The small but curiously interesting city of San Fernando has slid one more step toward the bizarro world. Remember last year when the mayor shocked the audience at a City
Council session, including his own wife, by declaring aloud that he was having an affair — with another council member? That made for some awkward council meetings. But nothing like the next one will be.
The amorous council members, Mario Hernandez and Maribel De La Torre, this week requested and got temporary restraining orders — against each other. There apparently was a violent argument between the two, centering on an iPad and a trip Hernandez had planned. Push came to shove, and maybe worse, and now both have been ordered by a court to stay 100 yards apart. But, you know, the City Council meeting room in San Fernando isn't big enough for the both of them.
From the Daily News:
Mayor Brenda Esqueda, who will preside over Tuesday's meeting, said she was unaware of the restraining order until a reporter called her Friday.
After talking to the city attorney and acting police chief, she said she believed both Hernandez and De La Torre could attend the meeting without violating the court orders. But she did not know whether either will show up....
Both, along with Esqueda, are facing a recall election this fall after thousands of voters signed petitions to get them on the ballot. Esqueda has been accused of having an affair with a San Fernando police sergeant.
Hernandez's version, in the Daily News, is that De La Torre came over, slapped and punched him, then smashed a laptop on the floor and tried to choke the councilman. He reported that De La Torre told him, "If I could kill you right now, I would. I f----- hate you." A police report said that Hernandez had injuries "including redness and swelling on his cheek, scratches and redness on his throat and a swollen, bruised thumb." But, I guess this goes without saying, that's by the San Fernando police department so all bets are off.
In De La Torre's version of events, Hernandez slammed the door on her shoulder, pushed her onto the bed and threw her to the floor so hard she blacked out. The councilwoman, according to the Daily News, said in her filing that Hernandez has become violent with her before.
Pending a hearing, she has been ordered to stay away from Hernandez and his 11-year-old son. But a court commissioner declined to order Hernandez to stay away from De La Torre's children, who are aged 16 and 20.
She told the paper via email today, "Words cannot begin to express how saddened I am over the events of the past several days. While I would like to address the allegations, it would be inappropriate to discuss this matter until any potential legal issues are resolved."
I mused last year that San Fernando looked like a ripe target for an investigation of the sort that has led to some great reporting and corruption prosecutions in small local cities such as Bell, Cudahy and Vernon. It's even more attractive now, eh?
By the way: Here's how Hernandez's official bio begins on the city of San Fernando website:
Loving the small town feel, Mario and his wife moved their family into her childhood home in the City of San Fernando. Their children attend local schools and his oldest son, who did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, enlisted in the US Navy, as a Corpsman, in San Fernando. Mario is an alumnus of San Fernando High School, Class of 19XX. Go Tigers!
For balance, here's how De La Torre's official web bio opens:
Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre is in her third term in office in San Fernando. She is a San Fernando native and alumnae of the University of California at Berkeley.
De La Torre and her sister, Cindy Montanez have both been members of the San Fernando city council. Montanez was already a councilmember in San Fernando when De La Torre joined her in 2001. The sisters became the first sister-act in California to serve together on a city council. Montanez became the mayor of San Fernando in 2001 and again in 2002.
In November 2002, Montanez left the San Fernando city council and was elected to the California State Assembly to represent the 39th District. At that point, De La Torre assumed the role of Mayor Pro-Tem. She served in that capacity until 2004 when the city council elected her to serve as Mayor.
The cartoon by Steve Greenberg ran last year on LA Observed