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Artesia City Clerk Sues City and Councilmembers


February 25, 2022

By Brian Hews

In January of this year, a felony search warrant was issued by the LA County Sheriff’s asking for all texts, computers and electronic devices belonging to former Artesia City Manager Bill Rawlings and communications between him and Artesia City Clerk Ernesto Sanchez, and Councilmembers Tony Lima and Monica Manalo.

No other elected officials were named in the warrant.


Artesia Council Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, Former City Manager and City Clerk Named in Felony Search Warrant


According to the search warrant, a judge heard evidence from Detective Brian Judge about the 2020 City Council election.

The search warrant stated that electronic equipment either was used “as a means of committing a felony and tends to show that a felony has been committed” and that “a particular person has committed a felony.”

The warrant asked for electronic material for a 17 day period between July 28, 2020 up to and including August 13, 2020 and seized everything from the city building that Rawlings used or is still in possession of Rawlings.

Now, in a Los Angeles Superior Court complaint filed Feb. 18, current Artesia City Clerk Ernesto Sanchez has leveled explosive accusations of election interference and harassment against former City Manager Bill Rawlings, and election interference against current Artesia City Councilpersons Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, and Ali Taj.

Sanchez is asking for damages and a jury trial.

The lawyers stated that when Sanchez was promoted to City Clerk, Rawlings called him in and told him if he had any complaints, especially complaints concerning the upcoming election, Sanchez should bring them directly to him.

The complaint stated, “This caused unnecessary delay in providing application packages to at least two City of Artesia residents who expressed an interest in becoming candidates for the City Council. Rawlings also directed Sanchez to be unavailable and/or unresponsive to potential candidates that were not Tony Lima and Monica Manalo.”

Then, in late 2020, the City Council suddenly approved an updated harassment policy that permitted city employees to take their complaints to the City Attorney and not the City Manager.

Six months later, Sanchez complained to the City Attorney about Rawling’s interference and his selective rules enforcement; other employees also complained about Rawlings’ conduct.

The complaint then states, “the complaints were made known to the City Council, [despite that] the City of Artesia decided against investigating any of the concerns raised by Sanchez and others about Rawlings. Specifically, defendants and City Councilmembers Tony Lima, Monica Manalo, and Ali Taj voted against an investigation.”

The minutes of that meeting are currently not available on the city’s website.

“Instead, the City Council by way of Lima, Manalo, and Taj reversed its November 2020 policy allowing employees to take their complaints to the City Attorney. As a result, the policy reverted to the previous one that required City employees to take all their concerns and complaints to Rawlings, even those that were directly about him.”

Taj, Manalo, and Lima could not comment due to the complaint being filed.

Sanchez is suing for intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Labor Code and is asking for a jury trial.