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City recalls scandal-plagued councilmembers

SAN FERNANDO, Calif. (AP) -- San Fernando voters successfully ousted their mayor and a councilwoman through a recall, after a scandalous affair between two councilmembers played out publicly like a local government-themed soap opera.

About 85 percent of voters supported the recall of Mayor Brenda Esqueda and councilmembers Maribel De La Torre and Mario Hernandez, according to the Los Angeles Daily News (http://bit.ly/SNZBgM ). Hernandez had resigned his post in July.

His announcement that he was having an affair with De La Torre at a Nov. 21, 2011, meeting raised the curtain on a broken city government.

Hernandez shocked meeting attendees when he announced he'd had an affair and he and his wife were separated _ despite his wife's immediate objections that they were still married. She had been seated in the front row of the meeting until Hernandez had her removed from the meeting by police when she interrupted him to say, “I'm his wife... we weren't separated.”

He then adjourned the meeting and left with De La Torre.

The San Fernando Sun first reported details of the meeting in the small town in the San Fernando Valley.

The councilmembers' affair quickly fizzled, reaching a low point when Hernandez and De La Torre each took out restraining orders against each other, leading a court to order them to stay 100 yards away from each other after a confrontation over an iPad.

De La Torre, who was elected in 2001 and backed the city's Aquatic Center, told the newspaper she's not sad about the recall.

“It's been a wonderful 12 years of public service. I'm going to breathe, relax, and enjoy life all over again. I leave a legacy that will impact San Fernando,” she said.

Esqueda, who had been accused of having an affair with a city police sergeant, said she had a heavy heart about the recall.

“I believe the voters were intimidated... by a police department trying to take over local government,” Esqueda said.

Voters chose Jesse Avila to replace Esqueda and Robert Gonzales to replace Hernandez.

In the race to succeed De La Torre, Joel Fajardo led Louis Lopez by 164 votes, but it's unclear if absentee ballots will affect that outcome.

The new city leaders have a tough task ahead. The city must deal with a budget shortfall of nearly $500,000, which may result in layoffs or cuts to city services.

Recall committee chairman Julian Ruelas called Wednesday a happy day on which the city decided to take out the trash.

“We now have people who care about getting the job done,” Ruelas said.


Information from: (Los Angeles) Daily News, http://www.dailynews.com

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