CATHEDRAL CITY – Less than 24 hours before the City Council is scheduled to appoint someone to fill a vacancy on the board, a political firestorm has reached fever pitch.
A resident has advised Mayor Mark Carnevale by email to abandon the appointment, call a special election, and secure Mayor Pro Tem John Aguilar’s resignation from the Council once the election is over, Uken Report has learned.
The resident also alludes to a potential recall of the entire City Council and refers to the governing body as an “old boys club.”
At the center of the firestorm is a one-sentence email Aguilar sent to former Mayor Stan Henry, who is one of 14 applicants seeking the vacancy. In an email dated Feb. 16, 2019 to Henry, Aguilar said, “im (sic) convinced it will be 3-1.”
Some have interpreted that to mean three of the Councilmembers had made up their minds, the votes were tallied, and Henry was the heir apparent. Critics maintain the appointment is “rigged” and “fixed.”
Aguilar told Uken Report that is simply not the case.
“It was a pure guess on my part,” Aguilar told Uken Report. “I said that without any forethought.”
Aguilar and Carnevale both told Uken Report there have been no conversations among City Councilmembers about the applicants or who should get the nod.
In the email sent to Carnevale, the resident said the firestorm surrounding the appointment “.. is a donnybrook for which you and your colleagues must take responsibility, or potentially face a revolt from the citizens of Cathedral City,” according to a source familiar with the contents. The email goes on to say, “… I think John needs to leave the Council after a special election to fill the vacancy in District 1. John has arrogantly and foolishly placed the entire Council in an untenable legal and political position.”
The resident also expresses concern that what has happened constitutes probable cause for a possible criminal Brown Act investigation either by District Attorney Mike Hestrin or by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. An investigation by either the district attorney or the Attorney General can be expected to expose the city to all of the embarrassment of a criminal probe, together with substantial unnecessary expenditure, the resident cautions.
The City Council could, as it did in 2004, leave the seat vacant. There is precedent.
In 2004, when Kathleen DeRosa was elected mayor, her Council seat became vacant. The Council had initially thought to fill the vacancy by appointment, but deadlocked 2-2. The Council therefore called a special election in 2005 in which the late Chuck Vasquez was elected.
Between December, 2004, and June, 2005, the City Council met and governed as a Council of four.
The City Council is “nothing more than an old boys club seeking to perpetuate its membership by co-optation. That itself is an insult to democracy, and it is an insult to the voters in District 1, to whom you should be giving a preferential option,” according to the source familiar with the email sent to Carnevale.
“I think it is my duty to warn you that from what I have heard, there is substantial sentiment for a recall of the entire Council. In order to avoid the messiness of a potential recall effort against the four of you, you should immediately abandon the appointment process.”
Instead, the resident urges, “You should call a special election at the earliest possible time for the earliest possible date. That election should be limited to candidates from District 1. Further, John Aguilar needs to be referred to the District Attorney or the Attorney General for ethics violations.”
Whether the flames of the firestorm are fanned or extinguished remains to be seen.
- Political Firestorm: YouTube