By Mark Gutglueck
A Mexican standoff has ensued in the aftermath of a move by Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and two members of the city council to censure their colleague, Ruben Valencia, on the basis of Valencia’s continuing association with foreign politicians and the municipal/governmental entities the City of Ontario earlier this year ended its affiliation with.
Valencia and his attorney, Cory Briggs, have sharply contested multiple characterizations Leon and Councilman Alan Wapner and Councilwoman Debbie Dorst-Porada have made about his activity in Sinaloa early last month, and Briggs maintains he has now obtained evidence that shows Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada violated the Brown Act, California’s open public meeting law, in militating to discredit Valencia, an effort which the lawyer said had been facilitated by Ontario City Manager Scott Ochoa.
Complicating factors, which include what Briggs and Valencia say is the very real possibility that the council would be subjected to a criminal prosecution, have convinced the council and key elements of the city administration that whatever political advantage the ruling faction on the council’s might obtain through the censure of Valencia would be more than offset by the negative publicity and damage to its own reputation the city council might sustain if the full extent of three of its members’ actions were to be publicly revealed.On January 17, the Ontario City Council dissolved its sister city relationship with – at the very least – the City of Guamuchil in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Up until that time, Ontario had sister city status with six international cities – Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico; Mocorito, Sinaloa, Mexico; Guamuchil, Sinaloa, Mexico; Winterthur, Switzerland; Jieyang, China; and Brockville, Ontario, Canada. Based on the documentation prepared for the January 17 council meeting, the council was to dissolve its connection with Guamuchil that evening, but according to Mayor Leon and others, the action extended to Los Mochis and Mocorito, as well.
On an official level, the City of Ontario has indicated that over the 40-year span of its sister city relationship with Guamuchil, it has donated various items of used city equipment and vehicles worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that Guamuchil had utilized for municipal purposes, while Ontario has reaped little or nothing in return. Ontario officials have said they are looking toward a more reciprocal relationship, and hope to forge a sister city relationship with some other international municipality. On an unofficial level, city officials have hinted that Sinaloa’s reputation as “the drug cartel capital of Mexico” was the actual motivation behind the divergence, along with the what they said were credible reports, originating with investigative journalist Anabel Hernández and others, that Sinaloa Governor Rubén Rocha Moya was assisted by the leadership of one of the region’s most powerful drug cartels in capturing the governorship in 2021.The vote to disengage from the sister city relationship with Guamuchil passed by a 4-to-1 vote, with Valencia dissenting.
In February, Valencia sojourned to Sinaloa on a vacation with members of his family. While there, he and La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis met with Sinaloa Governor Rubén Rocha Moya and both Veronica Rochin and Feliciano Castro Meléndrez, members of the Sinaloa legislature, known as the House of Deputies.
In short order, there were a number of social media postings in which Valencia’s meetings with Moya, Rochin and other dignitaries with the cities of Los Mochis, Mocorito and Guamuchil were referenced. Some of those came to the attention of Ontario city officials. While the nature of the discussions that went on between Kinakis, Valencia and the local and state Sinaloa officials was not clear, Ontario officials assumed the worst.
In one of her posts, Rochin made reference to “strengthening our ties with the sister cities of La Puente and Ontario, California.” Though by conflicting accounts Ontario remains a sister city with two Sinaloa cities – Los Mochis and Mocorito – and Ontario’s website yet listed Guamuchil as a sister city despite the city council’s January 17 action, city officials, at least initially, interpreted Valencia’s discussions with Sinaloa officials as an effort to perpetuate the sister city relationship with Guamuchil and that Valencia was representing that he was acting as an official emissary of Ontario in doing so.
Some time previous to that, the council majority – including Leon, Wapner, Dorst-Porada and Councilman Jim Bowman – had developed a political rivalry with Valencia.
In 2012, Valencia had vied unsuccessfully for the council, challenging Dorst-Porada in that contest. In 2014, in his second unsuccessful attempt at winning a council seat, Valencia ran against both Wapner and Bowman. In doing so that year, Valencia targeted Wapner, and his support network piled on, posting to YouTube footage taken by a security video camera mounted at a private residence in the area of East Hazeltine and South Pleasant Avenue in which it appeared Wapner was in public physically assaulting his then-15-year-old daughter.
After failing to capture a position on the council in either 2012 or 2014, Valencia in 2016 was at last elected to the council, the same year that Dorst-Porada was reelected for the second time.
Valencia was reelected in 2020 and last year challenged Leon for the mayoralty. Also running in the mayoral election was Christian Garcia. Leon cruised to victory by a comfortable margin with 15,583 of 29,173 total votes cast or 53.42 percent to Valencia’s 10,129 votes or 34.72 percent, with Garcia’s 3,461 votes or 11.86 percent making up the difference. In challenging Leon, Valencia deepened the enmity toward him the mayor harbors.
Valencia has thus been persona non grata on the council as it is currently composed for some time. Consequently, his colleagues had previously stripped him of his adjunct council assignments, committee memberships and appointments to regional/joint powers governmental association representation posts. Thus, Valencia had no portfolio to be representing the City of Ontario in any capacity, whether the city was yet affiliated with Los Mochis, Mocorito and/or Guamuchil or not, according to his city council colleagues.
The appearance, late February 17 and early February 18, of Mexican newspaper, television and on social media reports that Valencia was in in Sinaloa on a sister city mission was first picked up by, it seems, City Manager Scott Ochoa, who shared that information with Leon. A flurry of communications between the mayor, Wapner and Dorst-Porada followed. Somewhat predictably, within the echo chamber amongst the three, outrage festered and raged as each sought to outdo the other in expressing how affronted he or she was over Valencia’s audaciousness. Valencia was engaged in activity which he was not authorized to undertake, the three agreed, resolving to do something about it. The mayor’s interpretation of those reports was that Valencia was cavorting with a group of international politicians and that he was representing Ontario with regard to issues and discussing the sister cities programs. There were photos of him at parties or festivities with the Sinaloa governor and a congresswomen. In at least one case he was referred to as the mayor of Ontario. Ontario City Manager Scott Ochoa was brought in on the serial discussion amongst Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada. Valencia was, the officials concluded, “out of control.”
At that point, the agenda for the February 21 Ontario City Council meeting had already been set, and had been posted on Thursday, February 16. In that agenda, there was no mention of a censure. It was not until the non-business days of the weekend had begun, two days later, on Saturday February 18, that City Clerk Sheila Mautz was contacted by Leon, who instructed her to put an emergency walk-on item onto the agenda. Mautz herself had at one time been a member of the city council. Based on that experience as well as her status as city clerk, she recognized that Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada were inflating the issue far beyond what it was and that if push were to come to shove she would be hard-pressed to justify Valencia’s vacationing in Mexico as an “emergency” necessitating the alteration of the already set agenda. Still, she recognized the political primacy of Leon and Wapner and for that reason complied with Leon’s demand, composing an agenda add-on that read: “A Resolution To Censure A Council Member: That the city council discuss and provide direction to staff regarding the adoption of a resolution censuring Council Member Ruben Valencia for unauthorized representation of the city’s interests and/or positions.”
There was no resolution accompanying the emergency announcement. What was suggested by the add-on posting was that either the resolution would be drawn up over the weekend or on Monday and Tuesday and would be presented to the public and the council at the Tuesday night meeting or that the council would draft the resolution during the course of the meeting.
Word spread that Valencia was out of town and that the city council was rushing to hold a censure hearing against him in absentia so he could be officially rebuked.
Tuesday night, February 21, a stirred-up public demanded that a cogent case be presented against Valencia together with evidence and that Valencia be afforded the opportunity to defend himself.
Absent from the meeting was Councilman Bowman. Present in the council chambers as Valencia’s legal representative was Briggs, the grandson of Homer F. Briggs, a former Ontario councilman.
Addressing the council, Briggs informed its members he intended to put the city and the council through their paces by insisting that Valencia be provided with due process and that he was looking to not only delve into the council’s motive and rationale for going after Valencia but would inquire as to whether the council had sought to load the dice against his client by arriving at a decision to censure Valencia and discussing doing so in advance of that evening’s meeting.
In rushing into a censure hearing in the guise of emergency action without any drafted resolution beforehand, Briggs said, the council appeared to be in violation of the State of California’s open meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act.
The Brown Act prohibits a quorum of an elected body from coming to a decision on action or reaching a consensus on action outside of an agendized meeting that is open to the public. It requires that all such action to be clearly disclosed and outlined in the agenda for such meetings, which is to be publicly posted at least 72 hours in advance of such public meetings commencing and that the discussion and deliberations with regard to that action and the votes pertaining to it take place in public, with starkly defined exceptions – those being contemplated or ongoing litigation, contract negotiations, employee termination or discipline and negotiations for the sale or purchase of real estate – carved out in the act to allow those discussions and deliberations to take place in closed sessions outside the scrutiny of the public. The Brown Act prohibits more than two members of a five-member decision-making elected body such as the Ontario City Council from discussing or arriving at a consensus on any issue to be decided by a vote, and makes it illegal for “serial” discussions among any such panel members from taking place, meaning that while two members of a five-member board, commission or council can in private discuss a matter to be voted upon, neither of those two can then contact a third or fourth or fifth member of the body in question and discuss that issue privately. Verbally at the February 21 meeting, Briggs made a public records request on the spot.
“I would like all the private and public account email, text messages, voice mails, everything exchanged by any member of the city council to anybody, including other members of the city council about this item,” Briggs said.
Briggs said the council was initiating action that was not properly defined.
“Your agenda doesn’t tell anybody what this is about,” he said.
Straitjacketing Valencia into a censure, Briggs said, was a likely violation of the city’s code of ethics and its rules of procedure, as well.
He threatened a lawsuit if the city proceeded that night without making specific the charges against Valencia and giving him an opportunity to respond.
“I don’t think you want to litigate,” Briggs said.
Valencia abstained from directly participating in the discussion, allowing Briggs to speak on his behalf.
Celina Lopez, who was a city council candidate in 2020 and 2022 and previously had differences with Valencia, nonetheless said the council’s move to censure Valencia without clarifying why it was doing so or supporting documentation demonstrated a lack of transparency.
Maria Galvan questioned why the council had felt it necessary to submit a change to the agenda over the weekend and denounced it for not including the resolution of censure in the agenda packet.
Following an exchange between Leon and Briggs in which Briggs assured the mayor that he would insist upon a due process proceeding for his client in which Leon would be a sworn witness subject to cross examination and Leon implied that the evidence against Valencia was rock solid and that he was willing to go through whatever was necessary to marshal it, the council deferred action on the censure to an indefinite future date.
This week, having obtained communications that had taken place between Leon, Wapner, Dorst-Porada and City Manager Scott Ochoa on Friday, February 17; Saturday, February 18; and Sunday, February 19 through the public records request process, Briggs publicly revealed it. Though what was released was in some fashion incomplete, in essence it indicated that Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada had engaged in some order of a Brown Act violation, and it raised questions about Ochoa’s role in facilitating that violation and enabling a select faction on the council in carrying out a politically-angled act of retribution against an elected official.
On Friday, February 17 at 1:39 p.m. Ochoa sent Leon 13 photos apparently gleaned from Valencia’s Facebook page depicting meetings Valencia had with various personages in Mexico, including Governor Rubén Rocha Moya and legislators Veronica Rochin and Feliciano Castro Meléndrez.
Within two hours, it appears, either Leon or someone else had passed that information along to Dorst-Porada because at 3:38 p.m. on February 17, Dorst-Porada sent an email to Ochoa that was electronically carbon copied to City Attorney Ruben Duran and Ontario Communications and Community Relations Director Dan Bell in which she included a link to Valencia’s Facebook page, information Ochoa already had seen, as was demonstrated in his earlier text message to the mayor.
“This is Valencia Facebook,” Dorst-Porada wrote. “What can we throw at him?”
This prompted a somewhat sarcastic reply from Ochoa.
“If he’s out on bail then I think we got him for leaving the country,” the city manager responded.
More than 24 hours later, between 4 o’clock and around 5 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, February 18, Ochoa sent at least seven more texts to Leon, ones that included forwardings of and links to social media postings relating to Valencia’s Mexico trip, ones which apparently included Valencia’s Facebook postings and postings made by the Sinaloa politicians to their social media accounts. Among those were Rochin’s reference to a meeting in which Valencia and Klinakis and Governor Rocha Moya took part, which she said had the effect of “strengthening our ties with the sister cities of La Puente and Ontario, California.”
Referencing this, Ochoa texted Leon, “Doh. That could well be a problem.”
“Smoking gun,” Leon responds.
“It would seem so,” says Ochoa. Nevertheless, Ochoa adds, “I’ll still wager, though, that he has a video of himself talking to them, and explaining that he is not here in an official capacity, but rather there in support of his friend from La Puente. Still, it doesn’t look good on him. He is just hell-bent on wasting everybody’s time.”
“Regardless,” responds Leon. “He gets called out.”
On Sunday, at 5:07 p.m., Dorst-Porada is texting with Leon, an exchange that includes images relating to Valencia’s trip to Sinaloa, among which are photos of his interaction with Mexican politicians and one of him, his wife and daughter in a helicopter taken from Valencia’s Facebook page.
Leon texted to Dorst-Porada in reference to the helicopter trip “Hope he didn’t pay for the flight.”
At 10:46 p.m. on Sunday night, February 20, Dorst-Porada was involved in a text message discussion with Wapner. Having texted links/images to him of Valencia’s social media postings about his trip to Mexico, Dorst-Porada asks Wapner, “Does this hold any weight?”
Wapner replies, “Yep, why not?”
“He’s not dumb. Why would he give us this kind of ammunition?” Dorst-Porada inquires.
“Then why are we doing a new code of ethics?” Wapner responded. “Why complain about him? How about him embarrassing the city? Seems like you’re defending him.”
“I just can’t believe how brazen he is, it just shocks the shit out of me,” Dorst-Porada responds.
A 7:51 a.m. on February 21, Leon in an effort to emphasize the grounds for censuring Valencia, texted Ochoa an image of a Spanish language social media posting that featured Sinaloa Congressman Feliciano Castro Meléndrez and Sinaloa Congresswoman Rochin, and then remarked, “Strengthening our ties with Sister Cities? Not a vacation trip!”
Leon then asked, “So how is this public news?”
Ochoa responded with an excerpt from a local social media outlet, Ontario Political News, which stated, “These corrupt asshole (sic) a (sic) busy trying to ‘censure’ Council Member Ruben Valencia on probably zero evidence of political wrong doing (sic). While our city is the laughing stock of the United States. The Mayor Paul ‘Humps a Lot’ Leon has allowed under his watch, Ontario to become… America’s 14th Dirtiest City.”
According to Briggs, the emails and text messages demonstrate both how Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada are violating the Brown Act by ushering each other toward a conclusion that Valencia should be censured for his actions in Mexico and how trumped up and flimsy the case against Valencia is.
Briggs points out that the alleged offense Valencia engaged in was representing the City of Ontario vis-à-vis the international sister city program. Yet, in none of Valencia’s posts did he make that claim, Briggs said. Rather, references to the sister city program came from social media postings made by others, which contained misinterpretations of the purpose for his client’s presence in Mexico.
“They [i.e., Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada] have no evidence other than Facebook posts,” Briggs said. “They couldn’t have weaker evidence.”
Worse still, Briggs said, Ochoa seemed to recognize that Valencia had not gone to Sinaloa in the assumed capacity of representing Ontario or seeking to perpetuate Ontario’s sister city relationship with the three cities in Sinaloa. It was a fact that Ontario once had sister city relationships with Los Mochis, Mocorito and Guamuchil and that La Puente yet has a sister relationship with a city in that region, Briggs said, and that Klinakis represents La Puente. That such is the case and that some Sinaloan politicians or media outlets blurred the distinction between Ontario and La Puente or otherwise conflated the two Southern California cities with one another was not something Valencia had perpetrated or was responsible for and it certainly does not form the basis of any rational rationale for censuring him, Briggs said.
“If you look at what Scott Ochoa wrote – “I’ll wager he has a video of himself talking to them, and explaining that he is not here in an official capacity” – he thinks or knows it is very possible that their [Leon’s, Wapner’s and Dorst-Porada’s] theory is way off and that Councilman Valencia was not acting in any sort of official capacity when he was down there,” Briggs said. “But he [Ochoa] still gives the mayor a thumbs up when he says, ‘Regardless. He gets called out.’ Scott Ochoa is at least enabling the council in taking action he knows is based on invalid evidence and reasoning. He is getting politically involved, which is highly improper.”
Briggs noted that City Attorney Ruben Duran was in the informational loop with regard to what the council majority and Ochoa were plotting, but that there was no definite indication that Duran had become actively involved or was furthering the effort.
“I have not seen any evidence that he was implicated in this, but that is not to say he isn’t involved,” Briggs said.
Valencia told the Sentinel said that the council’s ruling coalition has “been looking to censure me for a long time.”
He insisted that what took place in February was “a family vacation. I took my wife and daughter on the flight on my own dime.”
Valencia said he was well aware before he departed that “The mayor and council chose to terminate the sister city relationship with Guamuchil before my vacation. They said there was no economic value to keep the relationship with Guamuchil.”
Valencia said he voted against the change, but respected the action once it was officially taken. To the best of his understanding, Valencia said, the January 17 vote to do that applied only to Guamuchil.
In fact, Valencia said, “We were in Mocorito and another city, Culiacán, and other parts of Sinaloa, which is more like a state, and not an actual city. Long story short, I have a relationship with one of the congresswoman down there, Veronica Rochin. We went down there and she greeted us at the airport when we arrived on that Thursday [February 16]. One of our first stops was near the capital, where we saw the governor, Rubén Rocha, and other congresspeople. All of us were there talking and having a good time, posting pictures during this time.”
Valencia continued. “From what I understand, the mayor [Leon] got all excited and wanted to finally censure me, pointing at me being down in Mexico,” Valencia said. “Basically, he wants to put me in a corner. That is what this group [Leon, Wapner, Bowman, Dorst-Porada and those previously affiliated with them politically] has done to people before. They did it to [former Councilman] Paul Vincent Avila, to [former Councilwoman] Debbie Acker, to [former Councilman] Rudy Favilla or anybody that couldn’t get along with them. They try to put whoever it is into a corner. They got together and tried to pull this thing off while I was on vacation. I didn’t find out I [i.e., his scheduled censure] was actually on the agenda until Sunday. I was still on vacation when someone sent me a message saying, ‘You are on Facebook and they are going to use that to censure you.’ That call prompted me to call the city manager, who didn’t return my call. Finally, I talked with the city attorney. That’s when he broke it down for me. I said he needed to send me the resolution and he said he had to be careful in sending me the resolution because there could only be communication between two of the members of the council over any pending action and if the resolution was sent between me and the mayor and then it went to another person on the council it would be a Brown Act violation. Knowing the mayor is only a puppet to that other individual [Wapner] and that he needs coaching and has to be told what to do by the others, he [Duran] wasn’t able to send me the resolution.”
In fact, no resolution had been drafted, as the intent had been to draft something akin to a resolution among the council members on the dais on February 21 and vote on it on the spot. The thought was that Valencia would be absent that evening, giving the council carte blanche to proceed without his resistance, city officials have told the Sentinel.
“On Monday, he [Duran] sent me a draft copy of what they were going to do,” Valencia told the Sentinel on April 13, referring simply to the language that had been put together by Mautz calling for the city council to discuss and provide direction toward adopting a resolution censuring Valencia for unauthorized representation of the city’s interests and/or positions. “When I landed early Tuesday, I went and got my attorney,” Valencia said. “I found out they were ready to go with the draft resolution. This was being pushed by the mayor. All he had to do was fill in the blanks of this planned resolution. I did not share with anybody that I actually had an attorney, so when the time came for the discussion of that item at the meeting that night, I recused myself and let my attorney get up and do his thing. He requested the emails and texts the other members of the council had made. I knew there was communication prior to the meeting. I heard some of it myself. My wife and I were walking by Councilwoman Dorst-Porada’s office when I came into City Hall prior to the meeting. Her door was open and she was talking rather loud about my Mexico trip. I could tell she was talking to Paul Leon. Before the meeting, I knew there were discussions. They were all conspiring to put me in the corner. So, Cory [Briggs] pretty much read them the riot act that night. He said, ‘I know you don’t like my client and you are doing this to be vindictive. He said he wanted all of the documents and communications that were relevant to the effort to pass the censure resolution before a vote is taken, so I would have a chance to respond. They had ten days with an extension of 14 days. The city delayed and it was only after the deadline that the city finally started to turn over what Cory asked for. They are giving it to us in bits and pieces, and we are learning more every day. As recently as today, Cory has been receiving screen shots from Debby [Dorst-Porada] and Alan [Wapner] and Paul [Leon]. They were all in on the conversation prior to the council meeting, trying to figure out how they could lock me up in a box. They were supposed to have released those things weeks ago, but they are just getting around to it now. We don’t know what they are withholding. What we have already shows they were violating the Brown Act. Even the city manager [Ochoa] was in on it.”
Valencia had a slightly different take on Ochoa’s involvement than did Briggs.
On one level, Valencia said, Ochoa’s heart isn’t in with what the council majority is demanding that he do.
“In that one exchange, where Debbie is asking what they can throw at me, he says that if I’m out on bail they can get me for leaving the country, he’s being facetious. It’s like he’s making fun of Debbie, right to her face.”
Valencia said of Ochoa, “I think he’s frustrated and he’s frustrated because for the last five years this has been a constant battle. The four of them – well, not so much Jim [Bowman] but the three of them [Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada] – are constantly doing this kind of thing. With the last city manager [Al Boling], they were critical of him because he wouldn’t help them completely isolate me. He would say things like, ‘Well, he’s not really breaking the law.’ And they would say, ‘You’re always sticking up for Ruben.’”
Ochoa is now being subjected to the same pressure as Boling before him, Valencia said. Ochoa vacillates between trying to please Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada and trying to coexist with everyone, Valencia said.
“He has told them that I am not doing anything illegal by being out in the community and just because they don’t like it and they are mad about, there is nothing that can really be done,” Valencia said. “In this case, he tried, I think, to warn them to back off, that I was just down in Mexico having a good time. Sure enough, though, they didn’t back off. He sort of has this ‘I told you so’ attitude. He is tired of them always trying to cause controversy, but he has to go along some of the time. There was discussion at the last council meeting about revising the council rules of conduct. They were last revised in 2014 when they did that for Councilman Avila. They are now trying to do another revision I refer to as the ‘Ruben rules.’ They are making these rules so that, basically, if I walk out the door and I’m wearing a blue shirt without getting permission from the mayor to wear a blue shirt I am in violation of the rules and I can be censured for wearing a blue shirt. Getting censured isn’t a crime. They have already stripped me of my committee assignments and and joint powers reprsentation appoinments and any authoirity to travel on behalf of the city, so that the only thing I can do is attend the council meetings and vote. That’s it. They try to tie you up like that. They have made it so that the people who are not on their team are not in places where they can see who the rest of the council is interacting with and meeting with. They don’t want to worry about witnesses. That’s why they are doing what they do and they are trying to do it now. My alleged violation was I was representing the city without permission. They are saying that if I go anywhere and am recognized as a member of the council, I first have to call the mayor and get permission for that. A while back there was a huge illegal fireworks explosion in the city and some people were killed and some homes destroyed and a news station camera crew chased me down. They wanted a comment about the explosion. So, instead of having the city look bad and saying ‘No comment,’ I gave them a quote about what had occurred. They [the council] came down on me, saying, ‘You are not supposed to talk to the news media. Only the mayor talks to the news, bla, bla, bla. I understand it was a public information officer kind of thing, but if you are out there in public and a news organization is there, it is really awkward to just walk away and that is likely to make the city look worse. This is how silly they are getting. This is the way our city operates. Basically, by being elected, I have lost my freedom of speech. I have told them that if they are going to trump my freedom of speech, ‘I will have my attorney do my talking to you.’”
The February 21 council meeting ended with the suggestion that the council would revisit the subject of censuring Valencia at a future meeting, present the case for doing so, endure cross examination by Briggs and take a vote on making that censure.
Immediately after the February 21 meeting, Leon jetted off to Hawaii for a vacation of his own. While there, he suffered a heart attack, undergoing two operations in which stents were inserted into his vascular system to ward off the potential of coronary blockages. He is under a doctor’s orders to reduce the stress in his life. According to the supporters of the Leon/Wapner/Bowman/Dorst-Porada faction of the council, to give Leon an opportunity to recover from his coronary episode, the stress-inducing effort to censure Valencia has been abandoned.
Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada partisans insist that the three and Bowman are intelligent, committed, highly moral and dedicated public servants who selflessly have the best interest of Ontario and its 186,653 residents at heart, while Valencia is a narcissistic snake-in-the-grass looking toward self-aggrandizement while victimizing his own constituents. Valencia is deserving not only of censure but being driven from office, and the sooner the better, they say. It is a shame and disgrace, they insist, that an opportunistic lawyer like Briggs has joined forces with Valencia in an effort to have all that is good eclipsed by evil.
The assertion that the censure effort has been dropped as part of an effort to protect Leon’s health is subject to dispute. That interpretation holds that neither Leon nor Wapner nor Dorst-Porada is inclined to endure Briggs’ raising of the Brown Act violation issues that will come about if the effort to censure Valencia persists and an examination of the genesis of the censure rationale and the evidence to support it is undertaken.
Under normal circumstances, an examination of any Brown Act violation implications that might result would be undertaken by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. The current San Bernardino County District Attorney, however, is Jason Anderson, a former member of the Ontario City Council who was a colleague of Leon, Wapner and Bowman and was replaced by Dorst-Porada in 2008. In addition, Anderson, when he was in private practice, at one point acted as Wapner’s attorney. Thus, an evaluation of the Brown Act violation implication relating to the effort to censure Valencia would likely undergo a very public conveyance of jurisdiction to the California Attorney General’s Office for a determination on whether a prosecution should be pursued, subjecting Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada and the City of Ontario to unwanted negative publicity.
On one side, Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada have their guns trained on Valencia, loaded with bullets they promise will expose him as an American politician cavorting with international drug cartel-affiliated politicians south of the border. On the other, Valencia and Briggs have firepower of their own, ready to be unleashed in a fusillade to demonstrate Leon, Wapner and Dorst-Porada as being contemptuous of the rules of civil discourse, fair play and honesty when it comes to informing public opinion and the governmental decision-making process, along with being in flagrant and deliberate violation of California’s open public meeting law. Thus, the four appear to be at a classic impasse, with virtually no prospect that any action will be taken one way or the other, despite the considerable controversy and adverse publicity the council has managed to subject itself to.
By Mark Gutglueck