Murrieta Chamber Suspends Mayor's Membership

Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos, seen here in a press conference last week, is the subject of an ongoing investigation. Murrieta 24/7 photo: Kris...

Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos, seen here in a press conference last week, is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Murrieta 24/7 photo: Kristen Spoon

The Murrieta Chamber of Commerce Wednesday officially distanced itself from Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos, the subject of an investigation for alleged misconduct and a formal claim of sexual harassment.

In a letter obtained by Murrieta 24/7, Chamber Board Chairman William G. Bennett informed Ramos, City Manager Rick Dudley and the other City Council members that Ramos' membership in the Chamber of Commerce has been suspended because of "serious complaints of inappropriate conduct" by Ramos in both City and Chamber of Commerce events. Murrieta City Council members traditionally receive complimentary memberships in the Chamber, but the letter informs Ramos that he will not be allowed to participate in Chamber events, "either individually or in his capacity as a City of Murrieta elected official."

Ramos has come under fire on several fronts recently. On July 23, Kathleen Smith announced she had filed a legal claim against the mayor, accusing him of sexual misconduct at a Jan. 22 Chamber of Commerce mixer. According to Smith, Ramos grabbed her buttocks, kissed her and put his hand up her skirt, with the alleged incidents occurring primarily in the parking lot. In a press conference the next day, Ramos denied the allegations.

That accusation came just weeks after the City Council voted to authorize an independent investigation of Ramos regarding several allegations of misconduct. Those charges were brought by members of the community at a June 16 council meeting and included allegations that Ramos made racist remarks to candidates for city commissions; rummaged through city employees' desks; and "made unwanted inappropriate advances toward members of the community."

Wednesday's letter from the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors included new allegations. Citing a "preliminary internal investigation conducted by the Board", Bennett in his letter said the Board had received complaints from members and guests regarding alleged inappropriate behavior by Ramos at the Chamber's annual Installation and Awards program, held July 18 at Pechanga Resort and Casino. This was a factor considered in the board's vote to take action against Ramos, the letter said.

According to the letter, "The grievances included alleged sexual misconduct making Chamber members very uncomfortable attending the Chamber's functions." It went on to state that "we consider the safety of our members to be of paramount importance and simply cannot allow the possibility that the sexually aggressive behavior alleged against Mayor Ramos will recur at future Chamber events."

Ramos could not immediately be reached for comment.

The last two mayors of Murrieta have been surrounded by controversy. While not admitting guilt, Alan Long resigned his position as mayor Oct. 20, 2014 following his arrest on suspicion of DUI in a traffic accident that injured four teenage girls. He ran for re-election to a council seat, however, and won that seat in November.

Long is due in court Aug. 14 for a felony settlement conference.


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