Organizers have until Oct. 12 to collect 6,217 valid Gilroy voters signatures

By Marty Cheek

Rebeca Armendariz

A group of residents are gathering local voters’ signatures on a petition seeking to recall Gilroy Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz.

The recall effort is a response to Armendariz’s conduct before, during and after the shooting of four young people at a large private party held  at her home Oct. 30, said the group’s spokesperson, Kelly Ramirez. The gunfire resulted in the deaths of Michael Zuniga Macias and Jesse Sanchez.

Following a months-long investigation, an independent report was released in April by Hanson Bridgett, LLP (at www.cityofqilroy.orq/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=782). It concluded Armendariz violated several city codes, including the city of Gilroy’s social accountability host ordinance. It found she assisted her son and underage nephew in organizing the party where alcohol was served.

Gilroy police are conducting a criminal investigation to find the shooter(s).

“The No. 1 reason (for the recall) is the community of Gilroy deserves leadership made up of people of integrity and character whom we can trust,” Ramirez said.

The report “clearly outlines” the level of involvement Armendariz had in terms of knowing how large scale the party, which was publicized on social media, was going to be, Ramirez said. These included text messages with her son giving him information about who to contact about the lot across the street for overflow parking and the rental of a portable restroom. The report also found Armendariz used city-owned barricades borrowed from a separate event.

“She can’t even follow the city’s own ordinances,” Ramirez said. “There’s a lack of judgment when you are assisting minors in planning a party of this scale, knowing there is going to be alcohol served. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Armendariz’s lawyer, Daniel Mayfield of a San Jose-based law firm, said in an email: “We believe in democracy, and we believe that people have the right to recall elected leaders. But all of the facts need to be discussed, and here conservative forces are manipulating the pain of these families for their own political agenda. “

The group has 120 days, until Oct. 12, to gather a minimum of 6,217 local voters’ signatures, or 20 percent of the 31,082 registered voters.

After the findings of the investigation, the city issued several administrative citations to Armendariz, her mother and property owner Augustina (Sally) Armendariz, her nephew Benjamin Calderon, and her son Domingo Armendariz, and cited each of them for violating Gilroy’s social host ordinance and failing to obtain a special event permit for the party at the Armendariz residence.

The city also issued additional administrative citations to Rebeca Armendariz for violating the terms of, and misusing city property under, the special event permit that she herself signed and obtained for a different event at a different location that was to occur the following day.

In regard to the recall, Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley stated by email: “Two Gilroy families each lost a teenage son from that Halloween party shooting, a party that was hosted by adults, including Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz, in violation of the city’s social accountability host ordinance. We as a community sympathize and grieve with these families. Absent a voluntary resignation, a recall effort is the process of democracy for citizens to recall elected officials at times they think it is necessary. I urge everyone to support that process regardless of individual opinions. I hope the recall effort will not divide our community but will instead be respected and supported for the democratic process that it is.”

The city has never had a recall of an elected official before, Ramirez said.

Some in the community have said the recall drive has a political motive and is targeting Armendariz as a Latina leader, but Ramirez said that is not true.

“We’re absolutely supportive of a diverse city council,” she said. “Plenty of people can replace Ms. Armendariz who have the leadership qualities that represent the community of Gilroy.”

Ramirez and others in the recall committee believe she lacks integrity and character in her leadership.

“It’s our hope Ms. Armendariz realizes this recall is going to happen,” Ramirez said. “It’s unfortunate she does not put the city first and do the right thing and resign.”