AUGUST 28, 2006
An already scandal-plagued California city got hit with yet another public corruption punch this week when a councilman got arrested for using his city credit card to pay for local motel stays and phone-sex hotlines.
A working-class former railroad town, Colton is located in Southern California’s San Bernardino County and this latest scandal marks the city’s third wave of public corruption scandals, mainly involving bribed elected officials, in the last few years.
The latest councilman to fall is Ramon Hernandez, who was arrested and charged with 24 felony counts involving improper use of his city-issued credit card and cell phone. Hernandez used the city card, issued for official business only, to charge more than $5,000 worth of local motel stays and phone-sex hotlines.
Ironically, Hernandez, a married father of three and a youth church minister, campaigned for office four years ago on a platform of returning honest and ethical government to Colton as well as restoring voter trust.
That will be a difficult task considering that just a few years ago four city council members pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from businessmen in exchange for their supportive votes in development deals. Before that, two top county administrators, one representing Colton, were sentenced in a separate bribery case.
Hernandez maintains his innocence and claims that the truth will set him free. This from the same politician who actually said that he brought much-needed dignity to the council. Addressing the disgraced councilman, one Southern California blogger wrote: “Mr.Ramon Hernandez, you are here in the U.S.A. not Mexico City. You need to explain to the public why it is necessary to go to motels locally! You are married and have a family house. People like you make it so difficult for the honest Latino to make it in politics.
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