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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

During the heated Moreno Valley meeting, 1 member was removed, 1 took oath

When I arrived at the Moreno Valley Council Chambers on Thursday, the first speaker was approaching the lecturer. Roy Bleckert begins angrily to City Council: “Will you please stop making our town a circus spectacle?”

The meeting came alive from there. To quote Bette Davis’ gleeful threat in “All About Eve”: “Tighten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

In case you haven’t been working since October 19th, MoVal leaders are basically tossing banana peels in their way and sliding down the sidewalk, arms flapping.

That is the day, when the five-seat council was temporarily reduced to three members due to the death, two members of the council decided to ram through an appointment on the fly.

Ulysses Cabrera and David Márquez made their move in the absence of Mayor Yuxtián Gutierrez, appointing Ladonna Jampson on a 2–0 vote to replace Victoria Bacca, who died on 6 October.

All that was said on the agenda was the direction the council would move forward, interim City Attorney Steve Quintanilla reminded him.

“And my direction at this time to the town clerk is to appoint. And we can do that tonight,” Marquez said. Jampson was sworn in on the spot.

It’s been raining hell since then. The mayor walked out of the October 27 meeting. Pressure mounted to cancel the October 19 proceedings, including a lawsuit. Then the Riverside County DA sought to rescind the “illegal action” within 30 days.

I attended Thursday’s special meeting to witness the magic myself.

Speakers lambasted Carbrera and Marquez with disdain and told Jumpson that he should resign.

“Resignation. Get out there. Before nobody voted for you and now nobody voted for you,” said Elena Santa Cruz, referring to the 2020 election, in which Baca defeated Jampson 2-to-1 “Everything has been embarrassing since that night you sat in the parking lot waiting for them to call you in.”

In the front line was Ed Delgado. He won a November 2 special election to fill a council seat that had been vacant since the death of Carla Thornton in January, and will have a full term of office until November 2022. The election results were certified earlier on Thursday.

After the open session, a closed session was scheduled for the personnel issue: Quintanilla’s assessment was followed by “discipline/dismissal/release.”

Instead of giving Delgado the seat immediately, Cabrera said the council should hold off until the next meeting, and proceed to the now closed session, before taking on the Jampson case.

Conveniently, it would likely result in three votes – Cabrera, Jampson and Marquez – to fire Quintanilla.

From the audience “Snakes!” and “False!”

Ed Delgado took the oath of office from city clerk Pat Jacques-Nares at a Moreno Valley City Council meeting on Thursday. Delgado won a special election on Tuesday. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Mayor Gutierrez said it was his understanding that Delgado had already been sworn in privately by the city clerk. Delgado got up, got a standing ovation, proceeded to take the public oath, and sat down on stage.

After this, the action of 19 October was reconsidered. Jampson had to leave the stage because he was directly involved in the matter.

Cabrera agreed that the council needed to undo the action. But he asked whether it was necessary to do so immediately, or even within 30 days. “Say we go for 40 days. Won’t any court consider this matter controversial?” He asked.

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Quintanilla said the city, and perhaps individual council members, would still be on the hook.

You can’t help but think that Cabrera wants to retain his council majority for as long as possible, although his explanation was that he would have a systematic process that would involve the appointment of Jampson’s replacement.

Marquez, an elected official in the city of 215,000, seemed to be putting the whole thing on hold.

“So what if the Brown Act was violated?” Marquez said. “We are not all legal minded people here. Let the process go. Let’s look at the appointments.”

He casually stated that he had seen “a lot of criminal acts” by colleagues during his time on the council. (I guess if this is your attitude, what is another?)

Delgado moved to cancel the October 19 action, and was passed 4–0.

Quintanilla declared that the vote had “formally removed Ladonna Jampson from city council,” which may have seemed self-evident.

“Why are you telling us after this?” Marquez demanded. Cabrera asked if it was possible to reconsider the vote. Told it would require a majority, he dropped it.

Jampson, who had said only two days earlier, “I’ll need court to get me out,” did not return to the room.

This murmur gave the speakers more fodder to work on before the council went into closed session to debate the fate of Quintanilla.

“What you just saw are council members who don’t know what they’re doing,” Donovan Sadiq said. “We’re on public access TV and people in IE’s second largest city can say, ‘These guys representing us are complete idiots.'”

“This guy told you it was a violation of the Brown Act,” Sadiq continued. “And now you wanna fire dude.”

The council – Cabrera, Delgado, Gutierrez, Marquez – was up for exactly an hour. When they came down and resumed their position, Gutierrez formally asked Quintanilla, “Any reportable action?”

Quintanilla replied with a good humour: “I am pleased to announce that no reportable action was taken in the closed session.”

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