La Habra City Councilman Tim Shaw has come under criticism recently for a newly released audio clip that shows him allegedly criticizing fellow council members, public commenters and the police union, in a candid conversation with his college class. 

Shaw is on the ballot for reelection this year for what would be his fourth term on the city council, alongside fellow council member Rose Espinoza, life skills coach Michael Navarro, nonprofit worker Peter Cruz and former councilman Steve Simonian. 

The student recording in question was taken during one of Shaw’s lectures at Rio Hondo College, where he teaches Political Science. The recordings were posted by Save La Habra, a community organization aimed at halting further development of open space in the city without a public vote on the ballot. 

The man they allege is Shaw can be heard having a frank conversation with his students, reviewing his 12 year career in elected office and sharing his opinions criticizing Save La Habra’s comments at council meetings, as well as some of his fellow council members. 

The clips were taken in February of 2019 according to the group, who posted several short quotes and the full audio tape to Facebook last week saying that it clearly shows a different side of Shaw not seen on the council dais.  

Shaw did not deny or disavow any of the statements on the audio, but refused to discuss the specifics of the conversation and said that his laugh was edited throughout the clip. When asked whether he would be suing Save La Habra or their source of the audio, Shaw said he was still consulting with his attorney. 

“That audio clip violates Rio Hondo College policy and was illegally obtained. I’m consulting with my attorneys and have no further comment,” Shaw said.

Shaw has served on the city council since 2008, and earlier this year was elected to join the county Board of Education. He also ran for a seat on the county board of supervisors in 2018, and he previously worked as a staff member in the state senate and at the county level. 

In the past election, Shaw was reelected by double digits, and has traditionally been an uncontroversial figure in local politics as a 41-year-old father of six and La Habra native. But he was pulled into the spotlight earlier this year for approving guidelines calling for a return to schools without masks or social distancing, with threats of a recall just weeks after he joined the board of education. 

The majority of the tape of Shaw revolved around a vote on La Habra’s upcoming Ballot Measure X, which would require all future development of open space in the city come before the voters. Under the current laws, the development can be permitted after a public hearing held by the city council and a vote. 

Rather than adopt the signature petition outright, the council ultimately voted to put it before the voters on the November 2020 ballot, and Shaw went on at length about the Save La Habra commenters that came to condemn that decision, who wanted it adopted as a city ordinance or put forward in a special election. 

“At the meeting last night, my dear friends in the neighborhood show up and say we want you to just adopt it as an ordinance,” Shaw said. “We put it on the Nov. 2020 ballot. So what do they resort to? Political threats! ‘Do it my way Mr. Shaw, or you will be former councilman Mr. Shaw.’”

Shaw continued his criticisms of the commenters, mocking their matching T-shirts and questioning how much they understood about what they were talking about. 

“What I think would be hilarious, don’t repeat this…wouldn’t it be awesome if in a year or two the city has changed the laws where not only can you not say no, you can’t slow down density,” Shaw said. “They’re at the microphone talking about high density housing and it’s just ‘Oh God do you have any idea what you’re saying?’ It’s so ridiculous.” 

Shaw took aim at his council colleagues as well over the vote, after multiple attorneys in public comment and closed session told them that if they approved the measure, they would be open to a multi-million dollar lawsuit, but that his fellow council members were willing to ignore that warning. 

“The guy to my left and the guy to my right, will never say no to a group of people, ever. If there’s 200 people in the room saying jump off that cliff, they will say ok,” Shaw said. “They are completely just there to do whatever the mob tells them to.” 

Shaw also took aim at the local police union, bringing up his original run for office in 2008 during the Great Recession and how he voted to cut their funding despite their campaign support.  

“I have the police union support, they’ve given me thousands of dollars, they campaigned for me, they’ve endorsed me and all of that,” Shaw said. “I took the microphone, I made a motion to impose a 5% pay cut across the board. In other words, I just took them and bitch-slapped them.”

Shaw then imitated the audience’s negative reaction, which according to him was filled with police officers. 

“They were mad at me, for a while. But there’s a level of respect,” Shaw said. “It’s like kids who are unruly, you’ve got to establish boundaries.” 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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