By Tammye McDuff
Back in November 2013, the Downey City Council was in a heated and contentious debate over who should be serving in the capacity of Mayor Pro-Tem.
Fernando Vasquez was in position to move up to Mayor, leaving the opening for Mayor Pro-Tem vacant. The Council was in much debate over the “correct rotation” a councilmember should take in order to move into the number two spot of the five member local governmental body.
Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper reported the Downey City Charter states that the Mayor Pro Tem shall be chosen from existing Councilmember’s.
So much of a vague description.
At the time, a motion was made to nominate Roger Brossmer as Pro Tem for the 2013- 2014 calendars. In light of the current rotation, Mr. Brossmer declined the nomination, stating that if he were nominated and the vote passed, he would have to resign. Mr. Brossmer also stated that previous discussions, based on the rotation from each members first term and past practices of the Council, Luis H. Marquez Council Member District 1 should be next in line for Mayor Pro Tem.
Mario Guerra vehemently opposed the idea. The question was posed as to why Guerra was against this change.
Guerra simply stated, “This is neither political nor personal. You made many campaign promises Mr. Marquez to the people, which you did not keep. You owe our citizens over $38,000 dollars, which you said you would repay. You have sat on the council now for six years and you have yet to repay this debt. So if you are asking me if I think Mr. Brossmer or Mr. Saab would make a better Mayor than you would, I say absolutely. There are many other reasons why I believe that you, Mr. Marquez as Mayor, would not be in the best interest of our citizens, but I will not go into that at this time.” Recent conversations from neighboring city officials have begun to question this as an ethics dilemma.
HMG-CN came across an article released by The Downey Patriot, in September of 2011. At the time, Luis Marquez was Mayor. Christine Brown, staff writer for the Patriot wrote, “Hoping to make a difference in the community while honoring their campaign pledges, Mayor Luis Marquez and Councilman Fernando Vasquez have reaffirmed a commitment to both save and donate their entire City Council stipends, dedicating the funds to local charities and education projects.” The 2011 article in the Patriot states that Marquez, elected in 2008, was going to broaden his giving to local causes, charitable groups within the City and set up his own scholarship for college bound seniors. At the time, Marquez was allegedly saving money to make an impact with his stipend. Marquez told the Downey Patriot “Have I given every dollar? I will be honest, I have not. But I do plan on keeping and honoring my pledge. The economy has been tough. Both my wife and I have state jobs so with furloughs, it has been challenging, but my commitment to our youth and the city is unquestionable. I will make good on all of those promises.”
Upon further investigation, Guerra recently stated he would absolutely stand by his decisions, saying, “Marquez campaign promise on the record was to give his council stipend away to charity. To date, 6 years later, he still has not, $750 per month, times 12 months per year, times 6 years is a lot to our community. Just do the math.” Guerra went on to state that Marquez owned dues in the thousands to a local City club, along with several other groups and individuals he owes money to around town, saying “That’s just one of the reasons why I feel he is not qualified to be mayor of our city and why I voted against him.
“I will always do what is best for our citizens. His lack of respect and diligence to uphold his promises to our residents is not worthy of him being our mayor. We deserve better.”
We did the math and the amount equates to an excess of $54,000, as Mayor the stipend is slightly higher at a little over $860.00 monthly.
The current economy is difficult and to be fair, HMG-CN requested a sit down with Marquez.
Two weeks later, we were able to speak with him via a phone conversation. HMG-CN mentioned the article in 2011 and asked for clarification, Marquez said, “I have been giving a lot to scholarship money over the years. Unfortunately, due to personal financial issues, my wife and I have had to make some changes. My commitment to the community has always been there and is still strong to fulfill what I can to organizations. That is the bottom of it. My job status changed and I am doing what I can.”
Marquez went on to say that, he has contributed to several young women’s organization and to the turkey drive for the school district. As far as monies owed to various City clubs or organizations, Marquez said he was unsure of that saying that he was unable to pay the dues and was no longer a member.
HMG-CN requested a brief list of the contributions over the last two years so that we could publish it. We are still awaiting this list.