechanics Bank in which Resendiz recorded her and two other women on his phone because, as he told BenitoLink, “Every time they’re around me I feel uncomfortable and I snapped a quick picture of them.”
“This is just another disturbing side of your unstable behavior,” Spencer said to Resendiz at the meeting. “We both know this is not the first time you’ve recorded me and my friends when we were out in public. You use your personal phone to harass people and then you cry victim.”
Before Richman spoke, he took the unusual step of having the city attorney swear him in, and asked that Velazquez and Resendiz voluntarily do likewise (they did not). He said he wanted to testify under oath because his honor was important to him and said that he could be convicted for perjury if he lied.
Richman apologized to the public “for wasting your time and your money on this nonsense, which is nothing but a revenge binge from the mayor.” He admitted to past claims that he told Resendiz “F you and the horse you rode in on,” when Resendiz continued harassing him after a council meeting. Resendiz responded that Richman made the comment without any provocation.
Richman called Resendiz a “serial harasser,” and said Resendiz is the common denominator in all the stories about harassment.
“Whether it’s insults on Facebook, accusations of illegal operations with no proof, whether it’s confrontations at the bank, who is always involved?” Richman said, comparing Resendiz to the 1886 novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” “Mr. Resendiz has got a mental problem. It isn’t the guy who says ‘F you’ who ends up killing people; it’s the guy who believes he’s being picked on by simply everybody.”
Richman said Velazquez and Resendiz would not testify under oath because they lied at the last council meeting when they told two different versions about the incident when Richman cursed at Resendiz.
“Maybe I’m a bad politician, but I can’t take it when someone looks you in the face and lies to you,” Richman said, “claiming you did things you never did. Did I say to Mr. Resendiz, ‘F you and the horse you rode in on?’ Yes, I did. Two days later, I wrote a letter to the city attorney and said ‘I said it and here’s why.’ It’s not the kind of thing you open up a conversation with. I didn’t walk up to him and say ‘F you and the horse you rode in on.’ It’s the kind of thing you say when someone is bothering you and won’t leave you alone. It’s a retort. The mayor says it’s a deadly threat. He says, ‘it’s a precursor to violence.’ I do everything possible to stay out of Mr. Resendiz’s way.”
Resendiz declined to dwell on past events and said the resolution concerning censure for obscene comments and threats was the reason they were there. He called Richman’s speech under oath a “show,” and said they were not in a court of law. He recounted the incident between himself and Richman and said that Richman more or less blindsided him with the profane statement without any provocation from himself.
“That’s exactly what happened,” Resendiz said. “I don’t need to sit here and take an oath to tell you guys the truth. That might shed more light on the character that we’re dealing with up here.”
He did admit that Spencer only threatened him the first time after he made comments about her on social media. He said after she threatened him on one occasion, he was shocked and did not know how to respond.
“I did not know what she was capable of after making physical threats again and again,” he said. “I have really felt more intimidated and uncomfortable by these incidents and the increased aggressive behavior that Honor Spencer has been displaying towards me.”
Lenoir said she was not present for Richman’s comment to Resendiz. She wondered rhetorically how she has good working relationships with Spencer and Richman. She said she enjoyed working with them and they’d always been kind to her, so she found it difficult to censure them.
“I think maybe [Richman] was driven to it,” Lenoir said. “I could talk more about Mr. Resendiz, but we’re not here for that. We’re here to censure Marty Richman and Honor Spencer. I just can’t see my way to do that. I didn’t hear it firsthand, so I can’t attest to exactly what was said. I’ve always found Marty to have high integrity and I can’t imagine he’s lying.”
Velazquez held Richman and Spencer’s own admissions against them. He accused them of playing games trying to distract the public, and to get the public to ignore what they admitted. He pointed out that Lenoir might not have heard the original comments, but she was aware of them now that Richman and Spencer admitted what they said.
“This is not about the drama, who was at the bank and who wasn’t,” Velazquez said, “and who said what on social media. This is about words. This is about somebody who was censured for calling a group of people cockroaches and cuca, which was presented as a bad word. So, I said if you’re going to censure someone for calling people cockroaches, maybe it’s time to censure people for using the F word here at City Hall.”
He said nothing would happen because “the majority decides it’s okay to use the F word, but it’s not okay to call somebody a cockroach. That’s the way it works. Now, we’ll see if the majority is going to do the right thing or again it’s more being hypocrites.”
Velazquez attempted to call for a vote, but Richman felt compelled to speak out again.
“Mr. Resendiz was censured not for what the mayor said. Mr. Resendiz was censured for using those words against a resident in public,” Richman said, “and identifying himself as a member of the City Council, as if he were speaking for the City Council. When I said the F word to Mr. Resendiz it was in a private conversation.’
He asked if censuring someone for what they say in a private conversation was the way people wanted to go.
“All that matters is what you say? No sir. It also matters what you do,” Richman said. “Mr. Resendiz believes you can go on social media and say anything about anybody and I should walk in here the next day and make believe he didn’t do it. When he said on social media that the two female members of this City Council were selling their votes for dinner and drinks, what kind of an insult is that?”
Resendiz wanted to respond, but the mayor convinced him not to do so in order to move forward. Velazquez reiterated that Richman’s shouting and pounding on the dais was his tactic of distraction.
“I see a lot of teenagers here and I hope you guys learned from this,” Velazquez said. “It’s a bullying tactic. Claim they’re not mentally stable, so you can pull their friends away from them. They’re playing a con game. That’s what this is. ‘Look somewhere else and forget that I just admitted I said F you and the horse you rode in on.’”
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