Councilmember Jaime Soto has cost the City of San Fernando more than $100,000 in lawsuits. The first was for his violation of the Brown Act, which cost the city $32,500, and most recently for the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by his former commissioner, Yolanda Haro, which ended in a settlement of $62,500, not including attorney’s fees.
In order to handle Soto’s latest antics, the city hired a law firm specializing in employment law, McCune & Harber, LLP. The firm recommended the settlement with the opinion that it would cost the city much more to continue to litigate rather than settle.
This all because of the actions of Soto who, despite warnings, has continued to grandstand and be a negative disruption to city business.
Soto, however, rather than take any responsibility for his antics in sharing closed door information or sending inappropriate text messages about his commissioner and later firing her when she confronted him, has continued to grandstand and be disruptive at council meetings.
Soto has treated City Hall as his personal stage, deflecting his actions and testing even the most patient souls who attend council meetings by subjecting them to what sounds like ego-driven tirades at any open microphone that he can get his hands on.
Soto turned the most recent council meeting into a sideshow, leaving his seat on the dais to speak from the public comments microphone that is reserved for the residents to address the council.
It was there that he sank to an all-time low, probably in the history of the city.
Soto, taking issue with the city for settling with Haro, called the other council members “corrupt” and went beyond the depths of civility by calling City Attorney Rick Olivarez, a “coward.” It was shocking to hear him go so far off the rails as to proclaim that Olivarez’ grandfather, Congressman Edward Roybal, would be “ashamed” of him.
Roybal, the late Congressman known as the “Grandfather of Chicano politics,” is a most revered and respected politician that was a consistent voice for the poor and paved the way nationwide for key legislation that improved life in Mexican American communities. He opened the door and gave a pathway for Latino leadership. Roybal was a member of the Los Angeles City Council for 13 years, beginning in 1949, and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he served for 30 years. His accomplishments are legendary.
Olivarez’ mother, Congress-woman Lucille Roybal Allard, has followed her father’s footsteps and also earned tremendous respect for her leadership in Washington, D.C.
Soto’s comment at last week’s council meeting was more than Mayor Sylvia Ballin could endure, and broke protocol to say that Rick Olivarez was a “gentleman, and someone Soto could learn from.”
In his reprehensible attack on Olivarez, Soto failed to say that the city attorney was not directly involved with the latest decision to settle the Haro lawsuit.
The lead firm handling the lawsuit was the secondary law firm McCune & Harber LLP, hired by the city for its expertise on sexual harassment in the workplace. It was its recommendation that guided the city in settling the lawsuit with Haro. A lawsuit that would not have even existed had Soto conducted himself professionally rather than make inappropriate comments about his preference for the body size of his commissioners.
But Soto typically blows hot air and doesn’t bother with the truth. He is too busy whipping up hate and fear, and preys most especially on the Spanish-speaking residents and anyone who will support him. He is already campaigning for his re-election next year, setting up Town Hall Meetings and speaking dates.
It’s time for the good citizens of San Fernando to say they’ve had “enough,” and well past time for the other city council members to censure Soto.