Montclair council agrees to take up formal censure of Council Member Ben Lopez – San Bernardino Sun

The Montclair City Council voted late Monday, March 21, to move ahead with censure proceedings against Council Member Ben Lopez, who has been accused by two city employees of unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment.

On April 4, the City Council will hold a public hearing and consider adopting a resolution to formally censure Lopez. The vote was 4-0 Monday to consider censure, with Lopez abstaining.

Lopez made no comment about the censure or the allegations against him at the meeting Monday.

A censure “serves as a collective act of public reprimand, rebuke or disapproval, rendering the subject behavior unacceptable,” according to a report outlining the matter by City Manager Edward Starr. A vote to censure most likely would include stripping Lopez of committee assignments, banning him from traveling to conferences and meetings and using city exercise facilities and locker rooms.

Edmund Garcia, a senior IT specialist for the city, filed his lawsuit Dec. 7. Michael Fuentes, Montclair’s director of economic development, filed the second lawsuit Dec. 14. Both were filed in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

Garcia’s lawsuit alleges Lopez, who the lawsuit says presents as a heterosexual man, repeatedly asked Garcia to engage in specific sex acts. The suit also says Lopez took Garcia out to dinner and asked him about his sexual preferences.

The lawsuit recaps Lopez’s job from 2003 to about 2015 as a lobbyist and spokesperson for the Anaheim chapter of the Traditional Values Coalition, “a designated anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The suit goes on to say during those 12 years, Lopez publicly lobbied and spoke against same-sex marriage, LGBTQ history curriculums in schools and the legal recognition and protections of transgender people.

The city hired an investigator in August and earlier this month, the investigator sustained the allegations made by the two employees, the city reported. “We have an obligation to the employees, to believe them and to protect them,” Council Member Corysa Martinez said before voting for the censure hearing. “The investigator found the factual allegations did in fact occur and the employees were credible,” she added.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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