LATHROP – It might not yet be election season, but the political fuse has already been lit in Lathrop.
During the public comment portion of Monday’s Lathrop City Council meeting past council candidate and local activist Rosalinda Valencia publicly called for Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal’s job in a tense lectern exchange that included an intervention by the City Attorney and a round rejection of her ideas by a large portion of the audience.
Clutching a folio of public documents that she received under a Freedom of Information Act request with the City of Lathrop, Valencia told Dhaliwal that she was “once again asking him to step down” after recent revelations that campaign filings and donations were not properly handled by his campaign were made public by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
While Valencia finished with her statements, several inaudible comments were made from people in the audience, and the noises grew louder when she spoke to counter them.
“A lot of you don’t understand – the truth will come out, just like it did with Kristy Sayles,” Valencia said referencing the past-Mayor and eliciting even more of a response. “I don’t like to see my city be made a fool of. The truth will come out.”
Nobody else elected to speak during public comment.
Whether Valencia’s charged comments will be a flash-in-the-pan or the start of a campaign season in a community that elects its mayor every two years will likely be determined in the coming weeks when council hopefuls can first pull the necessary paperwork to throw their hat into the political arena.
Dhaliwal, who said that he won’t let the FPPC decision sway him on whether he’ll seek another term, said Monday that he wanted to address Valencia’s concerns but decided against it. He issued an explanation to a local Punjabi newspaper about what transpired – stating in a story with The Bulletin that “mistakes were made” during a very stressful campaign cycle in which he relied on the generosity of others while tending to ailing members of his family – which Valencia clutched as she made her points.
For the transgressions – six violations were cited against Dhaliwal’s campaign – a $21,000 fine has been levied against his political campaign fund. That will count against future fundraising.
Valencia was scolded by City Attorney Salvador Navarrete who reminded her that the block of time was reserved only for people who wish to speak to the council as a whole and about matters that the council can vote on, and therefore her barrage really had no place in the meeting. She rebuffed him when she revisited the microphone later in the meeting, quipping “I’m just going to nod and smile” and continued with what she was going to say – prompting more of a response from the audience.