Santa Ana Councilman Lashes Out Against County Supervisor

Sick of county officials — especially Supervisor Shawn Nelson — publicly dressing down Santa Ana’s civic leadership for not doing enough to alleviate homelessness, Councilman Vincent Sarmiento issued a stinging rebuke during last week’s Santa Ana City Council meeting.

Nelson’s most recent broadside came during a Board of Supervisors meeting last month, in which he said city leaders have done nothing about the homeless encampment that has consumed the downtown Civic Center.

Nelson’s criticism was highlighted in a recent column by Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana Jr. The piece credited county leaders for making progress on the homeless problem, noting among other things that the long-shuttered bus terminal opened for shelter during some El Nino rain storms.

But Sarmiento dismissed those claims of progress as disingenuous and conveniently timed for campaign season. As evidence, he pointed out that the homelessness problem has been festering for years without county action, despite the issue being primarily within the county’s jurisdiction.

He also blasted the county’s mismanagement of social services and specifically CalOptima, the county’s health plan for disabled and low-income residents. And he  mentioned other scandals, like the recent jailbreak from the county jail in Santa Ana by three dangerous inmates. He also called out the taxpayer funded, and possibly illegal, mailers  sent out by supervisors Andrew Do and Lisa Bartlett.

Sarmiento applauded the county auditor-controller for halting payment on the mailers.

“It’s just a shambles over there. It really is something that none of us can be proud of,” Sarmiento said of the county government. “It’s just a very disappointing, unsettling set of circumstances when you see folks at the county who are supposed to be providing help to some of our most needy people in the community — and many of them reside [in Santa Ana] — and they’re abrogating their responsibility. They’re ignoring the problem.”

Nelson’s frustration with the Santa Ana council can be traced to the council’s approval of a zone for a year-round homeless shelter in 2013. When the county went to select a site in one of the city-approved areas, hundreds of residents pushed back, and the City Council sided with the residents, criticizing county leaders for a lack of outreach.

The supervisors dropped the site after the backlash, and Nelson asked the County Counsel’s office to explore a lawsuit against the city.

But last week Sarmiento said Nelson and other county leaders deserve the blame because the real problem was the county’s lack of communication with the potential residents around the shelter site.  County leaders “have a way of shooting first and aiming later, and that’s not a good way to operate county social services,” he said.

Sarmiento also criticized the county for proceeding with a remodeling plan for the Civic Center before resolving the homeless camp, insinuating that it was a ploy to make the encampment entirely a city problem.

“What’s going to happen during construction, is they’re going to push all those folks into our side of the Civic Center and they’re going to say now its your problem, and that’s going to be at our doorstep,” Sarmiento said. “This isn’t something that wasn’t well thought out. I think they’re doing this in a very conscious way.”

Finally, Sarmiento said Nelson’s criticism shouldn’t be allowed without a response, because an attack on the council is an attack on the city’s 330,000 residents.

“With that Mr. mayor, I’ll say good night.”

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • OCservant_Leader

    OC County Government is all about Corruption. The elites in power are in control in an organized crime structure and ONLY act on issues that benefit –themselves.

    They make fake campaign promises with no follow up and no action because they are lining their own pockets.

    The homeless encampment in front of their offices is a visible sign of the RICO crimes. Folks…they don’t care. They control the votes and have robbed the treasury.

    The only thing Nelson accomplished was his “pension grab” stunt.

    Until grassroots voting unseats the organized crime family…conditions will only get worse.

  • Ed Romero

    The City of Santa Ana is not responsible for the Homeless Problems at the Civic Center. These individuals are responsible for themselves but refuse to do so. I passed through the Civil Center last night about 7pm, the smell of Urine was over-powering. It’s scary down there in the day time, at night it’s really like some Palestina Refuse Camp. The County opened the former OCTA Bus Terminal and the vast majority of the Homeless refused that service “because they didn’t want to follow the rules”. So you see the County is trying to help them but they would rather sleep in the bitter cold or rain.

    • Maybe if the county hadn’t tried to treat them all like criminals by searching them and their belongings before allowing them in, more of the homeless might have tried to come in. It was a great show making it look like they were reaching out, all the while holding a club behind their backs. Not that Santa Ana City Council has acted much bettermwith their NIMBY attitude. What the city and county could do is stop grandstanding and roll a couple of mobile shower/laundry units out there a few times a week like some other cities have done.

    • Judy Allen

      AND…. where do you expect them to pee? What is a Palestina Refuse Camp? Does a Palestina Refuse Camp have functioning toilets or urinals? AND where is your humanity?

  • Judy Allen

    A SHAMBLES for our homeless population AND the PRESENCE of the slaughterers/murderers/ killers at the OC animal “shelter” and NOT addressing the unlawful fireworks THIS year. Do any members of the BoS care about any lives except their own? Are their egos and lack of humanity so big and narcissistic that they have no respect for life and limb? Seeing how they care for themselves and not we taxpayers is making me vomit every time I read anything about them!

    • David Zenger

      ARTIC is certainly symbolic of a corrupt, morally bankrupt County leadership. And sadly (but predictably) nobody is in jail. $200,000,000 down the toilet and nobody has the courage to say so.

      It’s not just dysfunction. It’s deliberate, calculated corruption.

    • Nice try at hijacking a thread. Blame Anaheim for your train station to nowhere.

      • David Zenger

        No, no, no.

        That pile of crap was constructed by the measure M renewal crowd, led by PringleCorp and his bought-and-paid-for minions on the OCTA board. Anaheim (and by this I mean those of us who actually live here) are the VICTIMS. We are on the hook for the 4 million bucks a year maintenance costs.

        Judy is right. Five County supervisors sit on the OCTA board. None of them did a damn thing to stop ARTIC.

        • You are right, David, in that it was the OCTA (led by the Gang of Five) that forced the Armadillo. But, did Anaheim City Council really hold to any opposition?

          • David Zenger

            ARTIC has many parents chief among them Pringle and Honest Bill Campbell who was the front man at the County, I suspect.

            You are right in that the Anaheim Council not only provided no opposition, they put up several million for land acquisition, as I recall.

            At the time the Anaheim council was completely under the sway of their mayor-for-hire who was busily planting seeds that he could harvest when out of office. It was all based on the chimera of high speed rail, and the now mythical first (and completely unnecessary leg) from Union Station to the Armadillo.

            In 2010 it became apparent that ARTIC was on the wrong side of the 57 freeway and didn’t meet the specific criteria that was written in Program T of Measure M that had been (too) carefully crafted just for an Anaheim location. No matter. The OCTA board, large and small fry alike, just ignored the language voted on by the people of Orange County. There were far too many kleptobucks at stake.

      • Judy Allen

        RETHINK your comment Jeff…. read below!

        • I don’t need to rethink anything. You tried to hijack a thread for PETA. Enough said.

          • Judy Allen

            WOW, you can read my mind…. sorry, you’re wrong again…. I am NOT a fan of PETA!

          • Get a grip. You’re taking things too literally (and too seriously).

  • David Zenger

    “It’s just a shambles over there. It really is something that none of us can be proud of,”

    Actually, it’s just a shambles on both sides of Ross Street, Vince, but good try.

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      Nicely said ….