Tug-of-war tearing away at Santa Ana

A headline of a recent Register story described the situation on the Santa Ana City Council as a tug-of-war. It couldn’t be more accurate as warring blocs continue to jockey for control of the dais.

The latest issue revolves around the sudden departure of Police Chief Carlos Rojas, who voluntarily took the job as chief of police for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, but it seems unlikely that he came to that decision willingly.

Rojas had been under criticism for rising crime but perhaps more importantly, he had drawn the ire of the police union. And the whole thing seems to be coming together exactly how Councilman Sal Tinajero predicted it would late last year.

The police union spent heavily on Mayor Miguel Pulido and Councilmen Juan Villegas and Jose Solorio in the last election. Pulido had a difficult relationship with former City Manager David Cavazos and the city’s police union had been critical of Chief Rojas. The city manager holds the authority to hire, and fire, the police chief.

Cavazos was ousted in a 4-0 vote during a special meeting, conducted in the afternoon on the Wednesday between Christmas and New Year with three councilmen, who also happened to be Cavazos supporters, absent. Pulido, Villegas and Solorio, joined by Councilwoman Michele Martinez, voted in favor.

Then the attention turned to Rojas who, according to the Register, resigned “after months of criticism from the police union and its allies on the council for an increase in shootings in Santa Ana.” The police union had been moving forward with a vote of no confidence when the news of Rojas’ resignation broke.

But the other council members, joined by Martinez responded. They voted 4-3 last Monday, with Pulido, Solorio and Villegas opposing, to send acting City Manager Gerardo Mouet back to the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Agency.

While no one had spoken negatively of Mouet’s performance, his ascension to the position came under the dark cloud of Cavazos’ ousting.

Going forward, it will be important for the process to be above reproach. As the city’s two most important non-elected positions sit vacant, it is time for the whole council to put the good of the city above special interests.