San Bernardino City Council censors Mayor John Valdivia, claiming he abused public funds and resources – San Bernardino Sun
On Wednesday, December 1, San Bernardino leaders censored Mayor John Valdivia, claiming he had abused public funds and resources for political and personal gain.
All seven members of the board were in favor of this decision.
“This man was counseled and requested and given every opportunity,” Council member Fred Shorett said before the vote, “and he never believed he had to operate or should operate properly. “
Valdivia is the first elected in 20 years to be censured by the San Bernardino city council.
Valdivia’s personal attorney, former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, defended him against the allegations, stating, in part, “He is the mayor of the town of San Bernardino and he has the right to interact with the people of this community. “
While the move does not remove Valdivia from office, it signals to the public that the elected body finds his behavior unacceptable.
Valdivia’s term ends in December 2022.
“We need to purge town hall of all corruption and members who choose to take the exact opposite of the oath we have voluntarily taken,” board member Kimberly Calvin said ahead of the vote.
Wednesday’s proceedings closed a months-long independent investigation into a VIP reception hosted by Valdivia at the Hilltop Restaurant following his state of the city address on June 15.
Valdivia declined to participate in the investigation.
In a report prepared for city council ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Kendra L. Carney Mehr, attorney for Costa Mesa-based Garcia Rainey Blank & Bowerbank, found that Valdivia had violated the state’s mass broadcast bans and misused city funds and resources to create and distribute invitations to the exclusive event.
Additionally, Valdivia did not report a $ 5,000 contribution from the Inland Empire Health Plan to be paid to the city in order to secure tickets and offset the costs of the VIP reception, Mehr wrote.
Finally, Mehr discovered that Valdivia had mixed up out of town fundraising events with possible businesses in town, submitting multiple reimbursement requests between September 2019 and April 2021 without disclosing the person (s) with whom. he had dinner and / or the reason for the trip.
In the time given to him on Wednesday to respond to the allegations, Pacheco first questioned the council’s censorship power.
“Nowhere in the city charter,” he said, “authorizes city council to hear a resolution of this nature against any of your own, including the mayor.
Second, Pacheco argued that certain exceptions to state law allowed Valdivia to promote its post-state reception of the city on the taxpayer’s dime, forgo submitting the proper documentation for the $ 5,000 donation of the Inland Empire Health Plan and combine activities with business trips.
“A political assassination of this mayor,” called Pacheco the objective of the meeting.
“Without a legal basis,” he added, “what other reason could there be?
Norma García Guillén, lawyer and founding partner of Garcia Rainey Blank & Bowerbank, disputed each of Pacheco’s claims, saying the lawyer tried to mislead the board about his censorship power.
Pacheco also manipulated the exceptions he cited, García argued.
The VIP reception was not a public event as Pacheco argued, García said, and the $ 5,000 donation was not intended for the use of a public project, which would exempt an elected official from reporting it. .
Additionally, García added, in all of his expense reports between September 2019 and April 2021, Valdivia did not correctly note the business purpose of a meeting and the people he only met when the meeting overlapped with campaign and fundraising events.
“Mayor Valdivia knew exactly what he was doing when he chose not to write down exactly what he was required to do under council policy,” García said, adding: “We all know too well poverty.… This is the reason why safeguarding public funds in a city like San Bernardino is more critical, more important, and whatever, $ 1, $ 10,000, $ 5,000, these are the funds of the city and it is the law not to derogate from the safeguard of these tax funds and the safeguard of the integrity of the public service.
Several people speaking at the hearing praised the council for taking action on Wednesday, calling the decision to censor Valdivia a first step towards promoting accountability and transparency.
Some have urged Valdivia to resign.
Speaking to the council, former city attorney Gary Saenz said the city “cannot tolerate corruption,” adding that “corruption is one of the worst things San Bernardino has endured since. decades”.
A handful of public speakers backed Valdivia, saying he brought businesses to town in his three years and generated jobs and sales taxes.
Other supporters called the procedure “politics”, “a total waste of time and resources” and “political shenanigans”.
“It’s not politics at all, not politics at all,” Shorett replied later that evening. “We hold a member of this body responsible for misusing public funds and not actually doing what he was elected by the City of San Bernardino to do.”