Saying that the city deserves better governance, Signal Publisher Chuck Champion blasted City Councilmember Bill Miranda on Tuesday for repeatedly failing to make available the Latino Chamber gala and chamber-merger numbers he has promised to the Gazette; took offense at Miranda playing the race card against Gazette Publisher Doug Sutton; and suggested the other council members were lax in vetting Miranda before appointing him.
“I have issues with the reasons that you, in fact, put this member on this board. I brought that to (your) attention for you to look into it. Each one of you chose to say it wasn’t your responsibility,” Champion said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “Those monies have still not been accounted for. I am not standing here suggesting that anyone has stolen them. But I do suggest that if you place so much importance on an individual and his acumen to run a business, to be a CEO and chairman, then you should sit there and expect that those monies are accounted for.”
Miranda has repeatedly claimed he has the documentation from the 2014 Latino Chamber gala and the monies brought into the merger with the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber, but repeatedly refused to produce them for the Gazette (on Tuesday, he said he had given some to former treasurer Marlon Roa; see sidebar).
He then accused Sutton and the Gazette of bias against Latinos, something Champion found unacceptable.
“That is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, it’s insulting, Bill, that you would dare accuse Doug, who you know so well, to surface this issue because you are Hispanic or Latino,” Champion said, his voice rising. “That’s not true, and that will not go unanswered.”
Councilmember Marsha McLean responded by stating, “For people who know me, they know very well that no one, no one, influences me on any decision that I make sitting up here. I make my own decisions, period.”
After the meeting, McLean said what was going on was “unfortunate.” Mayor Pro-Tem Laurene Weste said, “We have to work our issues out.” Mayor Cameron Smyth said he hoped Miranda would come clean.
“I trust Mr. Miranda will address it, and he will answer the questions that are posed to him,” Smyth said. “I certainly understand the desire to make sure everything is presented accurately and so it doesn’t have to be done incrementally, but again, ultimately, that’s a decision for Councilmember Miranda to make.”
Miranda said nothing in response to Champion and later had no comment.
Outside council chambers, Champion said he regretted the Signal’s editorial stance favoring appointment, questioned why Internal Revenue Service form 990 had not been filed and took Miranda to task for failing to live up to a CEO’s responsibilities.
“I believe any CEO, any competent CEO, would have collected those records and submitted them immediately and eradicated any suspicion. Instead, he goes on the offensive to suggest race,” Champion said. “He claims he was a contractor, which is not true. He is on the incorporation documents. He is the CEO. There is documentation that he ran that organization, that he was responsible for those things, and a good steward would have closed this business in an appropriate way.”
Champion also took time to blast what he sees as state Sen. Scott Wilk’s undue influence. Wilk wrote a letter of recommendation on Miranda’s behalf. The Signal previously published an editorial decrying Wilk’s meddling in non-partisan elections.
“He’s ingratiated himself to all, and at some point, some have distanced themselves, recognizing it’s not good. So, there’s likely people on that board that are not as quote-unquote obligated to him as they once were, but look at what happened,” Champion said of Wilk. “He made calls. He not only wrote letters, he made calls. He lobbied for this individual. And they did nothing to vet that individual, which leads the council to a place where one of the council members is under a cloud of impropriety because he can’t account for, or won’t account for (the monies).”
Saugus realtor Steve Petzold applauded Champion’s comments but also questioned Champion’s timeline.
“He’s right on. I’m glad he’s joining the fight over what happened to the money,” Petzold said. “It’s a real deficiency, not a real vetting process, and that’s a demerit to the city.”
Later, he texted: “Chuck’s statement raises a lot of questions for me. How long has he known, when did he research it, when did he ask city council to consider?”
Champion stopped short of calling for Miranda’s removal from the council, in part because he wasn’t sure how Miranda could be removed (city spokesperson Carrie Lujan emailed that recall or resignation are the only ways).
But he made it clear that Miranda can and should clear this up.
“If he doesn’t successfully and completely present this information, then the council needs to look at who sits next to them. I need to see evidence that he produces,” Champion said. “He claims to have proof. He pounds desks with this hand on top of piles of paper and says, ‘I have the proof,’ and then does not produce it. That is a behavior of an individual that is not the behavior that our council members should engage in.”