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By Brian Hews
Controversy surrounded the Friday March 11 special meeting called by Hawaiian Gardens marked by Council members yelling at each other, yelling at those in attendance, hurling personal attacks on each other, with attendees even hurling insults at the City Council.
The meeting was a result of the “resignation” of long-time Hawaiian Gardens City Manager Ernesto Marquez and the reported hiring of convicted felon and former Hawaiian Gardens Police Chief Walter C. McKinney as the City Manager.
Sources were telling HMG-CN that Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Barry Bruce and Mayor pro tem Reynaldo “Rey” Rodriguez were behind Marquez’ removal and have plans to “basically take over the city.”
Bruce, knowing Marquez was resigning Friday, set his plan into motion by sending out a public meeting notice two days ago calling for a “under the radar meeting” at 3:30 on Friday afternoon.
But Hawaiian Gardens residents and union members learned of the meeting and showed up in force.
Five union members took turns at the dais, each for three minutes, blasting the Council for considering McKinney and the lack of transparency in his possible hiring.
As the fifth speaker ended, Mayor Bruce said, “that’s your 15 minutes we will now recess in the closed session. ”
That drew loud boos from those in attendance and also drew the ire Councilwomen Mariana Rios and Myra Maravilla.
Rios made a motion to continue the public comment, which was seconded by Maravilla. But when the vote was called, Councilmen Hank Trimble, Mayor pro tem Rodriguez, and Mayor Bruce voted to go into closed session setting off a firestorm of protest in Council Chambers.
Rios argued that, “the attendees came out at 3:30 on Friday to speak and should be allowed to speak longer.” Bruce interrupted Rios several times during her speech; the two started yelling at each other, culminating in Bruce loudly banging his gavel.
Bruce and Rodriguez then got up, walked out of chambers and into the closed session Trimble hesitated for about 10 seconds and then walked out. The attendees booed loudly and hurled insults as they left the room.
Rios and Maravilla then followed the three into the session.
Approximately one hour later they came out of closed session and, according to sources, voted 4-1 to not hire McKinney.
Sources told HMG-CN that Bruce was the loan yes vote.
HG Councilwoman Myra Maravilla told HMG-CN, “I don’t personally remember McKinney as a child, but the only thing older residents remember is his corruption, abuse of power, and harassment to the community. I am appalled that Mayor Bruce tried to blindside the council with this last minute special meeting. I am grateful to the residents and the union for coming out full force to show that our community will not be held hostage by the Mayor’s dictator tactics. I am equally one vote on council and he cannot silence me.”
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