Nonprofits

San Benito LULAC Council airs dispute with district leadership

San Benito LULAC members say the regional body does not have the authority to dissolve local groups.
Mickie Luna. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Mickie Luna. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Richard Perez and Mickie Luna. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Richard Perez and Mickie Luna. Photo by Robert Eliason.

In a statement issued Nov. 16, League of the United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) District 12 announced that San Benito Council #2890 was declared defunct, saying the council refused to follow the LULAC constitution and bylaws. The announcement also said Council President Richard Perez Sr. and founding member Mickie Luna were suspended in November 2021 and February 2022 respectively, and Treasurer Vince Luna was impeached in February 2021.

In a press conference Nov. 18, Perez vowed to appeal the decision, saying he felt the district had overstepped its authority and that the LULAC Constitution did not give it the power to remove individuals or an entire board. District 12 includes councils in San Benito and Monterey counties, and Los Banos. 

The dissolution of the council, according to Perez, stems from an incident at the 2019 LULAC State Convention in Garden Grove, in which a Salinas teenager who was attending allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl. Perez said his council wrote to the national organization requesting more information and claimed the investigation of the incident had been mishandled.

“We wrote a letter of no confidence on the then-acting state director and some of the members of [Salinas] Council 2055, including their president, Chris Barrera,” Perez said. “They have tried to expel not only myself but other family members who have been in this organization for 37 years.” 

According to Perez, the next incident that led to the district’s action happened in February of this year when the council decided not to process a member’s renewal. He said this was the basis for the accusation that his council violated LULAC’s constitution.

“We didn’t feel as though that member held to the same moral standards that we have tried to embody for our young people,” he said. “They did not personify what we think are good moral characteristics. So the district took it upon themselves to make it a point and use that as leverage to expel me and our entire board and impeach other members.”

Perez vowed to fight for his council, saying, “We’re not going anywhere. They can try as much as they want. But we will use every means at our disposal to fight back: legal, through the press, through social media—whatever it takes, that’s what we will do.”

Perez told BenitoLink that Council 2890 is in good standing with the National LULAC Organization.

“We hope to refute these allegations,” Perez said. “We have contributed to this community for over 35 years and will continue to do so. To the community that might be worried about what will happen here, I tell them, don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.”

After the statement by Perez, Mickie Luna said that clearing her name, and that of Perez and Vince Luna was important so that the public would know the organization was run by “solid people,” and complained about being the only ones targeted by the district.

“We have 83 adult members in this organization,” she said. “That’s a lot of people involved, all for the good of the community. For someone wanting to ruin my name, shame my name—why didn’t they name Anna Caballero, who is a member? Why didn’t they name our distinguished member, Leon Panetta? Or Luis Valdez? It is unfortunate that they picked on San Benito.”

According to a release distributed at the press conference, SBC LULAC obtained a restraining order against the district on Nov. 18. A cease and desist letter has been sent to all parties involved in a state meeting on Nov. 19.

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.