Council member files complaint

The Hollister City Council is becoming increasingly notorious for arguments on and off the council dais.

The council hired an organizational consultant in the spring, but things just got worse after that. Most recently the city attorney has been asked to hire a professional mediator to referee the growing antagonism among council members.

At the Sept. 3 council meeting, council member Rolan Resendiz read to the audience the complaint that he filed in May against fellow council members Marty Richman and Honor Spencer.

In a copy of the complaint obtained by the Free Lance, Resendiz detailed three loud arguments with Spencer and one with Richman. Resendiz sent the complaint to City Attorney Jason Epperson, with a request for mediation.

Epperson said at the Sept. 3 meeting that some kind of mediation was in the works.

On April 28, all council members attended a retreat where they met with Rex Osborn, a speaker who specializes in leadership development for the company More Than Talk LLC. The retreat cost $3,500, according to Deputy City Clerk Nova Romero.

More Than Talk’s website said Osborn specializes in “keynote speaking engagements for all types of clients, including corporate gatherings and celebrations, association conferences, industry conferences and executive retreats. Training topics range from leadership development, social issues, mediation/conflict resolution, mandated training such as sexual harassment and discrimination, and organizational corporate culture change.”

The council meetings this summer regularly devolved into shouting matches—with council member Resendiz and Mayor Ignacio Velazquez on one side and council members Richman, Spencer and Carol Lenoir on the other. Resendiz and Velazquez are vocal about their call for slower growth within the city, and even stronger disagreement comes in Resendiz’s use of social media.

Politics may be as big a factor as policy for the contentious council members. Spencer has announced her candidacy for mayor and Velazquez previously told the Free Lance that he plans to run for a fifth term.
Spencer and Lenoir spoke about Resendiz’s Facebook posts at the Sept. 3 meeting. The posts alleged that the three council members were influenced by developers. Spencer used her time to speak to recite Resendiz’s post.
“They voted on Monday in a shocking vote to build more houses,” Resendiz’s post said. “They also will vote at the next city council meeting to stop me from posting on social media. They want to shut me up and build more homes.”

To rebut Spencer, Resendiz used his time to read the complaint he sent to the city attorney. He alleged in the complaint that Spencer told him that she was going to “kick my ass,” following the May 6 council meeting.
In reference to this instance, Velazquez said during the Sept. 3 meeting that he had been present and heard Spencer make the comments. Spencer did not dispute that she made the comments, but said at the Sept. 3 meeting that the comments were not meant as threats.

There were two other similar instances cited in the complaint. Resendiz also cited an instance with Richman following the same May meeting; he alleged that Richman said “F*** you and the horse you rode in on.”
Richman acknowledged to the Free Lance that he used foul language toward Resendiz, but said it was not meant as a threat. Richman said he used that language because he felt it was a private conversation between himself and Resendiz. Richman believed that the outbursts at the meetings stemmed from the frustration of the comments made on Facebook.

“It’s certainly out of hand, and I’m not an innocent bystander,” Richman said about the council’s fighting. “I’m going to try to do better.”

City Manager Bill Avera said it was the mayor’s responsibility to keep the council meetings on track. “I think [Velazquez] has tried in the past to make sure everyone remains civil up there. It really is sort of his responsibility, but with this group it’s really difficult.”

Avera said that a group retreat or goal-setting workshops like the one the council attended in April, is not “necessarily uncommon,” but that it had never been done by the City of Hollister before.

Each agenda item sparks raucous debate among council members, and Avera believes it affects the ability of city staff to do their jobs. He said there are no unifying goals for staff. Avera said the More Than Talk speaker had been hired to get the council members to work together.
“I think the citizens deserve a council that can get through a meeting,” Avera told the Free Lance. “You might not agree on everything, but you absolutely need to respect one another.”


  1. Mes amis,
    Debate, unfettered, is crucial in a democracy. Our policy ought to be as always: I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend unto death your right to say it. When we restrain debate, we risk culling out a dissent that may be the answer to our problem.
    We ought to subscribe to, and live, John Stuart Mill’s philosophy, when he said, “But the peculiar evil in silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
    That’s why the COG Directors have been so wrong, ever since that unelected governance body was created. They do not tolerate dissent; they have no use for any private sector transport options; only public sector, taxpayer-funded transport options are considered. If you offer them a better, cheaper, less taxpayer-dependent, more efficient option, they refuse to consider it, refuse to place it on their agenda, and when you ask on the “public comment” portion of their agenda, that’s the last ever heard of it. Meanwhile, they demand ever-increasing tax subsidies paid by higher and higher gas taxes to keep their boondoggles running.
    When I was terminated from the Citizens Transit Task Force the COG Chairman (appointed to the post, not elected by any voter in SBC to COG) said I was being terminated because I harassed my fellow Task Force Members. Guilty. I gave them truth in transportation, which they did not want to hear. So, I told the COG Chairman, from his podium, just before he axed me from the Citizens Transit Task Force, that he could shoot the messenger, but the truth would be laying on the floor next to the messenger’s dead body.
    Today, years after the creation of the failed socialist experiment in SBC called COG, which governs without voters’ consent in violation of the civil and constitutional rights of SBC’s citizens, and deprives the citizens in three of the County’s five district any representation whatsoever every passing year, we see the consequences of bad public policy and bad transport policy decisions. They are covered-up each fiscal report COG issues by fraudulent, non-GAAP accounting methods, just like Enron used, and Bernie Madoff used, called “off-book accounting,” which omits capital and fixed costs in making their calculations, and in their reports to the public. If you or any of my clients did that, or I did it, then we’d be prosecuted by the DA for false advertising and violation of the Unfair Business Practices Act.
    I asked the SBC Grand Jury to investigate several times while I served on the SBCCOG Citizens Rail Advisory Committee, but they never did insofar as I know.
    I believe that the citizens of SBC deserve vibrant debate on the issues, and that governance in SBC that fails to uphold the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by both the Federal and State Constitutions is not worthy of voters’ and taxpayers’ support.
    Next time an elected body in SBC (BOS, City Councils) votes for “committee members” appointed to COG, lets ask them to stick to their oaths of office, and uphold the constitutional rights of the citizens of SBC, e.g., equal protection of the law, and due process of the law. Then they would not abrogate the voters’ mandate to an unelected joint power authority (COG). I believe that the same standard should be upheld in all of the State’s Counties, where the unelected JPAs make public policy decisions without fundamental voter controls, e.g., recall and referendum, which only apply to elected officials. The COGs of California have us on the Road to Serfdom, as I’ve told the COG Directors from their podium many times in the ten years straight that I attended their meetings, except when I was in Washington, D.C., for the Transportation Lawyers Association’s Annual Conference.
    COG’s Directors got what they wanted–they terminated the only person in the County who did post-doctoral research of transportation law and policy, and practiced transportation law for 40 years and on top of 16 years with SPRR and UPRR in private sector transportation, the only kind of transportation is sound and sustainable. Silence dissent, and you live with the consequences.
    Caveat viator.
    Joseph P. Thompson, Esq.
    Past-Chair, Legislation Committee, Transportation Lawyers Assn.
    Past-President 1999-2001, 2006, Gilroy-Morgan Hill Bar Assn.
    (408) 848-5506
    e-Mail: [email protected]

    cc: Public Comment: Next Meeting, Regular, Special, Study Session, Public Workshop, and/or
    Private Retreat, and/or non-Brown Act compliant meeting of the so-called “Mobility Partnership”
    of COG and VTA (which also governs without voters’ consent)

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