A majority of Hollister City Council members voted April 17 to issue a verbal warning to their colleague, Rick Perez, for violations of the city’s code of ethics and conduct. 

Council members also asked city staff to return at a future meeting with more detail about whether Perez, who was elected to the council in 2020, is qualified to hold elected public office due to his alleged lengthy criminal record that includes a conviction that landed him in prison years ago, according to discussion at the April 17 meeting. 

The focus of the meeting was a report on an independent investigation that was initiated in late 2022 after former Mayor Ignacio Velazquez received formal complaints from two local elected officials regarding Perez’s behavior toward them in interactions on Sept. 6, 2022. A report of the investigation found that both complaints of “inappropriate conduct” were sustained. 

Council member Rolan Resendiz had submitted one of the complaints to Velazquez that Perez “acted aggressively and inappropriately toward him” during a closed session city council meeting, according to the investigation by Garon Wyatt Investigative Services. 

San Benito County Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki also filed a complaint with Velazquez, claiming that Perez “spoke unprofessionally” toward Kosmicki during a Sept. 6 phone conversation, according to the report. 

Upon receipt of these complaints, the Hollister City Council on Dec. 7 commissioned law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore to independently evaluate the accusations and the council’s options. The firm hired Wyatt Investigative Services to conduct the investigation and compile a report. 

The investigation report, which was presented and discussed at the April 17 council meeting, includes details of the complaints filed by Resendiz and Kosmicki, as well as accounts of interviews by the investigator with witnesses and Perez himself. 

“Several witnesses said that Perez is impulsive and erratic,” says the investigation report. “For example, Perez loses his temper and either yells or leaves meetings abruptly.” 

The investigation found that Perez “more likely than not…yelled and used profanity while speaking with Kosmicki.” The investigation also sustained the accusation that Perez “used profanity, and acted aggressively and in an intimidating manner toward Resendiz and Velazquez” during the Sept. 6 closed session meeting, according to the report. 

The report notes that Perez’s son had suffered a drug overdose just days before the detailed incidents. Perez told the investigator that he found his son unconscious and revived him, according to the report. His conversation with Kosmicki had to do with Perez’s concerns about the county’s available behavioral health resources—a topic that Perez said he is “passionate” about. 

In statements to the independent investigator, Perez admitted he “likely yelled and used profanity” during his Sept. 6 interactions with Kosmicki, as well as with Resendiz and other city officials in the closed-door meeting. He denied threatening any of the officials. 

Yesenia Carrillo, of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, told the council April 17 that, based on the findings of the independent investigation, Perez violated six subsections of the city’s code of conduct and ethics. She said the council could take action to reprimand Perez, or request a resolution to censure him at a future meeting; or they could remove him from his committee assignments. 

Carrillo recommended that Perez be directed by the council to review the city’s policies on conduct and ethics, and sign an acknowledgement form. 

During council discussion, Resendiz supported a formal censure of Perez and his removal from all committees. 

“We do have an obligation to ensure that people are treated respectfully, that staff is protected, that they’re not yelled and screamed at or assaulted, and other members of the county, the community and elected officials are not also threatened,” Resendiz said during the April 17 council discussion. 

Resendiz also referred to an earlier report by KSBW in which Perez said he had been arrested dozens of times over the years, and had served time in prison for a firearms conviction. 

“During this political climate, (and) with mass shootings, we have an obligation as elected officials to hold people accountable for that,” Resendiz said. 

Perez apologized for his behavior described in the investigation report, but suggested he was triggered by a pattern of “being bullied, being shut down and not being able to express myself for my constituents in closed session.” 

He added, “To everybody in the room and to all my constituents, I am sorry I let you down, but I am not going to put up with being bullied. There were some errors in judgment on my side.”

Ultimately, the council voted 3-1, with Perez abstaining, to support a motion by Mayor Mia Casey to issue a verbal warning to Perez. Casey made the motion after all council members had commented on the investigation and public input, and denied Resendiz’s request for discussion on the motion. 

Resendiz voted against Casey’s motion. 

Council members Dolores Morales and Tim Burns were also present during the Sept. 6 closed session meeting, according to the investigation report. Neither discussed their recollection of the interaction during the April 17 public meeting. 

According to the investigation report, Morales told the investigator that “she did not see Perez act inappropriately or aggressively.” She instead blamed Resendiz as an “instigator” who “tries to humiliate” Perez. 

The investigation report said “it is evident that political allegiances affected the council members’ testimony.” Thus, the investigator gave “greater weight” to the statement of City Attorney Mary Lerner, who was also a witness to the Sept. 6 interaction and is seen as “entirely independent.” 

The report continues, “Lerner corroborated Velazquez and Resendiz, asserting that Perez’s behavior was aggressive, intimidating and inappropriate.”  

Burns declined to be interviewed for the investigation, according to the report. Burns said during the April 17 discussion that he was “disappointed” with the investigation and acknowledged he and Perez are friends. 

Still, Burns asked city staff to review if Perez is qualified to serve on the city council despite his apparent criminal record. 

More than a dozen members of the public spoke on the allegations against Perez during the April 17 meeting, though none were witnesses to the incidents in question. Most of them spoke in support of Perez, largely for personal or political reasons. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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