The Cypress City Council voted 4-1 Monday, June 27, to censure controversial Councilwoman Frances Marquez – criticizing her for “failing to respond to Public Records Act requests in a timely manner,” as well as other matters.
For the council’s majority, the third time was a charm. Twice this year already, Mayor Mayor Paulo Morales, Mayor Pro Tem Anne Hertz-Mallari and Councilmen Scott Minikus and Jon Peat weighed whether to censure Marquez.
The latest resolution wraps in those first two accusations: “Disclosing confidential information from closed City Council session(s)” and “violating the civility, conduct and governance policy.” Marquez initially declined to sign the new civility agreement, saying it didn’t address her concerns.
On Friday afternoon, June 10, Morales called a last-minute special meeting to consider putting on the June 13 agenda a resolution censuring Marquez. However, Marquez pointed out that, according to council rules, discussions about future agenda items must be held two weeks in advance. That meant the vote could have waited until the regular meeting three days later.
Censure of an elected official is a formal reprimand of misconduct but carries no fine or suspension.
Monday’s vote to censure stems from a massive public records request sent to the city May 9. It asked for virtually every communication Marquez has written or received since her election to the council in 2020.
Agencies have 10 working days to respond to California Public Records Act requests, either by providing the information or a detailed explanation about what will be released. The city asked for an additional two weeks, given the comprehensiveness of the request.
In his June 10 comments, Morales contended Marquez “had more than enough time” to complete the request.
But Marquez maintained she already turned over most, if not all, of the documents required. But the city attorney said Marquez still needed to sign affidavits and explain why she claimed claimed attorney-client confidentiality in certain instances.
The records request was sent to the city by Costa Mesa attorney Adam Harris. Under the California Public Records Act, those requesting information are not required to explain why. Harris did not return multiple calls, texts, or emails from the Orange County Register regarding the request.
The letter asks for “any and all communications, whether involving Dr. Frances Marquez’s private or public email accounts, phone numbers, and/or personal devices, with any and all people.” It specifically lists by name journalists, attorneys, politicians, residents and Marquez’s family members.
It also requests bank statements, “jottings” and diaries, as well as “ideograms known as emoji (happy faces, sad faces, and other icons).”
The list goes on to encompass communications regarding controversial issues that have come before the city, such as district voting and the Valley Vista Services trash contract.
Often the lone dissenting voice, Marquez voted in November against a no-bid, 10-year contract extension with Valley Vista Services — running through 2037 and bestowing a 30% rate increase. Months later, Marquez continues to push for reconsideration of the contract, which her colleagues call a done deal.
But Marquez does have her fans. At council meetings, residents line up to offer their support – accusing her colleagues of alienating a duly elected official for refusing to vote in sync with them.