Hollister City Council member Rolan Resendiz was stripped of his committee appointments during a tense Sept. 18 city council meeting.
In a 4-0 vote, his fellow council members took the action in an escalating disciplinary course against Resendiz for allegedly violating the council’s code of conduct. The council chambers were packed with many attendees holding signs in support of Resendiz, and 20 people lined up to speak during public comment.
It was the latest development in the ongoing row between Resendiz and his colleagues spanning months. Previously, during a May 15 council meeting, the council voted 3-1 to verbally reprimand Resendiz for violating the council code of conduct. The Sept. 18 action is the next step in the disciplinary process that may result in an official censure of Resendiz.
Resendiz has repeatedly accused Mayor Mia Casey and Vice Mayor Dolores Morales of being in the pocket of real estate developers. In recent council meetings, Resendiz has alleged that they are pushing developers’ interests by supporting projects such as the expansion of the city’s sewer services and for supporting a lower inclusionary housing requirement in Hollister. Casey and Morales have denied those allegations.
Since the May 15 reprimand, Casey alleged at the Sept. 18 meeting that Resendiz has continued to act out of order during official proceedings, crescendoing at a chaotic Aug. 7 council meeting.
During that meeting, the chambers were filled with protestors and constituents of Resendiz’s District 2, who were there to demonstrate against the city’s decision to expand sewer services to a new Gavilan College site and the Fairview Corners development. At one point, Resendiz led the crowd in a chant calling Casey a “mentirosa” (liar).
“Council member Resendiz has repeatedly violated the code. In fact, he has indicated he doesn’t care and plans to continue this behavior. He has also threatened on more than one occasion, indicating that if I wanted a circus he was going to bring a circus, and a circus is exactly what happened on August 7,” Casey said during the Sept. 18 meeting.
Casey said that, after reviewing the recording of that meeting, she noted more than 15 violations of the code of conduct by Resendiz, including a verbal attack on San Juan Bautista Mayor Leslie Jordan, who was in attendance.
Casey asked the council to censure Resendiz and remove him from all committees, saying that while he is entitled to his opinion, there is an “expectation of civility and professionalism” for council members and they are required to adhere to the council’s code of ethics and conduct.
Many attendees held signs disapproving of Casey and Morales or in support of Resendiz. One sign read “Recall Mia and Dolores.” During public comment, the majority of speakers came to Resendiz’s defense.
One supporter likened Resendiz to an oppressed freedom fighter.
“On behalf of these people that support Councilman Resendiz, we are not asking you take censuring Mr. Resendiz off the table. We are demanding it. Get on the right side of history,” said John Robles.
In contrast, another member of the community found Resendiz’s behavior and accusatory remarks reminiscent of a dark time in U.S. history. G.W. Devon Pack, who sits on the San Benito Health Care District board, compared Resendiz’s rhetoric to that of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the communist Red Scare of the 1950s.
“If you were to substitute the word communist for developer, you would notice an incredible parallel between the rhetoric of 1950 and the rhetoric of the councilman,” Pack said. “His rhetoric would suggest that perhaps there are developers beneath every chair, developers behind every door.”
During his turn to speak, Resendiz doubled down on allegations of outsized developer influence on city government, and singled out members of the audience as working for them.
“There are lobbyists here, there are lobbyists everywhere,” Resendiz said. “The rules of this censure and of this council are being used to target me, to silence me into removing me from committees because I keep bringing up these truths.”
Resendiz’s comments were met with applause from the audience.
While the council voted Sept. 18 to remove Resendiz from committees, the decision as to whether or not to censure him will be taken at another session. Resendiz 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.
Council member Rick Perez said at the Sept. 18 meeting that he wants to see a change in the conduct of city council meetings so they can speak and not yell at each other.
“I hope that we all can just respect each other… We don’t have to like each other, just respect each other,” Perez said.
Perez has also been in hot water for his conduct while in office. 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.
Casey insisted that the disciplinary actions taken against Resendiz are not an attempt to stop him from speaking out.
“Council member Resendiz has mischaracterized my attempts to keep order and to have him follow parliamentary procedure as an attempt to silence him. But let me be clear, no one is trying to silence council member Resendiz,” Casey said.