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Santa Ana Councilman Bustamante attends first meeting since arrest

August 7, 2012 |  1:16 pm

Embattled Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante attended his first council meeting since his arrest in July on suspicion of sexual assault and false imprisonment. 

Bustamante, who has been under growing pressure to step down, attended the closed-door portion of Monday's council meeting, but quickly left during the public portion of the meeting.

By attending the meeting -- even the closed-door portion -- Bustamante guarantees that he can hang onto his job for the time being.

According to the city charter, Bustamante's seat cannot be declared vacant unless he has 60 days of consecutive unexcused absences.

"My understanding is that because he showed up, that 60-day clock has now reset," said Jose Gonzalez, the public information officer for the city.

Bustamante was arrested before the July 12 City Council meeting on 12 felony and four misdemeanor charges in connection with the false imprisonment and sexual assault of seven women over eight years. Bustamante was an executive in the county's public works department at the time of the alleged incidents.

He was first elected to the City Council in 2004, and his term expires in November. He has not signaled whether he will seek reelection.

Bustamante's arrest spurred multiple resignations within county government. His boss, Jess Carbajal, was terminated with cause, and the county CEO, Tom Maul resigned in late July.

The county has come under criticism for its handling of the Bustamante case, as multiple probes were reportedly mishandled. An outside report, which led to Bustamante's resignation in October, was filed away for months.

Councilwoman Michele Martinez said she was surprised to see Bustamante at the meeting Monday night. She is among the council members who have called for Bustamante's resignation.

"I was kind of in shock to see him," she said. "I knew he was going to be attending a meeting; I didn't know it would be this one."


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Photo: An image from an Orange County district attorney videotape shows Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante being taken into custody.