Santa Ana Mayor Calls Special Meeting in Apparent Attempt to Oust City Manager

Nick Gerda/Voice of OC

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido at a City Council meeting.

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido has called a special City Council meeting for the middle of the workday Wednesday with a single agenda item that could lead to the ouster of City Manager David Cavazos.

Having failed in an attempt last week to get enough votes to put Cavazos on administrative leave during the final regularly-scheduled council meeting of the year, Pulido appears to be giving it another go during the holiday week when the city manager’s three council supporters are out of town.

Councilman Sal Tinajero said he, along with David Benavides and Vicente Sarmiento, will be traveling or out of town during Wednesday’s meeting and that the mayor has refused to move it to next week when they will be back.

“We were informed last night at about 7 o’clock in the evening that the mayor had called for a special meeting,” Tinajero said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Pulido was privately opposed to the hiring of Cavazos in 2013, and has been at odds with him ever since. Meanwhile, sources close to City Hall say the city’s police union, which spent heavily on the successful campaigns of the mayor and new council members Jose Solorio and Juan Villegas, has been seeking to replace Cavazos and Police Chief Carlos Rojas.

Tinajero has claimed for weeks that the police union promised earlier this year to support council candidates only if they agreed to fire Cavazos and Rojas. Pulido, Solorio, and Villegas have not disputed his claims.

“Once again, they need to pay back a bribe,” Tinajero said in an interview Tuesday. “So what they have done is called a meeting at a time when people are on vacation and people are working, to assure that there is no public comment on what is so apparent…[that they are] fulfilling the quid pro quo they made with the police officers association, period.

“These electeds have no remorse and no fear for the law.”

Pulido declined all comment on the agenda item or allegations of police union involvement when reached by phone Tuesday afternoon.

But the police union president, Gerry Serrano, indicated in an email that Tinajero was making false claims.

“The police follow the law and a strict code of conduct [and] ethics,” Serrano wrote. “If someone is not getting their way they should kindly not make things up or false accusations…We are prohibited from responding on ‘personnel matters’ and the city manager is evaluated by the City Council – no one else.”

“In regards to Councilman Sal Tinajero, we endorsed him in his past re-elections and spent over $50,000 in his [prior] reelection efforts, which is more than we spent in support of any of our recent supported candidates.”

Tinajero said he, Benavides and Sarmiento asked if the meeting could wait until next week, on Jan. 2nd or 3rd, after they’ve returned from their travels.

“Can you at least give us the courtesy to be able to make the meeting?” Tinajero said of the request. But “they refused to change the date.”

“They preferred to go forward with only four council members, and three of the four were the ones that were endorsed by the [police union].”

The fourth council member is Michele Martinez, who is considered the swing vote on whether to place Cavazos on leave. Martinez has had her own issues with Cavazos, who made allegations that she sexually harassed him, which were later found to be without merit by investigators hired by the city.

Meanwhile, pro-immigration activists, who turned out in force at last week’s regular council meeting to urge the council not to oust Cavazos, are describing Pulido’s move as an “assault to our democracy.”

“It’s shocking to see the mayor and his team are persistent in shifting the balance of power away from Santaneros, and they are doing this behind closed doors with last minute scheduled ‘special meetings,’ ” said Roberto Herrera, an organizer with the immigration group Resilience OC, using the Spanish word for Santa Ana residents.

“Acts like these are an assault to our democracy. It’s nothing short of a coup; a power grab after the elections to get a choke hold on the city.”

Members of the public will have the opportunity to comment at Wednesday’s meeting, which starts at noon, before council members go into closed session.

Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at

  • Linda Vandenburg

    I don’t live in SA, nor would I ever consider it, but everything that I have read about the politicians in SA sounds like they are as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. From the top to the bottom, they practice crony capitalism and graft to enrich themselves. I don’t know how any of them get reelected.

  • KenCoop

    Is this the same individual that is having a relationship with a subordinate? That should be grounds enough. Something like that is a ticking bomb.

    • sparklystar


  • Paul Lucas

    Word is that they gave the city manager the heave ho in a 4-4 vote. This is unprecedented. The first time Ive ever seen anything like this.

  • astar2b

    Why doesn’t the city manager do the honorable thing and just resign, then walk away? Super bowl winning coaches have no problems finding another position…

  • Robert Oliver

    4-0 vote to place the city manager on administrative leave. I assume they will or have appointed an interim city manager. Each and every one of them should be recalled.

  • Hank Hill

    Why did People even bother voting him again

    • kburgoyne

      I’ve often thought local races might actually get decided by who puts out the most street signs. Sure seems like that’s the way the politicians have concluded they get elected. Otherwise, why would have 24 posters on a street corner be worth spending the money on the signs rather than only having 4 posters?

      • Hank Hill

        I mean do people really want the same mayor for 20+ yrs

        • kburgoyne

          The people need to take responsibility for who they elect. If money was removed from politics, I would be a more clear-cut opponent of term limits. Term limits are undemocratic — they tell the voters you can’t vote for the person you might want to vote for.

          In an honest democracy, it is up to the voters to decide whether they want the same person for a 4th, 5th, 6th, … time. The question is really with the idea that being an incumbent provides some kind of unfair unbalancing of the race. It would “seem” that it does, but then again the incumbent is the one who has to run on his/her record, not the challenger. If that record is good, then reelection would seem to be appropriate. If that record is bad, then it “should” serve as a millstone around the candidate’s neck.

          If the incumbent and the challenger(s) were clearly running on a level playing field, that would be “more democratic” than term limits.

          Ultimately I view the fundamental issue as being one of money in politics, with most everything else being a symptom of money in politics, and other “solutions” as being band aids being applied to the symptoms.

  • Bob and Barb

    If the 3 are interested that can phone call or skype in and vote.

  • I think many of us are missing an important bit of information… what the exact grounds for the council wanting to change the guard on these top positions? Too bad they are not “tweeting” their thoughts to bring us in the loop here. Why all the super secrecy?

  • Shirley L. Grindle

    Do n’t participate, Michelle Martinez, in this underhanded effort. This is beneath you and is a new low in Santa Ana politics.

  • kburgoyne

    Perhaps Pulido should declare martial law instead? Isn’t that the more preferred approach for anti-democracy dictators? T’would seem there needs to be an expansion of the Brown Act requiring a longer announcement period prior to holding even an emergency council meeting unless the meeting is justified as a TRUE threat to society that needs addressing immediately. A TRUE threat being something like a plague rather than an annoying obstruction called democracy.

    • Greg Diamond

      Well, he has the police behind him, so there may not be all that much of a difference.

  • Jose Joe Moreno

    I don’t see anything wrong with evaluating the performance of the highest paid city manager in the OC.

    Are the residents of Santa Ana getting a good value in their tax dollars? Before we jump to comclusions, let the elected council of the people evaluate the city manager’s performance.

    This is nothing unusual as the honorable Paul Walters, SA’s previous city manager performance evaluations special meeting was called on December 27, 2012.

    • David Zenger

      Wrong then, wrong now. High-handed banana republicanism – consistent. 43% of the “elected city council” won’t be there.

      The fact that the guy is grossly overcompensated is neither here nor there.

      • kburgoyne

        Correct. The ends does NOT justify the means. I don’t pretend to know enough to decide one way or another on whether the manager should go, but I am 100% sure it is NOT an “emergency” and therefore this IS a banana republic political move.

    • Greg Diamond

      You’re right, JoJo — you DON’T see anything wrong with this. That’s a huge moral failing.

      • Jose Joe Moreno

        Your a hypocrite Mr. Blobviator! Isn’t that what your amigo from the OC WEEkly calls you. Ha Ha! But, lets use our real names, as i know you and Vern would not call me names in person. I think the huge moral failing is accepting the elected SA council majority action 4 year ago and now crying over the elected SA council majority action this time. David and I disagree but our positions are consistent.

        • Greg Diamond

          No, JoJo, it isn’t. And I would (and will) certainly call you “JoJo” in person, to distinguish between civil rights leader Dr. Jose F. Moreno and you — a leech who correctly understands that his sole utility in Orange County’s political ecosystem is to draw votes away from Dr. Moreno and other civil rights champions by fostering confusion over your identity and expecting to get a pass for it.

          You think that this is unfair because you’re a real candidate? I doubt that you’re that delusional, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt. How many doors did you knock on in each of your last four campaigns? Yes, I know that someone bought you signs (designed to siphon votes away from Arturo Ferreras by promoting “Latino solidarity”) this time — but that doesn’t make you a real candidate.

          I’d respect you if you ran against unopposed rascals just to give people a chance to vote against them, as I’ve done a few times, but no — YOUR goal is the trick Latinos into diluting their votes against anti-Latino white opponents. You’re there to hurt the people that — once or twice every two years — you claim to be “your people.” I’d also respect you more if you transliterated your last name as well and ran as “Joe Brown” while putting the same amount of effort into campaigning. How many votes do you think you’d get? Do you think that you’d even break into three figures in a Council or School Board or Assembly race as Joe Brown?

          The termination of the Paul Walters four years ago was not the result of a bogus and reprehensible trick like scheduling a snap meeting over the Christmas-to-NYE holiday week while three people were on vacation. If they had the votes to get rid of Cavazos (although not of his paycheck), they had the right to do it. The moral/ethical problem is with the PROCESS — scheduling a SNAP special meeting given the knowledge that three Council members were out of town out of the desire to capitalize on their absence — rather than the rotten result.

          I may be unfair, though, in accusing you personally of a “moral failing” for not seeing that that is NOT the same as what happened in 2012. It may be some sort of intellectual or personality defect instead.

          My apologies to Voice of OC if the tone of this comment — which is a response to the tone of the first sentence of JoJo’s precedent comment — violates your Discussion Policy. If you want to get rid of both comments, I’ll certainly understand.

          • Jose Joe Moreno

            You are hilarious. The obnoxious, know it all, unpopular to all, long winded paragraphs blobviator to think voters in Anaheim don’t know the difference in a race baiting candidate and a moderate thinking, all inclusive, candidate. Moderation is the key to life, consider it, as you would be less uptight, less confrontational and more “liked”. however, I serious doubt your friend Robert Nelson will be around in two years from now to go siphon votes from a modrate thinking candidate.

            As for the doors I knocked on and dropped my literature. I ordered over 3,000 walk pieces and started 3 weeks out from the election.

            I will start sooner next time. I’m leaning toward the high school board on my next attempt but if that gets crowded, perhaps I’ll give Mayor Tait’s seat s a go at it.

  • Paul Lucas

    WTFf? Can Pulido do this legally?

    • kburgoyne

      If he can, then there is a clear problem involving the definition of “emergency”. It is blatantly obvious this is NOT what the average responsible American would call an “emergency” whether they were liberal, centrist, or conservative. There needs to be a way to challenge the exploiting of “emergency powers” since despots have used “emergency powers” down through history to impose their will. “Emergency powers” were actually what Adolf used to finally elevate himself into the dictatorship of Germany.

  • David Zenger

    Ms. Martinez is obviously on board.

    • kburgoyne

      Most likely. Or willing to abstain. If it’s true, one wonders what bribe she would seem to have received in exchange.

    • Greg Diamond

      Not “obviously.” She may have been convinced by Solorio and/or Pulido that she can come to the meeting and vote “NO” and she’ll be politically protected. (That’s the level of contempt that Solorio has had for her.) She would NOT be protected — she’d just look like a dupe.

      If she wants Cavazos gone, she can manage it at the next open meeting. If she doesn’t, then SHE MUST NOT SHOW UP AT THIS ONE.

  • Greg Diamond

    Maybe it’s time for the Council majority to agendize a special meeting that would cut deeply into the interests of the police association that funded the candidacies of Pulido and his cronies.

    And, fellow Democrats, Jose Solorio’s career should be dead after this. Hmmm — DPOC could still fit in a condemnatory resolution of its own….

  • Greg Diamond

    They need four for a quorum, so the meeting will not go forward if Martinez does not show up. Time for her to make some vacation plans. We’d love to have you over for lunch tomorrow, Michele — or we can cross the county line if necessary. I’m sure others who are closer to you socially would make the same offer.

    It’s funny: this is the sort of thing that anti-Tait bloggers are accusing the new Anaheim Council majority of doing with respect to Anaheim’s City Manager Paul Emery, when Tait and his colleagues have made no move whatsoever to do so anything nearly so extreme.

    • kburgoyne

      Doesn’t seem likely Pulido would have performed this banana republic move if he didn’t have his ducks are nicely bribe and ready.

      • Greg Diamond

        Martinez is being horribly used here. She can’t go to the meeting and vote against firing Cavazos, as I expect Solorio is encouraging her to do. She needs to flat out skip the meeting and deny these vendidos a quorum.

        • kburgoyne

          Denying the quorum would actually be the best moral/ethical stance she could make. She could, rightly, turn it into a “for the people and democracy” heroic statement against this banana republic move while proclaiming it has absolutely nothing to do, pro or con, with the manager. She could heroically state ALL she’s doing is saying the other city council members should be present regardless of what position she herself has on the issue.

          Lately US politics at all levels has become more of a cesspool of unethical activity than usual for much of our history. Certainly there were times in the past when it had also become a bit of a cesspool.

          I’m not actually referring to some of the legislation elected official pass. Whether or not that reflects unethical activity can be judged against what they told the voters they would do once elected. The unethical activity I’m referring to is the increasing refusal to govern in good faith in cooperation and concert with officials elected by other constituents. The goal of the unethical activity is to disenfranchise voters by doing everything possible to oppress the people those voters have elected.