Mario Hernandez, Maribel De La Torre, and Brenda Esqueda recall, San Fernando, California (2012)

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A vote about whether to recall Mario Hernandez, Maribel De La Torre, and Brenda Esqueda from their positions on the city government of San Fernando, California, in Los Angeles County took place on November 6, 2012.[1] All three officials were recalled from office.[2] The recall effort was launched in February 2012.[3][4] Hernandez resigned from his seat in July 2012.[5] At the time of the recall, Esqueda was mayor of San Fernando while De La Torre was serving on the city council. Hernandez was mayor until March 2012, when the council voted to make Esqueda mayor. Hernandez served as a council member until his resignation in July 2012.[6]

Reasons for recall

Hernandez and De La Torre's affair

At a November 2011 city council meeting, Hernandez publicly announced that he was "involved in a relationship" with De La Torre. Hernandez's wife, who was in the audience, stood up and announced that she and her husband were not separated. She was escorted out of the meeting by police.[7] In June 2012, the affair turned sour when Hernandez and De La Torre took out restraining orders against one another after a violent altercation. De La Torre said of the incident, "Words cannot begin to express how saddened I am over the events of the past several days...While I would like to address the allegations, it would be inappropriate to discuss this matter until any potential legal issues are resolved."[8] De La Torre was charged with vandalism and battery due to the incident.[9]

Several weeks after the incident, Hernandez said he wanted to drop the battery charges against De La Torre, who he accused of attempting to strangle him, and of destroying his iPad.[1] The District Attorney refused to drop the charges against De La Torre. However, on December 11, San Fernando Superior Court Judge Lesley Green was forced to dismiss the case when Hernandez failed to appear in court. Hernandez's testimony was needed in order for the case to proceed. A bench warrant was issued for Hernandez's arrest, but a search of the city did not turn him up.[10]

In September 2012, Hernandez and De La Torre teamed up to attack what they said was police misconduct. The pair claimed that police were pushing for charges in the case involving their violent altercation because as council members, they had urged reforms of the Police Department. "It's a witch hunt is what it is," said Hernandez. He and De La Torre said police pursued the misdemeanor case even after the accuser, Hernandez, made it clear he didn't want De La Torre charged. De La Torre's lawyer attempted to access the disciplinary records of the police officers involved in the case against her.[11]

Esqueda and Alvaro Castellon's affair

At the time the recall was initiated, Esqueda wasopenly having an extra-marital affair with police sergeant Alvaro Castellon. Esqueda was accused of accepting personal favors from Castellon and using her influence to intervene on his behalf. Esqueda continued to vote on police matters despite her conflict of interest. Esqueda, De La Torre and Hernandez were also accused of interfering with a police investigation when Castellon's superiors attempted to place him on administrative leave for making an alleged criminal threat.[3]

Accusations of misconduct

The three recall targets also came under fire for voting to return Anthony Ruelas to his position as chief of police. Ruelas was placed on administrative leave after his affair and explicit email exchanges with police cadet Maria Barajas became public. Barajas filed a lawsuit against the city, which paid to defend both Ruelas and Castellon. Castellon was named in the lawsuit for allegedly telling Barajas she "could disappear."[3]

The city has also been plagued with questions surrounding the death of Everardo Jaramillo Reynaga. Reynaga was an inmate who died while in custody at the San Fernando jail. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigated the incident. Former police sergeant Nichole Hanchett filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, claiming that officers did not follow procedures for checking inmates and that city workers falsified records to cover up the circumstances surrounding Reynaga's death.[12] The city's police union strongly supported the recall.[13]

Decorum ordinance controversy

In June 2012, all three recall targets voted in favor of passing a decorum ordinance that would remove and impose fines on those who are considered "out of order" at city council meetings. Residents and recall supporters attended the June 6th city council meeting wearing tape over their mouths in protest of the new ordinance. Resident Robert Ortega said, "my freedom of speech was taken away from me and the people are afraid to talk now." Residents complained that Hernandez, De La Torre, and Esqueda do not always follow protocol. Sylvia Ballin and Antonio Lopez, the two members of the city council who did not face recall, both opposed the decorum ordinance.[14]

Alleged retaliation against recall supporters

A number of recall supporters alleged reprisals for their support of the recall. Residents in the 900 block of Griswold Street said that after voicing support for the recalls, they became the targets of selective enforcement of obscure city codes. One recall supporter, Alicia Gonzalez, was given five citations totaling $3,300 for a garage conversion and occupancy, having an illegal tenant, and having a small chicken. Martin Herrera was issued a citation for fixing a window without obtaining a permit. Recall committee member Julian Ruelas said, "it's sick that the City has been run to the point that the residents are afraid of the government."[15]

Path to the ballot

A group called Recall San Fernando organized the recall campaign. Recall supporters began collecting signatures in late February 2012. Recall organizers had until May 23 to submit 2,029 signatures for each recall target.[12] On May 9, recall organizers announced they had collected 2,250 signatures, and that they would continue to seek signatures "as an overabundance of caution to make sure we have many more than the necessary number."[16]

On May 23, recall organizers submitted their petitions to Los Angeles county clerks. The petitions contained approximately 2,800 signatures for each official.[13]

In July 2012, sufficient signatures were verified to prompt a recall election.[17] The election was scheduled for November 6, 2012.[1]

On July 10, 2012, Hernandez announced his resignation. Although Hernandez resigned, his recall moved forward anyway in accordance with state law.[5]

Hernandez, De La Torre, and Esqueda were all recalled from office on November 6, 2012. Jesse Avila was elected to replace Esqueda. Robert Gonzales replaced Hernandez, while Joel Fajardo replaced De La Torre.[2]

Election results

Mario Hernandez

Should Mario Hernandez be recalled?
Approveda Yes 4,419 86.58%

Maribel De La Torre

Should Maribel De La Torre be recalled?
Approveda Yes 4,451 85.46%

Brenda Esqueda

Should Brenda Esqueda be recalled?
Approveda Yes 4,453 84.88%

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 CBS Los Angeles, "San Fernando City Council Schedules Recall Election," July 17, 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 Los Angeles Daily News, "San Fernando: Voters recall Mayor Brenda Esqueda, Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre," November 7, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 San Fernando Valley Sun, "Council Meeting Brings More Innuendo, Accusations and Public In-Fighting," February 23, 2012 (dead link)
  4. Daily News, "Effort for San Fernando recall moves forward," July 2, 2012
  5. 5.0 5.1 Los Angeles Daily News, "Officials mulling plan to fill vacant San Fernando City Council seat," July 12, 2012
  6. San Fernando Valley Sun, "As the City Turns... ," March 22, 2012 (dead link)
  7. CBS Los Angeles, "San Fernando Mayor Announces Affair With City Councilwoman In Front Of Wife, Residents," November 28, 2011
  8. NBC 4, "San Fernando Councilman Resigns Amid Affair Scandal," July 10, 2012
  9. Los Angeles Times, "San Fernando councilwoman charged with attack on ex-lover," July 13, 2012
  10. Los Angeles Times, "Case dropped against ex-councilwoman as ex-mayor disappears," December 12, 2012
  11. Daily News, "San Fernando's Maribel De La Torre, ex-councilman allege police misconduct," September 25, 2012
  12. 12.0 12.1 San Fernando Valley Sun, "Recall Underway to Remove San Fernando's Council Majority," March 1, 2012 (dead link)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Los Angeles Daily News, "Petition is submitted to recall San Fernando mayor, 2 council members," May 23, 2012
  14. San Fernando Valley Sun, "San Fernando City Council Passes Controversial Decorum Ordinance Despite Public Protest," June 7, 2012 (dead link)
  15. San Fernando Valley Sun, "San Fernando Residents Allege Reprisals for Support of Recall ," May 17, 2012 (dead link)
  16. San Fernando Valley Sun, "New Law Firm Hired by the City of San Fernando Raises Concerns," May 10, 2012 (dead link)
  17. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named cert