Local officers and the founder of the San Benito Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) are refusing to recognize punitive actions taken by the civil rights organization’s regional district, dismissing recent allegations as the result of a “personal vendetta” against the local chapter.
And although the simmering dispute may not be directly tied to an ongoing controversy over LULAC’s national leadership, the district and local chapter members have pledged their loyalty to opposing leaders who both claim to be the nonprofit’s National President in the higher-level power struggle.
On Nov. 17, LULAC District 12 Director Andrew Sandoval announced that San Benito LULAC Council #2890 has been declared defunct by the district’s board of directors, and three of its officers have been suspended or impeached due to alleged violations of LULAC’s constitution and bylaws.
“On November 12, 2022, the LULAC District 12 Board voted to declare San Benito LULAC Council #2890 defunct and not in good standing,” says the press release. “This action resulted from LULAC Council #2890 refusal to follow the LULAC Constitution Bylaws. In line with the LULAC Constitution and Bylaws, the District Executive Board is empowered to oversee local councils and has the authority to declare them defunct.”
LULAC, founded in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1929, is the oldest and one of the largest Hispanic civil rights organizations in the U.S. The LULAC national organization’s website says, “LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.”
The San Benito chapter of LULAC was founded in Hollister in 1987. The local council has more than 80 members, and has served the community by conducting food drives, helping senior citizens and funding a variety of scholarships, grants and youth career and educational development programs.
LULAC District 12 is composed of local LULAC councils in San Benito and Monterey counties, as well as Los Banos.
The District 12 board on Nov. 12 also suspended San Benito LULAC officer and founder Mickie Solorio Luna—who is a former Hollister City Councilmember—as of February, and President Richard Perez, Sr. as of Nov. 29, 2021. And the District 12 board impeached Council 2890 Treasurer Vince Luna “for failure to provide financial documentation as required in the LULAC Constitution to the District Board,” says the press release from Sandoval.
The three sanctioned officers are prohibited from representing LULAC or using its logos or other resources for fundraising or other programs, Sandoval’s press release says.
However, Perez, Mickie Luna and Vince Luna stood in defiance of the district’s orders at a Nov. 18 press conference at the Hollister Community Center. They were joined with other San Benito LULAC board members in addressing the allegations from the District 12 director and board.
Perez said he was “dismayed” at the Nov. 17 press release. He suggested the District 12 leadership is misinterpreting LULAC’s constitution and bylaws, and the allegations resulted from personal differences between district and local chapter members. He argued the three officers’ actions cited by Sandoval did not violate the bylaws.
Furthermore, he referred to Sandoval—who sits on the Salinas City Council—as the “self appointed” director of LULAC District 12, and suggested the effort to punish San Benito LULAC is politically motivated.
Perez said after seeing the Nov. 17 press release from Sandoval, the San Benito LULAC members and directors felt it was important to tell their side of the story, adding that he worries the effort to shut down the local council will put a halt to “a lot of the good that we are doing in the community.” He said legal action is a possibility.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Perez said. “They can try as much as they want but we will use every means at our disposal to fight back—legal, through the press, through social media. What we have accomplished in the last 35 years is a solidarity amongst the people here, the Latino community, elected officials, people who regard us with reverence and know that we are…really dedicated to the betterment of people and the quality of life.”
Local officers accused
Included with the Nov. 17 press release from Sandoval are two letters from California LULAC Director Jose Luis Berrera Novoa—one to Perez and one to Mickie Luna—notifying them of formal complaints made against both local officers.
The letters state that the District 12 board found sufficient evidence to support the complaints and thus take action against Luna and Perez in accordance with LULAC’s constitution and bylaws.
In response to follow-up questions, Sandoval said Mickie Solorio Luna used the San Benito LULAC chapter’s bylaws to justify denying membership to eligible people. Luna also “promoted subversion of the LULAC Constitution…on Dec. 16, 2021…when she clarified it was OK to remove (San Benito LULAC) from the District 12, CA LULAC and vote as such,” Sandoval added.
Furthermore, Luna “held an unsanctioned and unauthorized event on behalf of LULAC” in May, and allowed Perez—who was suspended at the time—to speak as a LULAC representative at the event, Sandoval continued.
“Mrs. Mickie Solorio Luna continues to lie and spread misinformation in violation of Article VIII Section 8(a)(8),” Sandoval said.
At the Nov. 18 press conference in Hollister, Luna said Sandoval has “targeted” her because she is the founder of the San Benito LULAC council. “And I’m not going to stand for it,” she added.
Perez is accused of refusing to accept membership dues from a Council 2890 member in 2021, and presiding over a meeting where he sought to withdraw the local council from District 12, Sandoval added.
At the Nov. 18 press conference, Perez said the San Benito LULAC Council had decided not to renew the membership of three members who “have been in violation of the moral and ethical code of conduct.” He did not name those people, but said two of them are local elected officials who attempted to create unfair district lines in the 2020 redistricting process.
“There are some disenfranchised members who we didn’t think were a good fit and we decided they shouldn’t be part of our council anymore,” Perez said.
Sandoval also said Vince Luna “failed to fulfill his duties as Treasurer of the San Benito LULAC by failing to provide financial reports” and other documentation, Sandoval said.
Perez responded Nov. 18 that the San Benito board does not think the District 12 officers have the authority to request such financial information.
“Vince Luna is a pillar of this community, who has dedicated over 35 years of his life to helping the youth,” Perez said. “He has done an exceptional job as treasurer.”
Perez added that he thinks the District 12 actions are the result of a “personal vendetta between people in the district and our leadership” that dates back about two years, when the board of the San Benito LULAC council wrote a letter of no confidence in the organization’s state director and members of a LULAC Council in Salinas.
Sandoval said no allegations have been referred to law enforcement authorities.
LULAC San Benito #2890 and its suspended members have a chance to appeal the action taken against them at the next LULAC national board meeting.
But the two sides even disagree on who the LULAC National President is. At the national level, two different groups within LULAC’s national leadership ranks have been fighting for control of the organization, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News. One side recognizes Domingo Garcia as National President, and the other recognizes Ralina Cardona.
Sandoval said the District 12 board’s actions against San Benito LULAC are not related to the national LULAC power struggle. His Nov. 17 press release says the upcoming appeal hearing will be held by “Domingo Garcia, National LULAC President.”
At the Nov. 18 press conference in Hollister, San Benito LULAC officers invoked the national controversy, and distributed copies of an Oct. 28 statement from Cardona in which she is identified as LULAC National President.
“They have tried to follow a president who is no longer in office—(Garcia) has been impeached and expelled,” Perez said. “What they are doing is against the (LULAC) constitution.”
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