O.C. sex scandal: Calls grow for Bustmante to resign
Two weeks after Carlos Bustamante was arrested before a Santa Ana City Council meeting on multiple charges of sexual assault and false imprisonment, calls for the councilman's resignation are growing.
Three of Bustamante's colleagues on the council are now urging him to step down.
So far, Bustamante has not indicated what he intends to do, though he did inform city leaders that he will not attend Monday's council meeting.
City Manager Paul Walters said he spoke with Bustamante during an afternoon conference call about city business.
"He didn't plan to be here, is what he told me," Walters said.
On July 2, Bustamante was charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors in connection with allegations that he sexually harassed -- some by a matter of false imprisonment -- seven women over a span of eight years when he was an executive in the county's public works department.
In the weeks since, three City Council members -- Michele Martinez, Sal Tinajero and Vince Sarmiento -- have called for Bustamante’s resignation.
“I hope Carlos is going to do the right thing,” Martinez said.
According to the City Charter, Bustamante must have 60 days of consecutive unexcused absences from council meetings before his position can be deemed vacant.
Councilman Sal Tinajero, who has served with Bustamante since 2004, said he didn’t always agree with Bustamante but saw him as someone who spoke with “a level of authority."
He said when rumors about sexual harassment surfaced in September 2011, Tinajero was surprised that Bustamante’s behavior did not change.
“It was like nothing had occurred,” Tinajero said. “That was pretty much his demeanor the whole way through.”
Tinajero said Bustamante’s arrest and subsequent charges provides for a difficult working environment.
“It’s destructive,” he said. “It’s something that takes us away from focusing on the real issues that we have to deal with, which are difficult issues.”
Councilman David Benavides said he is not calling for Bustamante’s resignation.
“They are serious allegations, but at this point, they are just that,” he said. “Everyone is considered innocent until proven otherwise.”
-- Nicole Santa Cruz
Photo: Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante, left, makes his first court appearance with his attorney, James Riddet. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times