Hollister City Council member Rolan Resendiz was censured by his colleagues during the Oct. 16 regular council meeting.
The council’s move is the culmination of months of heated exchanges between Resendiz and Mayor Mia Casey, who proposed the former’s public censure at the Sept. 18 council meeting.
The rest of the council this week agreed with Casey’s recommendation stemming from Resendiz’s alleged misconduct at the Aug. 7 council session, and voted Oct. 16 for the censure In a 4-1 roll call vote. Resendiz abstained.
During council comments, Resendiz suggested that the penalty will not force him to back down from his criticism of his fellow council members.
“You cannot silence a council member and you cannot silence the public. We have the First Amendment, which is the freedom of speech,” Resendiz said.
This is the second time Resendiz has been censured while serving on the Hollister City Council. He was previously censured in 2020 due to his alleged use of a slur against another council member and for his accusations of inappropriate sexual relationships between fellow council members.
A censure, not to be confused with the similar-sounding word “censor,” is a formal statement of extreme disapproval. In this case, the city council is publicly stating that Resendiz’s actions have fallen short of the code of conduct.
However, some residents believe that the censure is an attempt to silence Resendiz over his views.
Resendiz’s supporters showed up in force Oct. 16, holding posters with messages reading, “We love Rolan” and “Recall Mia.” This show of solidarity with Resendiz has been a fixture at recent council meetings as the spat between him and Casey reached a pitch over the course of months.
During a May 15 council meeting, the council voted 3-1 to verbally reprimand Resendiz for violating the council code of conduct. As Resendiz continued to hurl accusations of corruption against Casey and Vice Mayor Dolores Morales, city council meetings became increasingly adversarial. This came to a head at the Aug. 7 meeting in which Resendiz riled up his supporters in attendance and led them in a chant calling Casey “mentirosa” (liar).
Resendiz has accused Casey and Morales of “being in the pocket of real estate developers,” an accusation tied to the campaign contributions they both received—and have since returned—from local real estate developers. Resendiz has alleged that they are pushing developers’ interests by supporting projects such as the expansion of the city’s sewer services to new developments and for supporting a lower inclusionary housing requirement in Hollister. Casey and Morales have denied those allegations.
As a result, formal action was taken by the council, at Casey’s recommendation, to strip Resendiz of his committee appointments at the Sept. 18 meeting.
He was removed from the San Benito County Intergovernmental Committee; the Water Resource Association; the Integrated Waste Management Local Solid Waste Task Force; the Animal Control Council Ad Hoc Committee and the Oversight Committee for the former Redevelopment Agency.
The action was not well-received by Resendiz’s constituents in District 2, who claimed he was being blocked from advocating for his base.
During public comment at the Oct. 16 meeting, around 15 people spoke, many in support of Resendiz.
Mary Graham said that the city council is going against the will of residents in District 2.
“You’ve removed Rolan from committees that should have his voice because of his advocacy for our district. And because of the impact the issues have on our district. Your censoring Rolan takes away the only voice we have on this city council on important decisions that affect our lives. We voted for Rolan. You are silencing our vote,” Graham said.
Another resident claimed that the censure process is being weaponized against Resendiz and not being applied fairly, referring to the disciplinary process earlier this year involving council member Rick Perez.
“I just remember an investigation in April when Perez violated the code of ethics. He was not censured, even though it was investigated by a lawyer. Again, no [censure] and he also was not removed from the committees. I think there’s a double standard here—[the] standard should apply for every council member here,” said Bridget Thorpe.
On April 17, the city council voted to verbally reprimand Perez after an investigation found that he had acted belligerently towards a San Benito County official. He was not censured or removed from his committee appointments.
Some area residents showed support for the council’s censure of Resendiz.
“Unfortunately, the city council and city staff have had to conduct their good work while simultaneously spending significant time and effort addressing the undisciplined and attention-seeking behavior of one city council member,” said Clark Stone.
Carol Lenoir, speaking via teleconference, said she was fed up with the infighting that distracts from important council matters and supports the mayor’s decision.
“I support your actions because the craziness has to stop. And the interruptions and the name-calling. I can’t believe it’s come to that,” Lenoir said.
During the council’s time to comment, council member Tim Burns said that Resendiz should be held responsible for not adhering to the code of conduct ordinance he voted for.
“Part of the approval [of the code of conduct], as I interpreted it, is to comply with the ordinance as it was and there is a clear disregard for the ordinance based on council member Resendiz’s conduct, which is not my opinion, it’s simply evidence that could be reviewed by anybody,” Burns said.
Casey clarified to attendees that the council is not attempting to silence Resendiz, reiterating the difference between censure and censorship.
“He’ll always be given the opportunity at each agenda item to speak. So, no one is silencing his voice. It’s just a matter of following our rules and our procedures, our decorum, our respect for each other. You can get your point across without throwing accusations constantly,” Casey said.
Resendiz was the last to speak and did not waiver on his stance. He repeated his allegations that the mayor and vice mayor have pushed for rampant development; cut down the affordable housing requirement in the city to appease private interests and expanded sewer service for the same reason.
“And as long as I’m up here, I’m going to continue to do what you elected me to do and what all the other residents that I know are on the same side with me […] and I’m going to keep speaking out, keep educating. And I’m going to keep standing up for what is right,” Resendiz concluded.