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3 council members in sex scandal face recall in San Fernando

July 17, 2012 |  8:56 am

Mayor Brenda Esqueda is targeted by the recall effort

Three council members accused in two separate sex scandals in the small town of San Fernando are now the subject of a recall effort.

Residents in the San Fernando Valley city have expressed disgust at the ongoing scandals and have demanded the officials resign.

Former San Fernando Councilman Mario Hernandez, who resigned his post after his affair with Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre turned acrimonious last month, asked the district attorney's office Monday to drop charges of battery and vandalism against his ex-lover. Prosecutors, however, say they will continue to pursue the case.

It is the latest turn in a tempestuous relationship first revealed by Hernandez in November when he announced at a City Council meeting that he and De la Torre were having an affair. He made the announcement while his wife was sitting in the front row of the audience at the council meeting. Since then, Hernandez and De la Torre — along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda — have become the target of the recall effort.

Hernandez called police about De la Torre's alleged violence in a June 28 incident; each then labeled the other the aggressor and got competing restraining orders.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said that whether De la Torre continues to face charges will be a decision for prosecutors based on evidence. Spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the office will pursue a case of domestic violence in which a victim stops cooperating if there is evidence to prove an assault.

De La Torre was charged Friday with vandalism — for allegedly destroying Hernandez's laptop computer and a picture frame — and battery after allegedly attempting to strangle Hernandez.

Hernandez said he believes police pursued the case out of bias. He sent The Times several examples of Facebook postings by Sgt. Kevin Glasgow in which he allegedly "liked" stories about the recall effort.

"When you have the investigating officer posting comments on Facebook that clearly relate to the councilwoman, mayor and myself ... he is no longer impartial," Hernandez said.

Robert Wexler, an attorney for San Fernando Police Officers Assn., said that Hernandez is falsely accusing officers of showing bias and that officers followed procedure.

"The facts remain indisputable. Former Councilman Hernandez called police on the night of the incident, made a report of the incident, sought law enforcement assistance following the incident and showed signs of injury as a result of the alleged crime."

Esqueda has been accused of having an affair with a police sergeant. In a memo last year, a police commander claimed he was prevented from placing the sergeant on leave by Esqueda and Hernandez. She told reporters this week, "We might be elected officials, but we still are human beings."


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Mayor Brenda Esqueda, shown in December, is one of three council members targeted by the recall effort. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times