Instead of ringing endorsements for beleaguered City Councilmember Bill Miranda, other councilmembers appeared to step back after the Gazette called for his resignation.
Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste and Bob Kellar declined comment, Kellar saying, “I don’t know what it’s (Gazette’s call) predicated on. I’m not going to weigh in on a fellow councilmember. I wouldn’t weigh in even if I knew the reason, unless he robbed a bank or something like that.”
Marsha McLean at first declined comment before changing her mind and saying, “I’ve not seen any legal document at all to prove what was written in the paper, and until I see factual, tangible, legal proof, then I would give the benefit of the doubt. I would to anyone.”
Mayor Cameron Smyth called the Gazette column, written by publisher Doug Sutton, “personal opinion. That’s not my business.” He also said he thought the matters regarding Miranda’s dealings with the two chambers of commerce and the lack of financial reporting had been “resolved.”
Asked about Miranda becoming the first sitting councilmember to be sued, Smyth responded, “Do you know that for a fact?” Told the reporter was 90-percent sure, the mayor said, “He wasn’t sued as a result of his duties as a councilmember.”
He continued, “I had my criteria: love of community, willing to put the work in to learn, desire to serve. A number of candidates fit the bill. … We made the best decision with the information available.”
The mayor then was asked, “If you knew then what you know now, would that have changed things?”
His response: “That’s the beauty of our system. In a little over a year, the voters will have the opportunity to take full measure and will decide if they want to see him in office or not.”
For his part, Miranda texted that he had no comment.
The above comments (or lack of) are in stark contrast to the positive words the councilmembers gave back in January when they voted to appoint Miranda to replace Dante Acosta in the first place.
It was Weste who nominated Miranda. She was particularly impressed with Miranda when he talked about merging the Latino Chamber into the SCV Chamber. “I started with who I thought would be best,” she said then.
McLean, who seconded Weste’s nomination, said, “I know Bill Miranda as a person who has been active in the community. I know him as someone trying to bring the Latino business community to the forefront. I know Bill Miranda is a person who is caring and active in non-profits. I chose him because I feel he will do a good job.”
Even Kellar, who opposed Miranda, called him “a fine man.” And Smyth, who cast the deciding vote, said, “I certainly felt comfortable supporting Bill as I did with other candidates.”
Privately, council watchers say, this is an indication that Miranda is starting to embarrass the other members.
“I would think so,” said Carl Boyer, a former city councilmember and mayor. “If they’re supporting him, they’d say so. … Miranda’s definitely in big trouble if a well-known Latino runs against him.”
Instead, Smyth made an unsolicited comment about a magazine ad in which Miranda gave a testimonial for Nola Aronson’s Advanced Audiology and used his title in the ad.
“I would have never done what he did,” Smyth said. “Had he asked, I would have counseled him not to run the ad.”
According to the Political Reform Act of 1974 (renewed 2017), an elected official cannot use his office for personal gain. That Miranda was appointed makes no difference.
Assuming Miranda gave the testimonial without being paid, one could argue that Miranda broke no law. But there is a complication: Aronson has placed an ad in Miranda’s Our Valley magazine. It’s a different ad and does not show Miranda, but the ad is on the Our Valley Media website.
A call into the Fair Political Practices Commission’s advice line led to a spokesperson saying he couldn’t give third-party advice, but Miranda’s actions didn’t appear to violate the Act.
Miranda told The Signal that he was surprised his title appeared in the ad and has asked that his testimonial not be used anymore.
“I apologize,” Miranda said. “The error that I will live up to is using my council title. I don’t think it’s illegal, immoral or unethical. I just don’t think it was something we should do.”
That seemed to make no difference to Smyth.
“I’m not his keeper,” he said. “If he had just asked, I would have told him I thought it was a bad idea.”