BY BRIAN HEWS • April 2, 2020
Not even a global pandemic could stop the new Cerritos Republican majority from bringing petty and vindictive politics back to the City Council last night, exercising their new powers and appointing Naresh Solanki to a unprecedented second consecutive term as Mayor, while installing freshman councilman Chuong Vo as Mayor pro tem.
And the appointments have some alleging a Brown Act violation by Mayor Solanki, Mayor pro tem Vo, and Councilman Jim Edwards.
This past March election erased what was a Democratic majority on the council and replaced it with Edwards, Solanki and newcomer Vo, who eked out a win over ABC Board Member Sophia Tse by less than 90 votes.
All three were against the sales tax increase measure, a measure that would have brought $11 million into city coffers, and a measure that likely drove the very high voter turnout of over 44% that propelled them to their respective wins.
The recipient of the petty politics-as-usual Republican majority was former Mayor pro tem Frank Yokoyama.
It was similar to a 2013 political stunt where Bruce Barrows, Carol Chen, and the newly elected George Ray voted no, and kept Yokoyama, who was on the Cerritos Planning Commission for seven years and who was Mark Pulido’s appointee, off the commission.
There was some nice moments during the video chat/tele-conference when the council honored two-time Mayor Mark Pulido, a somber honoring given the current stay-at-home situation necessitated by the pandemic.
Solanki then patted himself on the back, reading a statement describing his accomplishments during the year; this after Solanki was likely the only mayor in California to vote no on a resolution proclaiming the existence of an emergency in Cerritos due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was a baffling vote, the emergency proclamation triggers a number of things but the most important is that it provides a clear path for the city to apply for reimbursement from the county and the state for what will be substantial COVID-19 related expenses.
After the pomp and circumstance, the fireworks began, with the animosity between Solanki, Edwards, and Vo towards Mayor pro tem Frank Yokoyama clearly evident.
Edwards, who is chronically ill, and who did not attend the emergency meeting the night before and participated by phone, quickly nominated Solanki for a second consecutive term.
Councilwoman Grace Hu then nominated Mayor pro tem Frank Yokoyama.
City Clerk Vida Barone called for the vote, which predictably ended up on a 3 to 2 party line, with Edwards and Vo voting yes to appoint Solanki.
After giving a two minute statement on all of his accomplishments during his first term as mayor, Solanki then voted for himself as Mayor of Cerritos for an unprecedented second consecutive term.
The floor was then opened for the nomination of Mayor pro tem, with Edwards once again demonstrating his animosity toward Yokoyama, and eschewing experience for party, nominating freshman Councilman Vo.
Grace Hu once again nominated Yokoyama, this time as Mayor pro tem, but seeing the writing on the wall, Yokoyama declined the appointment.
City Clerk Vida Barone called for the vote, which predictably ended up on a 3 -2 party line, with Edwards and Solanki voting yes to appoint Vo; Vo then voted for himself as Mayor pro tem of Cerritos.
It was a bitter meeting for Yokoyama, who nominated and voted for Solanki as Mayor in 2019.
The move by the majority to isolate Yokoyama was made even more petty, as demonstrated by Hu, Pulido, and Yokoyama’s willingness to work together with the Republicans, voting unanimously for Solanki as mayor in 2019
But, once again showing their unwillingness to work together, Solanki and Edwards did not return the goodwill, and voted no on the nomination of Yokoyama as mayor pro tem for 2019; the two were beat out by Hu, Pulido, and Yokoyama, 3-2.
Many readers emailed HMG-LCCN after the meeting writing that the vote was clearly predetermined and therefore a Brown Act Violation.
The Brown Act prohibits meetings attended by three or more City Council members out of the public eye and guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The law makes public officials accountable for their actions to the public that elected them to serve.
One reader wrote, “Edwards wanted to be mayor one last time, Solanki and him made that very clear while they were campaigning, and it’s why they ran Vo on the same slate. Then Edwards is the first to nominate Solanki to a never-seen second term as mayor? And then Edwards nominates Vo for mayor pro tem? Paging Jackie Lacey!”
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