The Santa Ana City Council today voted 4-0 to place City Manager David Cavazos on paid leave. The action was taken at a special mid-day council meeting called yesterday by Mayor Miguel Pulido, who has never been a Cavazos supporter.
Joining Pulido in voting to put Cavazos on paid leave were Councilmembers Jose Solorio, Juan Villegas and Michele Martinez. Cavazos’ three supporters on the city council – Sal Tinajero, Vince Sarmiento and David Benavides – were out of town.
Forming the political backdrop to this drama is the running conflict between the Santa Ana Police Officers Association and Cavazos, the highest paid city manager in Orange County. The police union has been critical of Cavazos on the issue of rising violent crime and the amount of resources being dedicated to public safety. The union spent heavily in the November council elections, backing Puliod, Solorio and Villegas (who defeated pro-Cavazos Councilman Roman Reyna). A fourth police union-backed candidate, Jessica Cha, lost her bid to oust pro-Cavazos Councilman Vince Sarmiento. It was widely understood the police union’s goal was electing a council super-majority willing to fire Cavazos and Police Chief Carlos Rojas.
It would take the votes of five of the seven councilmembers to terminate Cavazos contract, but only four to place him on paid leave. Martinez was considered the swing vote: while not a Pulido ally, she has no love for Cavazos – who accused her of making sexual advances toward him. An subsequent investigation determined his charges lacked merit.
Santa Ana watchers assume Pulido knew he had Martinez’ vote, hence his decision to call a snap council meeting to lower the boom on Cavazos. Pulido – who had been politically marginalized by the ballyhooed “Santa Ana Spring” a few years ago and was viewed by many as a political dead man walking – has outmaneuvered his foes and again demonstrated his amazing talent for political resurrection.
No action was taken to appoint an interim city manager, but it is expected the council will appoint Deputy City Manager Robert Cortez to that position.