Residents Request Investigation into Conduct of Mayor

Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos came under fire from several residents during Tuesday's City Council meeting. Murrieta 24/7 photos: Krist...

Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos came under fire from several residents during Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Murrieta 24/7 photos: Kristen Spoon

The Murrieta City Council Tuesday night asked city staff to move forward in scheduling a special meeting to discuss whether an investigation should be launched regarding the conduct of Mayor Harry Ramos.

The consensus request was made following concerns expressed by five residents earlier in the meeting about Ramos' ability to effectively conduct city business as well as his personal conduct. One of those who addressed the council -- former Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister -- listed a number of allegations of misconduct involving Ramos, including:

-- An accusation that Ramos was overheard making racist comments about candidates for city commissions following interviews of those individuals.

-- Allegations of engaging in inappropriate conduct with city staff members.

-- Allegations of "multiple complaints of unwanted inappropriate advances toward members of the community."

"City employees have seen him rifling through their desks," McAllister (right) said. "He insists because he's mayor, he can do anything he wants. We expect a higher standard from our mayor. The question is, how far has he gone?

"Why should I have to be here and why do citizens have to make public record requests about this? I ask the council to launch a confidential third party investigation into this. Any lack of action by the council would indicate an unwillingness to do so."

Following McAllister's comments, Ramos made a brief response, to which he is limited because of the Brown Act governing public meetings.

"Every one of those allegations are 110 percent untrue," he said. "I wouldn't object to an independent investigation to prove that and I would totally comply with it."

No date for the special meeting has been set.

McAllister spoke for 12 minutes during the public comments portion of the meeting, having been given additional three-minute speaking rights by three other residents. During that time, he told council members, "When I voluntarily stepped down in 2012, Mr. Ramos took my place on council. Almost immediately, a downward spiral began. (Council member Rick) Gibbs clearly laid out what was expected of Ramos when he was named mayor. In my opinion, the dysfunction of the council began in 2014, when each of you helped him to become successful."

In December 2013, after Ramos had been a council member for only a year, he was named mayor pro tem when the current mayor pro tem, Kelly Bennett, resigned her council seat. A year later, council members followed tradition by naming Ramos the next mayor -- with reservations expressed by Gibbs.

"The experience and knowledge to be a successful mayor are possessed by three people on the dais -- Mr. (Randon) Lane, Mr. (Alan) Long, and myself," Gibbs said during the Dec. 3, 2014 council meeting, expressing his disagreement with the appointment of the inexperienced Ramos as mayor pro tem a year before. At that time, he pointed out Ramos' inexperience in conducting council meetings, his refusal to provide a biography for publication on the city council website (since rectified), and his lack of participation in subcommittee meetings.

"As we all know, the [previous] decision shattered the council harmony that had existed for seven years," Gibbs said. "This put staff on guard. Without cohesion, there is a lack of stability."

Asked during a recess in Tuesday night's meeting whether he felt the possibility of an investigation should be discussed, Gibbs said yes. The Brown act prohibited council members from publicly discussing an item not on Tuesday's agenda, which is why the request was made for a special meeting to discuss the matter.

"If there are allegations made in public like we heard tonight, it's our responsibility to follow through and investigate," Gibbs told Murrieta 24/7. "This needs to be done so we can either clear the mayor or not. If no one else asks for consensus to place it on a future agenda, I will."

Lane, the current mayor pro tem, was the one who made the request after asking city attorney Leslie Devaney for direction regarding the process. Devaney advised council members that they could request that an agenda item be listed either on a regular council meeting or a special meeting but only to discuss the possibility of an investigation and not the allegations made Tuesday night.

"These are only allegations at this point," Devaney said. "The agenda item would be to discuss what your options would be regarding a possible investigation."

Gibbs and Long requested that a special meeting take place as soon as possible because the next regular council meeting doesn't take place for three weeks. Council members agreed.

Earlier, resident Barbara Nugent (left) had  McAllister in requesting the council to launch an investigation.

"Mr. Ramos obviously has no knowledge of how to conduct city business," she said. "He's constantly running to the city attorney for guidance on what to do next. He has no understanding of the city's general plan and building codes. He speaks without the facts. And his bullying attitude toward the staff is evident."

Nugent added an accusation to the list of allegations made by McAllister.

"Mr. Ramos' actions in the public arena are an embarrassment to this city," she said. "Distributing business cards to young ladies at 3 a.m. at a local casino is not appropriate. It's time to end this charade."

Ramos' objections to the wishes of the council majority are not uncommon. During the June 2 meeting, he initiated a 45-minute discussion of a ruling regarding a county conservation program to which the city is contractually obligated.

Also previously, Ramos was forced to defend himself regarding comments he made during an Oct. 15, 2013 meeting regarding his prior arrest on suspicion of domestic violence -- an incident in which he was not charged. Ramos was accused by a resident of admitting domestic violence during that meeting and joking about domestic violence against his wife.

During the council meeting of Oct 22, 2014, Ramos denied he ever beat his wife and publicly apologized for the way in which he communicated his feelings a year earlier.

Resident Edward Faunce said during Tuesday night's meeting that the city council must take steps to avoid a repeat of 2005, when public dissatisfaction led to the ouster of mayor Jack van Haaster in a recall election after thousands of signatures were collected on a petition.

"At that time, we the citizens demonstrated our willingness to go to the mat," Faunce said. "We're not willing to allow this situation to reach that level. Where there's that much billowing smoke, there's got to be a fire burning out of control somewhere. The citizens are not just recommending an investigation, we are demanding it."

Edward Faunce was among the residents demanding an investigation into the conduct of Mayor Harry Ramos.

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