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Social media spats spill into Hollister City Council meeting

Mayor Velazquez and Vice Mayor Richman receive pointed criticism.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has used Facebook for several years to accuse opponents and even fellow council members of colluding with developers. Photo by John Chadwell.
Vice Mayor Marty Richman apologized if he acted arrogantly in his responses on Facebook, but said it's unethical to accuse someone of corruption. Photo by John Chadwell.
Councilwoman Honor Spencer gave a passionate plea for civility, especially among council members. Photo by John Chadwell.

There were some tense moments at the Feb. 19 Hollister City Council meeting as arguments conducted on social media were revisited during public and council comments.

In recent months local officials have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns and frustrations, at times getting into disputes with constituents. Some of these have revolved around the planned development of the 400 block of San Benito Street.

The first salvo came from Salvador Mora, who ran against Vice Mayor Marty Richman in November for the District 4 seat. Mora repeated his Facebook rebuke of Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who in recent years has accused fellow councilmembers of colluding with developers (notably online) as part of his unsuccessful bid to stop the city from selling and developing the 400 block. During public comment, Mora said he wanted to speak about how public officials acted on social media.

“Mr. Mayor, I asked [on Facebook] you to provide proof on your allegation that our elected officials were taking money from developers,” Mora said. “You failed to answer my questions. It’s very easy to make an allegation, but I’ve never seen you provide proof. It’s disturbing our leaders are acting this way.”

Mora also criticized Richman. Though he said he respected Richman’s knowledge, Mora accused him of being condescending, arrogant and rude in his responses to others on Facebook.

“Not everybody understands the legal terminology, so you should have some patience, and instead of criticizing and making fun of people you should show some respect to community members,” Mora said.

BenitoLink asked Richman if he expected the negative reactions and accusations of corruption he had seen on Facebook. He said he will no longer respond to people on social media.  

Councilwoman Honor Spencer told meeting attendees to call her if they ever wanted to know why she voted a certain way. She then gave out her phone number and email, and said she would never answer anyone on social media.

“It saddens me there are those who knowingly put false or half-truth information out on social media just to stir up controversy,” Spencer said. “I’m appalled about the bullying, threats and name-calling. This has to stop on both sides. We need to communicate we will not tolerate bullying, but how can we when we are the bullies? This council is bound by ethics, but I’m seeing no ethical behavior coming from some.”

She said it is time to tackle the problems in the community and to quit dwelling on issues that have already been decided.

“The behavior of late is tearing our community apart and with such uncertainty in our country it is imperative that our community stands together,” Spencer said. “It has been said to me this council is a joke and that hurts. I’m honored for having been elected and I care about the people in this community.”

Richman simply said “ditto” to her comments. He later addressed the city code of ethics that he wants updated, especially to address false accusations. He admitted he might even be guilty of unethical comments and apologized, and referred to Mora’s comment about him.

“Being arrogant may be distasteful, but it’s not unethical,” Richman said. “I do think accusing people falsely of being on the payroll of somebody else is unethical.”

City Manager Bill Avera, who recently announced he plans to retire in November, told BenitoLink on Feb. 20 that he looked at what was happening on social media from the perspective of his successor. He said it’s important for council members to put aside their differences, especially on social media, because it will be difficult to find someone willing to take the job.

“Most aspiring city managers don’t want to go to a job where there’s constant discord,” Avera said. “You don’t want the negativity floating around because most professionals do their research to make sure they’re not ending up in a bad spot.”



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John Chadwell's picture
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to:


Submitted by (Sharlene Van Rooy) on

Well said people! The Facebook comments, especially those that are false (and there are many), need to stop immediately. Many of the arguments and mean spirited comments get started just because someone from City Council begins the chain. Take the passion that you have for this city and focus it on the next project...clearly there are many to choose from.

Amen Sharlene. I know I definitely have better use of my time than trolling Facebook. I am so glad I cannot see any of the mean spirited comments. The job is tough enough! Thank you for your comment. 

Submitted by (Alex) on

”BenitoLink asked Richman if he expected the negative reactions and accusations of corruption he had seen on Facebook. He said he will no longer respond to people on social media.”

hopefully this applies to BL comments sections as well. 

I agree that some of my comments on Facebook were out of line and for those I apologize especially to those who are really interested in improving things.  You don't have to agree with me on any issues, all I ask is that stay away from personal attacks if you want me to take you seriously.

As for my performance in office, I said I would push the council to do more work and I have, we are going to 3 meetings a month versus 2 for the next 6 months at my behest.  I said I would get to work on identifying traffic congestion and I have.  Engineering started a program I requested on January 14  to identify the most congested intersections and areas in the city so we can put in traffic improvements.  I said I would support reforms at the Animal Shelter and I have, supporting the funding if the SNIP Bus by the city.  I am also responsible for the Ad Hoc to add ethics requirements to the current list.  I am a member of the COG board working in road improvements and the Highway 25 project.

I'm not complaining, just commenting that I put in an enormous amount of hours reading, researching and and analyzing the information and reports to find better solutions for the city,  Perhaps I am not the best  "people person" but I am there working for you to make Hollister a better place to live, work and play.  I do nothing for any personal gain and have no political ambitions other than to be on the City Council and pay the city back for all the happiness we have had here.

You may call me on the city cell, 831-673-3368 or email if you want to contact me personally.

Thanks for your support,

Marty Richman

Hollister City Council, District 4

Marty I appreciate all your efforts. You certainly have put in the time and research.  Sometimes our delivery can be rough but with the purest of intentions. IMO I think you have been a great addition to city leadership. Thanks again!

Submitted by (Robert Gilchris...) on

San Benito County social media include BenitoLink, San Benito Live and the Free Lance. Why is social media having such a profound, divisive effect on society here and around the world? Why is it undermining our mental health and especially the mental health of young people? Why are addiction and suicide on the rise? I can recommend "Zucked" as a starting point. It contains a useful bibliography if you wish to dig further.

One book not mentioned there is "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism". Again, highly recommended. You are told "We will not sell your data - only the metadata." What is your metadata? It is your profile. Your race, age, sex, education, marital status and history, sexual orientation, religion, political party. This is why Facebook is worth 460 billion, Google (Alphabet) 771 billion, Microsoft 881 billion, Amazon 801 billion. This is their real product - what they are selling to vendors and political parties. 

To the City Council --

I think there is an easy fix to this social media tirade: meet with your constituents regularly and often. The City of Hollister is the people you represent.  Buy 'em a cup of coffee and shoot the breeze. If you are not a "people person,"  why are you on the city council? At least send out (USPS) a newsletter and let people know what you are thinking. Read the comments you get back and reflect. That's my "arrogant opinion." Thank you Mr Mora!

-- William McCarey

Submitted by (Kenneth Dunn) on

Why are people leaving Ca. in record numbers? Who in the heck invented a system of communication where every moron in the world could contact every other moron in the world? Why would would Government totally waste a massive fortune on a Fast Train that any average person could see from the start that it had absolutely no chance of success. So many of us warned that this idea was God-Awful and would lead to nothing but economic and environmental disaster, nothing could be more obvious. Another obvious piece of reasoning strongly suggests, and History proves time after time that overpopulating leads to poor reasoning and no reasoning at all, and since we seem to be so very good at ignoring the obvious, we can surely expect the human condition to continue to degenerate to the point of massive destruction, and even then, not one person in any position of prominence will suggest that maybe Le Chatelier was right when he said that when a system is out of balance, Mother Nature will find a way to restore balance, and M.N. is not necessarily a humanitarian, but she does understand balance. She does not seem to understand why humans insist on repeating the incredibly stupid mistakes of the past, but she does clearly know what to do about it. Traffic jams, atmospheric imbalance, global warming, road rage, Church shootings, increased international stress, etc. are M.N.'s way of warning us that when we continue our march toward stupidity, stupidity will be waiting for us at he end of the trail. This is meant for those of us who are still living in denial, many of us already know this stuff. What's sad is the indifference the former group has for the rest of us.

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