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San Fernando scandal continues with surprise resignation of councilmember

Alice Walton/KPCC
Mayor Pro Tem Antonio Lopez and Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin outside of SF City Hall, where they called for resignation of de la Torre and Esqueda and an investigation into the two plus Mario Hernandez.
Alice Walton/KPCC
Alice Walton/KPCC

Mario Hernandez, a San Fernando City Councilman facing a recall vote, resigned just hours before Tuesday night's council meeting. 

A few months ago councilman Hernandez publicly announced, in front of his wife, that he was having an affair with another member of the council, Maribel de la Torre, who now also faces a recall vote.

KPCC's Alice Walton obtained a copy of the resignation letter in which Hernandez expresses his sadness and apologizes to the community, saying, "it has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community and the fine men and women of the city."

Hernandez continues in the resignation letter:

"Unfortunately our city became entangled in my personal life back in November and once again faces the same challenge today. I wish to apologize to the community for the inconveniences caused by my personal life. It was never my intent to damage or inconvenience our city. Although I did not let these issues affect the execution of my duties as an elected representative, I feel submitting my resignation will help continue to heal the city." 

The two councilmembers involved in the affair -- Hernandez and de la Torre -- have since have since filed restraining orders against each other, each claiming they were attacked by the other during a physical fight on June 28.

According to the police report, de la Torre burst into Hernandez's home, destroyed his personal property and choked him while saying she wanted to kill him. 

According to de la Torre, she went to Hernandez's home to retrieve her iPad and was thrown to the ground by Hernandez. She says he attacked her so badly she blacked out. 

Hernandez and de la Torre filed dueling restraining orders requiring each to stay 100 yards away from one another.

Tonight's meeting would have been the first since the order was issued. The city's mayor and city attorney believed both could show up without violating the court order. 

A news conference outside of San Fernando City Hall before Tuesday's meeting addressed a third possible recall vote for Mayor Brenda Esqueda. Esqueda denies allegations of an affair with a police sergeant. 

Councilmember Sylvia Ballin spoke at the news conference saying, "It breaks my heart that we're in this situation...We've been in a free fall."

Ballin, with the support of Mayor pro tem Antonio Lopez, called for Esqueda and de la Torre to step down before the recall and save the city the $60,000 it would cost to implement.

Suspicious of the escalating situation, Ballin also called for an investigation into the three, believing some larger scandal may still be hidden.