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Count your blessings

POSTED November 29, 2011 8:21 p.m.

The residents of Turlock have one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season — they don’t live in the city of San Fernando.

If news of the Southern California city’s scandalous affairs hasn’t reached you yet, then here’s a recap:

— The police chief is on leave for having sex with a cadet;

— A police dispatcher was caught exposing himself; and

— A council woman was accused of conflict of interest voting with regards to the police department while having a sexual affair with one of the department’s sergeants.

If that wasn’t juicy enough, at the Nov. 23 city council meeting San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez formally announced that he lost his business, filed personal and corporate bankruptcy — and confirmed rumors that he was cheating on his wife with Councilwoman Maribel De La Torre, according to the San Fernando Valley Sun.

In the Valley Sun’s story written by Diana Martinez, Hernandez’ wife is reported to have stood up after the mayor’s announcement and confirmed that the affair happened while they were still married.

This impromptu confession — which was not on the meeting’s agenda (Brown Act violation?) — was followed by exclamations of shock and outrage, according to Martinez.

“Councilwoman Sylvia Ballin was, ‘so disgusted,’ that she walked off the dais and gave wife Anna a hug. Sev Aszkenazy, who is the publisher of this newspaper, told Hernandez, ‘You're a joke. Everyone knows you're a joke, so just be a joke,’” reported the Valley Sun.

Wow. Turlock City Council members aren’t nearly as interesting. The last time anything remotely juicy happened at a council meeting was when City Manager Tim Kerr was fired at a midnight closed session meeting.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with the elected officials in Southern California. It was only a little over a year ago that the misdeeds of the City of Bell officials were brought to light by the Los Angeles Times. In June 2010, The Times revealed that leaders of the small southern Los Angeles County town — which has a population under 40,000 — were getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars more than what their counterparts in metropolitan cities earned.

Due to Bell’s shenanigans, State Controller John Chiang announced new reporting requirements for all California cities and counties, directing them to clearly identify elected officials and public employees’ compensation.

Maybe the state will have to step in with a new requirement that city officials have at least an ounce of decency to serve on public boards. Sex scandals are not a new thing to politics, but that doesn’t mean public officials have an obligation to live up to their predecessors.

As a newspaper editor, you might think I’d be excited by scandal. As everyone knows, sex sells. But that is not true in my case.

I will take the Turlock City Council’s heated debates on the redevelopment agency’s funding of renovations at Joe Debely Stadium and whether or not the city should financial support homeless shelters over sex scandals any day.

I do have to live in this town, after all, and I prefer an honest — and boring — city council to an exciting and crooked one.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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