The Latest | Southern California breaking news and trends

San Fernando councilwoman: 'I feel like I'm at Mad Hatter's tea party'

One San Fernando city councilwoman likens the city's turmoil to the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter in
One San Fernando city councilwoman likens the city's turmoil to the tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland."
Alice Walton/KPCC

With the personal lives of San Fernando’s elected officials taking center stage, one councilwoman today described the small city as being in “emotional freefall.” 

In just the last week, Councilman Mario Hernandez resigned office and his girlfriend, Councilwoman Maribel de la Torre, was charged with two misdemeanors related to a June 28 fight between the two. In a hastily arranged news conference yesterday, Hernandez told media he does not want to pursue the domestic violence case against de la Torre. Both Hernandez and de la Torre, however, obtained restraining orders against the other person. 

All of this comes as the two, along with Mayor Brenda Esqueda, are facing a pending recall election.

“I feel like I’m at Mad Hatter’s tea party and I didn’t even know I was invited,” Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin said in an interview with KPCC.

“It’s just been an emotional rollercoaster for the entire city, not just city council. It’s really, really sad what’s going on and my heart actually goes out to everyone involved because we need to heal as a city.” 

Rather than gossiping about the personal lives of the elected officials, Ballin said she wants to be focused on the city’s $1.3 million budget shortfall, which jeopardizes city jobs and services.

San Fernando is nestled between the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Pacoima and Sylmar. The city has 25,000 residents, making for a small town feel.

“Everyone knows everyone. Everyone knows where everybody lives. There are no secrets in this town,” Ballin said.

To illustrate her point, Ballin noted that her daughter used to work for Hernandez at his UPS store. That shop, which has since closed, is located across from Ballin’s husband’s barbershop.

The San Fernando City Council is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. to discuss the pending recall election and a special election to fill Hernandez’s seat. Both elections are expected to take place on Nov. 6.