Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido has canceled an emergency City Council meeting he called for Thursday afternoon that sparked claims of illegal vote-trading from one of his colleagues.
Pulido canceled the meeting just before 11 a.m. Thursday, according to city staff. The mayor cited the lack of a quorum, the minimum four of the seven city council members required for the meeting to take place.
With just 24-hours’ public notice, the mayor had called the meeting for 1:30 p.m. Thursday to discuss affordable housing projects, police union negotiations, and the recruitment process to replace former Police Chief Carlos Rojas, according to staff.
The council’s regularly scheduled meeting is Tuesday and there was no explanation why the special meeting was added. After Pulido cancelled the special meeting, its items were added to Tuesday’s regular agenda.
The mayor didn’t return a phone and text message seeking comment on the reason for calling the special meeting, its cancellation and the vote-trading claims.
Pulido has yet to comment on the allegations, which Councilwoman Michele Martinez made Wednesday.
“This to me looks like council members have cut deals and [are] not being transparent,” Martinez said in the interview.
“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.”
Martinez later added: “The mayor was adamantly opposed to some of these housing projects that are before us…and we’ll see where he stands tomorrow.”
The meeting, which had been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, was announced to the public at 1:29 p.m. Wednesday, one minute more public notice than the minimum 24 hours required by state law.
The official agenda had two closed session items: the police negotiations and a performance evaluation of new Interim City Manager Cynthia Kurtz, who oversees the police chief position.
Pulido also scheduled 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 were also 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 the vote for Thursday on awarding $8.8 million to the project.
Sarmiento texted this reporter Wednesday evening 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.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.