Councilwoman Gomez Files Federal Suit Vs Colleagues & City Staff In Victorville & Hesperia In Addition To Sheriff’s Office

A little more than a month-and-a-half after her reelection to the Victorville City Council on November 3, Councilwoman Blanca Gomez filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on December 21 against Victorville City Manager Keith Metzler, Mayor Debra Jones, former Victorville Mayor Gloria Garcia, Victorville City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky, former Councilman James Cox, City Clerk Charlene Robinson, Assistant City Clerk Marcie Wolters, Deputy City Manager Sophie Smith, Victorville Spokeswoman Sue Jones, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Hesperia Sheriff’s Station Commander Nils Bentsen.
Gomez is represented in the lawsuit by La Jolla-based attorneys Marc Applbaum and Bryan Gonzales.
According to the lawsuit, Gomez has been disenfranchised by current and former city officials “as a result of her alliances with pro-immigration and homeless nonprofit organizations.”
The suit alleges that on February 6, 2018, then-Mayor Gloria Garcia “publicly stated that [Gomez] ‘was a criminal on welfare.’” The suit states that Gomez “is not allowed to either object or cast her vote in favor or in opposition to city council matters.” To support this allegation, Applbaum and Gonzales cited the city council’s vote “approving $18,000.00 paid by the Victorville taxpayers for attorney fees paid to defendant Andre de Bornnowski’s law office that represents civil litigation clients, including, local resident Joe Fekete that had filed a civil harassment lawsuit against the mayor.”
According to the suit, Gomez “is locked out of city council meetings and denied access to city business and documents in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”
The lawsuit further pertains to an incident that took place across the Victorville City Limits in Hesperia. “On August 2, 2018, Blanca Gomez alleges that she was wrongfully arrested as a result of a City Hall employee requesting a citizen’s arrest on suspicion of resisting arrest and trespassing at Hesperia City Hall for assisting local candidates running for public office,” according to the suit.
[Gomez] alleges the city clerk of Hesperia contacted defendant BENSEN [sic] to coordinate the unlawful arrest of [Gomez]. On August 2, 2018, Blanca Gomez alleges that she was wrongfully arrested pursuant to Penal Code § 834 as a result of Hesperia City Manager, defendant Nils Bentsen, who used his personal cell phone to take plaintiff’s picture when she was requesting that [Deputy] Sheriff Crosswhite not videotape her arrest for purely political reasons, capturing and publishing her illegal arrest on the internet for suspicion of resisting arrest and trespassing at Hesperia City Hall for nothing more than assisting local candidates running for public office.”
The suit states that “[Gomez] alleges that defendant San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department commenced a legal action without probable cause solely to embarrass [Gomez] for political reasons as requested by defendant city manager that is intent on harming [Gomez] in retaliation for being independent and honest.”
Gomez maintains that she has a video of her arrest at Hesperia City Hall which establishes she did not resist arrest.
In the aftermath of her arrest, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against her on the trespassing nor on the resisting arrest allegations made by the sheriff’s office.
The suit states that “[Gomez] alleges that defendant San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department caused her harm and that the officer employed was a substantial factor in causing [Gomez] harm.”
Gomez further alleges an unholy alliance has come to exist between Victorville city officials and the Fourth Estate. “On September 9, 2020, [the] Victorville Daily Press leaked [sic] a story that defendant Keith Metzler sent a letter to the California Employment Development Department after his suspicion of employment fraud based on an unemployment claim filed on May 17, 2020 under the common and ubiquitous name, B Gomez.”
According to the lawsuit, “In Victorville, nepotism is rampant among the elected and appointed officials. Upon information and belief defendant Metzler is a cousin to the defendant mayor and also related to defendant Cox whose stepdaughter is married to defendant city attorney and that Elizabeth Becerra, the newly elected councilmember is a cousin to defendant mayor and that journalist, Rene la Cruz with the Daily Press, is a nephew to defendant mayor.”
No journalists are named in the suit.
While the lawsuit does not fully clarify the issue, the mayor referenced appears to be former Mayor Gloria Garcia rather than the current mayor, Debra Jones. Garcia, who was initially elected to the city council in 2012, served in the capacity of mayor, having been elevated to that position by her council colleagues continuously from 2014 until she departed from the council last month after she failed to gain reelection in November. Throughout Gomez’s first three years as councilwoman, she clashed continuously with Garcia, who on numerous occasions used her gavel to admonish Gomez for speaking out of turn, being out of order or engaging in what Garcia considered to be a violation of protocol. On one occasion, Garcia ordered Gomez removed from the council dais and had her removed by the sergeant at arms from the council chamber. Notably, in December 2019, when the city council was deciding on the council officers for the remainder of the year until December 2020, Gomez cast a third crucial vote, along with Garcia and Councilwoman Rita Ramirez-Dean, to keep Garcia as mayor. The hostility between Gomez and Garcia was not as sharp throughout 2020 as it had been previously. Gomez also had a testy relationship with councilmen Eric Negrete and Jim Kennedy until they departed from the council in December 2018.
Upon Gomez assuming office in 2016, her unfamiliarity with Roberts Rules of Order, her motions for city action her colleagues did not support, her involvement in efforts to inhibit the enforcement of federal immigration law and her public utterances regarding action taking place in the council’s closed sessions she considered illegal have antagonized her council colleagues and other city officials.
A failed effort to recall Gomez from office, according to Applbaum and Gonzales, involved a conspiracy of Victorville’s elected officials and staff members.
“[Gomez] alleges that the unsuccessful petition to remove her from office in 2016 was coordinated and financed by defendant Walters [sic], [the] City Council of Victorville, defendant city clerk, defendant Robinson and defendant Cox,” the lawsuit states.
Applbaum and Gonzales maintain “[Gomez] alleges that on October 15, 2020 while hosting a fundraising event at Hook Park in Victorville, CA for voter registration and election awareness… she was harassed by multiple undercover law enforcement officers.”
City officials and sheriff’s department personnel have actively conspired in an effort to tar her name and reputation and harm her political viability, Gomez alleges in the suit. Both Victorvillle and Hesperia contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for the provision of law enforcement services.
“At all times material [Gomez] is subjected to systematic harassment, discrimination and intimidation by online Facebook platforms and random blogging as a duly elected city councilmember by all named defendants,” the suit states. The lawsuit propounds that “[Gomez] alleges that all named defendants are systematically disrupting her from performing her duties as a city council member by physically and electronically blocking access to city council meetings and to her city government emails for the sole purpose of keeping her silent and for asking questions about the fraud and corruption agenda being systematically and strategically coordinated by all named defendants.”
According to the suit, “As a proximate cause of the illegal conduct, [Gomez] is seeking nominal damages donated to a charity of her choice and a public apology published prominently in the Los Angeles Times and local newspapers in San Bernardino County.”
In addition, the suit requests “that a temporary restraining order be ordered against all named defendants prohibiting retaliation against the plaintiff.”
Neither Victorville officials nor Bentsen nor the sheriff’s department has made any substantive public response to the lawsuit.
No response to the lawsuit by any of the defendants has been lodged at the federal court in Riverside, where the case was filed.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply