Santa Ana Mayor Calls Emergency Meeting on Police Chief Search and Housing Projects

NICK GERDA, Voice of OC

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido at a council meeting.

With just 24-hours’ notice, Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido called an emergency City Council meeting for Thursday to discuss the search for a new police chief, decide on millions of dollars for specific affordable housing projects, and talk about police salary negotiations.

And his move is prompting claims of wrongdoing from one of his colleagues.

The agenda for the meeting, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was distributed by email at exactly 1:29 p.m. Wednesday, one minute more public notice than the minimum 24-hours required by state law.

It’s unclear why Pulido wants the issues dealt with before the next regular council meeting, which is this Tuesday.

Councilwoman Michelle Martinez, meanwhile, was furious about the meeting. She said it’s being done in a way that excludes people from participating.

“This to me looks like council members have cut deals and [are] not being transparent,” said Martinez, who added she can’t attend because of a commitment to attend a meeting of the Southern California Association of Governments.

“Why do you have to have a special meeting to have a discussion about negotiations with police, or about the process for [choosing a new police chief]? Why is that so urgent? …I don’t understand, when we’re having a meeting next Tuesday? What’s the urgency? [Because] somebody can’t be in attendance? I don’t get it.”

She went on to say the circumstances lead her to suspect some of her colleagues have engaged in illegal vote-trading.

“I haven’t been involved in their conversations, but it just smells ugly, and it’s just corrupt, it’s wrong on so many levels. The attorney general needs [to] look at Santa Ana.”

“I can’t prove anything, I’m not there [in the discussions]. But…this is like influence peddling. I mean, you’re trading votes. And it’s not done in the public eye. That’s not legal. And that’s been the culture of Santa Ana for a long time, and this has gotten uglier.”

In a follow-up conversation, Martinez added: “The mayor was adamantly opposed to some of these housing projects that are before us…and we’ll see where he stands tomorrow.”

She also posted on her Facebook page about the meeting: “Vote swapping is a serious crime, punishable under the state Penal Code by a prison term of two to four years and fines of $2,000 to $10,000.”

Pulido didn’t respond to a request for comment on Martinez’ claims and why he called the special meeting.  The rest of the City Council either didn’t return phone messages or said they were unavailable to comment.

As the presiding officer, state law allows the mayor to call special meetings for “any reason at all,” said Terry Francke, an expert on California open-meetings laws. The Ralph M. Brown Act requires the public receive at least 24 hours’ notice of such meetings.

Pulido called the emergency meeting to discuss affordable housing projects, police union negotiations, and the recruitment process to replace former Police Chief Carlos Rojas, according to city staff.

The official agenda has two closed session items: the police negotiations and a performance evaluation of new Interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz, who oversees the police chief position.

After the closed session is an open-session discussion and decisions on major funding for four affordable housing projects:

  • awarding $8.8 million to AMCAL Multi-Housing for the First Street Apartments project,
  • awarding an additional $2.9 million to Meta Housing Corporation for the Santa Ana Arts Collective project,
  • adding 31 housing vouchers to Community Development Partners for the Aqua Housing project, and
  • committing $11.7 million to Community Development Partners for the Tiny Tim Plaza project.

Council members also are slated to vote on whether to “direct staff to develop a policy and criteria for the allocation of future affordable housing development funds.”

Councilman Vicente Sarmiento, who typically sides with Martinez and against Pulido on key police-related decisions, has been a vocal supporter of the AMCAL housing project, which would create 69 affordable apartments for low-income households.

Pulido was a deciding vote against a funding agreement for the AMCAL project in February, but scheduled a vote for Thursday on awarding $8.8 million to the project.

Sarmiento texted this reporter that he wasn’t available to comment on the special meeting and Martinez’ claims, because he was at his son’s graduation.

Pulido also called an emergency meeting on short notice in December, in which he and Martinez joined a narrow vote to oust then-City Manager David Cavazos. Pulido called the meeting during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, at a time when Cavazos’ council supporters said they were out of town.

And that same month, the mayor nominated Martinez as mayor pro tempore – essentially the vice-mayor of the city, who presides over council meetings when the mayor is absent. But their relationship has soured since then.

Meanwhile, the interim city manager says she prefers to make only temporary appointments to top-level city positions, such as the police chief, until a permanent city manager can oversee the permanent selection process.

Kurtz, who was the city manager of Pasadena before retiring, said her recommendation to the council is that she “do nothing to fill positions permanently.”

She noted that the city has vacancies in the permanent positions for police chief and Community Development Agency director, and that Hassan Haghani, director of the city’s Planning and Building Agency, has taken a job with the city of Ontario.

“We are going to have to be making some decisions,” Kurtz said.

Thursday’s special meeting starts at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the City Council chambers next to City Hall. Public comments will be heard at the beginning of the meeting.

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

  • Scott Smith

    When was Keyser Marston replaced? Is this the same KMA used by just about every city in Southern California? Replaced by who…CSG Advisors? A quick look at their website shows they have no presence in Orange County. Hard to imagine a councilmember would have knowledge enough to suggest replacing a well known housing consultant. Would it have been a suggestion, instead, by a certain affordable housing developer?

  • Scott Smith

    Looks like Amcal finally got their campaign contributions in on time…now time for a vote!

    • Scott Smith

      Oops meant to say, looks like Amcal and Meta got their campaign contributions in on time….now time for a vote!

    • Concerned Citizen

      Yeah, its interesting. Sarmiento was heavy handed trying to push through the AMCAL deal, it failed, then he becomes minority and Pulido embarrasses him by voting against it. Now once again they are happy to be on the same team. All the while conveniently forgetting that had AMCAL just done things the right way, this project would already be built! 3 years AMCAL has pushed this through so incompetently. With another 1000 affordable units being built, do they really need to waste money on this?

  • Concerned Citizen

    So much money dedicated to affordable housing projects which will do nothing but increase the concentration of poverty in this sinking city.

    Furthermore, that corrupt AMCAL deal cost the city the Community Agency Director, a Housing Manager and now the Planning Director is leaving. Plus Keyser Marston who gave honest analysis of all of these projects was replaced by CSG Advisors. The only employees who will work for the City now are paycheck cashers and incompetents. If these projects were so worthy, why jam them through at the last moment? More corruption in City Hall.

    Here is a recap of history:

    New staff – Community Agency Director and Housing Manager – proposed process for allocating affordable housing funds in January 2015 (2.5 years ago now Pulido is asking for staff’s input on this again!!!)

    Sarmiento went behind the scenes to order staff give AMCAL funding with no competition. Staff balks because proposal was terrible. Housing Manager fired March 2015

    Social Media political blowback forces city to issue affordable housing RFP. Staff ordered to give AMCAL vouchers based on Sarmiento’s previous order to give AMCAL money.

    AMCAL does not return RFP response in time!!! They missed deadline!!! Meta Housing awarded funds – December 2015. Meanwhile, AMCAL bought 1440 E. First St in August 2015, they are desperate for the money.

    In 2016, Sarmiento pushes scheme to have funds from market rate development Heritage Village given to AMCAL. Of course developer does not have money in time. Who knew? (Everyone except Santa Ana City councilmembers of course)

    March 2017, AMCAL loses fight and decision on funding pushed back.

    Mysteriously, June 2017, a surprise City Council meeting is scheduled to approve all of the affordable housing projects in spite of the fact the City is facing bankruptcy. Votes were definitely traded here. And this is why Santa Ana is failing as a City.

    Oh, and ask Sarmiento where his son graduated from. It certainly wasn’t from a school in Santa Ana. The carpetbagger doesn’t care about the City except for how many drinks his establishments sells. The residents of the city deserve better. Vote all of these bums out. The Orange County Democratic Party should be appalled at supporting such dishonesty.

    • Scott Smith

      Pulido had not gotten his donation yet. Emergency meetings shows his donors how quick he can act, once compensated.

  • LFOldTimer

    Another Pulido scheme to pull a fast one on the Santa Ana residents.

    Beware. The hand is quicker than the eye.

    Look how these idiots screwed up the Cavazos appointment to City Manager. ha. And you trust them to select your next police chief??? ha. Laughable.

    And I can imagine Pulido’s version of “salary negotiations” with the police department. ha.

    “What’s your pleasure, boys? Your wish is my command” HA!

    And the first action to make housing more affordable would be to evict all illegal aliens from Santa Ana. Rent prices would fall by 50%!!! The solution is so simple it’s stupid. But instead of evicting illegal aliens the dummies on the council declared Santa Ana a “sanctuary city” and thereby invited thousands more illegals to invade the city!!!! LOL!!!

  • verifiedsane

    Santa Ana’s burning…..Mayor calls for more gasoline trucks

  • Manuel Delgadillo

    Mayor Pulido is not doing anything new. He has been in power long enough to know the rules of engagement. Pulido is progressive in his ideas and wants to get things done. Maybe it is a good time for Pulido to “DRAIN THE SWAMP” of city council ineptness.

  • I hope & pray they get their act together…

  • Soy Yo

    With regard to the police chief part of the discussion, I wonder if it has to do with the New Santa Ana article a few days ago that mentioned the lack of crime reporting coming from the police department; to include Benavides’ Townsend area house being shot up. Based on that article it sounds like the interim chief choice the city made isn’t going well so far.

    And as far as the housing projects go, maybe mayor pulido has the winning power ball numbers. The city is on the verge of bankruptcy and they continue to discuss one venture after another to fund.

    One thing is for sure, the Santa Ana city council of imbeciles hasn’t disappointed when it comes to house of cards like drama…