Two Oxnard officials announce run for mayor's seat
After two-year-long district attorney probe, change in leadership may be on horizon
By Shane Cohn 04/26/2012
The Ventura County District Attorney’s office announced last week that the nearly two-year, $1 million investigation into the city of Oxnard’s malfeasance and misuse of public funds resulted in no criminal charges or arrests.
The 99-page report, however, showed that taxpayers paid heaps of cash over the years for city officials to enjoy expensive meals, Broadway shows and, in the case of City Manager Ed Sotelo, a personal loan of $10,000, which was, in fact, criminal. But because it occurred more than 13 years ago, the statute of limitations precludes prosecution of Sotelo.
Additionally, the report said it was common practice for city officials to accept gifts from companies doing business with the city. Mayor Tom Holden and former Councilman Andres Herrera, the investigation showed, took international trips on local businessman Bernie Huberman’s private jet and also vacationed in his Cabo San Lucas residence, which is something Holden repeatedly lied about during the investigation, according to the report. Huberman has benefited from various contracts made with the city.
But what is perhaps more telling about the way Oxnard City Hall has done business is that the city’s record-keeping system was such a mess that it made it impossible to prove the most serious violations beyond a reasonable doubt.
As Councilman Tim Flynn told the VCReporter many months ago, the results of the investigation “will change the face of Oxnard politics forever.”
With Sotelo on paid administrative leave ($411,850 total compensation package) since Jan. 31 due to differences with the City Council, it looks as though the facelift will begin with the position of mayor.
Four days after the district attorney’s report, Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-tem Irene Pinkard publicly declared she will be running for the position in this year’s November election. A day later, Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez said she will also be running for the mayor’s seat.
“I feel I have something to offer to the city and that is my experience, my lawyer skills and my ability to be a good decision maker about the future of our city,” said Ramirez, who was elected to the Council in 2010. She said the district attorney’s report and issues with the city were a big part in her decision to run for mayor, as it became clear the city needed a figure of leadership.
“Businesses who want to come to our city, may think they don’t want to come here because they’re not friends with anybody on Council,” said Ramirez, about wanting to clean up the city’s business image. “It’s very damaging to our future and present as a place that people can come and expect to be treated fairly.”
Pinkard, who is also promising to reform and rebuild Oxnard’s image, has already been endorsed by Supervisor John Zaragoza.
Flynn, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2008 against Holden, has indicated that he may also enter the race for mayor.
Holden, who has served the City Council for 18 years — eight years as mayor — is undecided.