During a city council meeting last week where the attendance was higher than usual, Montebello Mayor Christina Cortez balked at calls for her to resign in the wake of her husband’s arrest on suspicion of selling methamphetamine near a school.
Cortez, who is up for reelection in 2015, did not directly respond to residents who called for her to resign during the public comment portion of last week’s meeting, but did address the residents at the crowded meeting as a group.
“Please understand that I serve as the mayor and I have never done anything to lie, cheat, or steal from the city,” Cortez said. “I will continue to do my job to the best of my ability.”
Cortez’ husband, forty-four year-old Ruben Guerrero, was arrested early on Oct. 17 at the couple’s Montebello home in the 1500 block of Los Angeles Avenue, according to the sheriff’s department.
Last week’s council meeting was the first since the news broke that Guerrero had been arrested on suspicion of selling methamphetamine and narcotics near a school, according to sheriff’s officials. Guerrero was released from jail after posting $60,000 bail.
Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office Public Information Officer Jane Robison told EGP that since Guerrero posted bail he was not due in court and therefore charges have not been filed.
“We have not filed a case on [Guerrero] because police have not yet presented the evidence to us,” she said in an emailed statement.
News of Guerrero’s arrest seemed to be the reason for the much higher than usual turnout at the city council meeting, which led to many people being forced to stand. Although there were a lot of speaker cards turned in, only a handful of residents actually spoke against the mayor during public comment.
Ray Rodriguez, a resident who said he works with a group of kids who most recently were part of the city’s 9/11 ceremony, told the council that the allegations led him to speak up against the mayor.
“I was given this certificate of recognition [by the city] but I think its tainted,” he said, before proceeding to rip the certificate in half, then throwing it in the trash.
“I hope you will resign, you don’t deserve the title of Mayor of Montebello.”
It was not immediately clear whether the majority of the residents who attended the meeting, were there to support or speak out against Cortez. Resident Linda Nicklas asked the mayor to “please resign” after questioning her involvement with candidates she is endorsing for election.
While some people in the crowd seemed to agree with applause, others were heard booing the demand.
Local resident Yvette Fimbres said she’s tired of Montebello residents hearing the same excuse over and over again: that “politics” are involved. She said she wants a mayor that can give the city their undivided attention.
“Once again our community has been plagued with negative news and scandal: When is this nonsense going to stop?” she said. “I feel it would be appropriate for the mayor to step down or take a leave of absence from her duties in the city until this issue is resolved.”
Cortez did not respond to calls for her resignation, but instead told the crowd of about 100 people that she wanted to “thank everyone for the tremendous amount of support” she has received.
“Thank you for allowing the investigation to take its course,” Cortez said. “Thank you for extending that courtesy.”
Mayor Christina Cortez did not return calls from EGP for comment.
City News Service contributed to this report.
1:57p.m UPDATE: On October 31, 2013, the Office of the Los Angeles County District Attorney filed a total of six felony charges against Ruben Guerrero.The charges include three felony counts of Transportation for Sales of Narcotics, three felony counts of Sales of a Controlled Substance – Methamphetamine and one felony count of Sales of Narcotics within 1000 feet of a School. The complaint alleges that Guerrero sold methamphetamine on three separate occasions within 1,000 feet of Montebello Intermediate. Guerrero’s next court date is Nov. 7 where prosecutors will ask that bail be set at $120,000. If convicted Guerrero faces up to 11 years in state prison, according to the D.A.’s office.
If convicted, Guerrero faces up to 11 years in state prison.