For the second time in less than a month, a majority of the Hollister City Council has decided to take disciplinary action against an elected member of the five-person body.
On May 15, the council voted 3-1 to give Council member Rolan Resendiz a written reprimand, stemming from a contentious council session on May 1. It is the latest flare-up in an ongoing controversy between Council member Resendiz and his colleagues.
The May 1 meeting unraveled during a discussion of a proposed new inclusionary housing ordinance that could require future residential developers to make up to 20% of their projects affordable under state guidelines. In that session, Resendiz accused his colleagues of being “funded by developers” as the council voted 3-1 to table the adoption of an inclusionary housing ordinance until further public discussion could be held.
Mayor Casey in response to the May 1 incident added a consideration to take potential action against Resendiz regarding alleged inappropriate conduct pursuant to the Council Code of Ethics to the May 15 agenda, according to a city staff report.
According to Casey, Resendiz infringed on the process, decorum and rules of order of the council when he made the inflammatory remarks. This included what Casey perceived as a disrespect for the chair of the city council, which is her role.
“His conduct when I call a point of order has become increasingly disrespectful toward me. And he is not recognizing or honoring my role as chair. In fact, rather than addressing me, as mayor or chair, he has disrespectfully begun to refer to me in the third person,” said Casey, addressing the council.
During the May 1 discussion, Mayor Casey and Council member Dolores Morales called to silence Resendiz when he accused them of accepting campaign funds from housing developers. Resendiz persisted in his allegations, brought up the issue of campaign financing, and the meeting was halted for a recess after the heated exchange.
Resendiz also alleged that during this recess Casey threatened to censure him and pull him from committee appointments. At the May 15 meeting, Casey denied the allegations, saying that they were “simply not true.”
During council deliberation on May 15, Resendiz asked City Attorney Mary Lerner whether Morales was in violation of the code of conduct when she called him a “liar” during the May 1 discussion. Lerner refused to give an opinion.
“I am not going to opine about violations of the code of conduct,” said Lerner. “We will not politicize the office and the city attorney.”
Resendiz brought up the recent investigation that found Council member Rick Perez guilty of misconduct, an issue that was resolved through a third-party, unbiased investigation. Resendiz noted that Perez was not censured or removed from committee appointments as a result of the investigation, and felt as though he was being singled out for his political stance.
Perez was verbally reprimanded at the April 17 meeting by a majority of the council for his actions after the investigation concluded.
Over a dozen Hollister residents asked to speak during public comments at the May 15 meeting, with many showing support for Resendiz and for the 20% inclusionary housing ordinance that was tabled at the May 1 session.
“Frankly, what I hear is people feeling uncomfortable for being called out for who they are,” said Andy Hsia-Coron, referring to Resendiz’ allegations of his colleagues’ motives.
Other speakers claimed that the proceedings against Resendiz amounted to an “assassination of character” and that all council members should be “held to the same standard,” in reference to the misconduct allegations against Perez.
Samuel Ramos, who has lived in Hollister for 50 years, spoke in support of the inclusionary housing ordinance.
“Hollister is a working-class people,” said Ramos. “We have so many students, so many young people that are still living with their parents because of a lack of affordable housing. We should kick [the ordinance] up to 25% or 30%”
Casey stated in a May 5 letter to the media that the proposed ordinance had not been thoroughly researched and needed to account for potential impacts to city infrastructure and development. She also noted that other nearby communities—including San Benito County, City of Gilroy and City of Morgan Hill—had adopted a lower 15% affordable housing requirement. According to Resendiz, lowering the required affordable housing aspect of the draft ordinance is a boon to developers.
During closing comments during the disciplinary discussion on May 15, Morales admitted to receiving campaign money from former Hollister Mayor Victor Gomez, the current founder and president of Pinnacle Strategy, a land use and public relations consulting firm. Morales asserted that the $250 she received from Gomez was within the parameters of the city’s campaign finance regulations.
Saving his comments until the end of the discussion, Resendiz reiterated his position.
“The truth is not being told here tonight,” said Resendiz. “I will not be intimidated and will not be silenced.”
Casey asked the council for their recommendation on a disciplinary course of action for the matter. Council member Tim Burns diverged from his colleagues in his recommendation for a verbal reprimand similar instead of a written admonition.
“A formal reprimand, I believe, would be consistent with what the past actions of this council has been and I think we need to move on,” said Burns.
Casey, Perez and Morales all voted for a written reprimand for Resendiz. Burns voted no and Resendiz abstained.
“None of this is about silencing Rolan Resendiz,” said Casey in her closing comments. “To continually talk and to ignore what the chair’s role is, that’s disrespectful, that’s a violation of our code.”