featured graphic for Cypress city news

Cypress City Council issues second censure of Councilmember Frances Marquez

At the regular meeting of the Cypress City Council on Monday, September 26, 2022, the Council approved a resolution censuring Councilmember Frances Marquez (pdf) for the second time.

Councilmember Marquez, who was elected in 2020, was previously censured at the June 27, 2022 City Council meeting for violating the City’s Code of Ethics and the City Council’s Civility, Conduct and Governance Policy, among other accusations. This was the first time in the history of the City of Cypress that a city councilmember was formally censured.

This second censure comes after an incident at Cypress High School which resulted in complaints to the City from parents and the Anaheim Union High School District, which were detailed at the September 12 City Council meeting. The censure contends that Councilmember Marquez violated explicit guidelines for what she could do, and not do, while on campus, according to Anaheim Union High School District policy and put the City in legal jeopardy by her conduct.

The censure also follows an email sent to City Attorney Fred Galante from the law firm of Strumwasser & Woocher on behalf of Councilmember Marquez; this resulted in the City Council taking the unusual step to return to closed session prior to Agenda Item 18, which was the censure of Councilmember Marquez, to discuss the significant exposure to litigation. The closed session discussion, as reported by Mr. Galante, concluded with changes to the censure, removing references to violations of Education Code §7054. During Oral Communications earlier in the evening, City Council candidate David Burke had expressed concerns regarding the use of Education Code §7054 in this context.

“Folks, this is not vengeful,” commented Mayor Paulo Morales. “[The incident at Cypress High School] only came to the attention of City after receiving information from parents that were upset, not happy. As I pointed out two weeks ago, one of the parents herself specifically stated that she felt what had occurred with their child was indoctrination. […] I want everybody to know because one of the things that Councilwoman Marquez complained about is I did not give her due process. And I reminded her that two weeks ago at the council meeting when I first brought it up, I asked her specifically about this, and she chose not to answer. That was not my fault, that was her choice.”

Mayor Morales further criticized what he characterized as “a lack of judgement and common sense for someone who has been an educator as long as she has, for someone who has let us know how much she has been in politics as far as having worked for three different congresspeople” and called her behavior “unconscionable.”

He stated that had Councilmember Marquez notified City Staff about her activities on Cypress High School campus before the event, the subsequent controversy could likely have been avoided.

The censure resolution calls for Councilmember Marquez to issue a formal, written apology to Anaheim Union High School District and Cypress High School no later than seven days after the approval of the resolution; revokes her appointment to several committees, including the Veteran Recognition Ad Hoc Subcommittee; imposes a $100 fine to be paid within 30 days; and suspends her City Council salary and stipend for 90 days.

“Again, all of these things are being done in the hopes that she will work with us, talk with us, talk with the City Manager’s office,” said Mayor Morales.

“As a police officer, I conducted thousands of investigations. I don’t rely on hearsay, I rely on evidence. If you take the students into account, the teachers, the principal, and the parents, all their stories are closely aligned, if not identically aligned. I would ask when you’re thinking about this, if you’re a parent – mother, father, grandparent – if your kids were in that class, how would you react?” proffered Councilmember Scott Minikus, who also pointed out that the Anaheim Union High School District is likely conducting their own investigation into the incident and expressed his hope that no one at Cypress High School suffers disciplinary action due to this incident.

Mayor Pro Tem Anne Hertz-Mallari stated that “one of the things we never do [working in youth development] is imposing our personal beliefs on them. Kids, especially as they become adults, are forming their own voice, their own vision for their future, what they believe. And there’s this push-pull, right, between young people as they grow up, maybe forming their own opinions. But they’re still heavily influenced by the adults in their lives. And we have to be cautious about that power. The power that we have, the power of our positions, the power of our influence over young people. And in this instance, I think some serious errors in judgement were made.”

Councilmember Marquez was also given the opportunity to speak prior to the vote on the censure resolution.

“I ran for office in the City of Cypress to serve people, and I didn’t run to, you know, be treated poorly by my colleagues.

“I want to say that I went to the home of Mr. Morales yesterday because I wanted to talk to him about the truth. He never called me and talked to me about exactly what happened at Cypress High School. And he started discussing things on the dais without talking to me. He never went to the source. And he always speaks about misinformation, and about how you tell one person something and ten people later it’s a different story.

“You know, the work that I do for my city is out of love, and I remember when I was first sworn in here in November, December of 2020, and I thought to myself. I was in student government at Vessels Elementary School, Lexington Junior High School, Cypress High School, and I had never been here in this chamber. And I thought to myself, ‘that needs to change.’ Young people need to know what is happening in their communities. And I feel that is important.

“I spent my whole career since 2004 working with deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students, providing them opportunities on Capitol Hill which they would never have, taking them to conventions, trying to get them as many career opportunities as possible. I’ve worked on campaigns from Los Angeles to North Carolina where we have gone to high schools, offered civic engagement opportunities, and it’s never been an issue.

“I will say that I approached Principal Brown and asked her to do this because I did it in 2018 and I handed out a flyer then and nobody said that there was any issue. We met with the government department director, we met with Principal Brown, we sat down, she saw the flyers, the information, there was no guidance or issue that was addressed to us. I did not violate any policy or guidance because there was no guidance given to us.

“I talked about growing up in Cypress, the Mendez case, how my parents were segregated, and the fact that because of the Mendez case my parents were integrated at Whittier High School in 1951, so I talked about that experience.

“I also talked about the issues here at the City. I think it’s important for our young people to know what is happening in their community; they need to know. I think it’s important. And I, you know, just wanted to say that there was no violation here. I did it to provide young people opportunities.

“I think that, you know, in 2018 I asked permission, was given that permission, and there was no issue there. Perhaps things have changed since then, obviously.

“But there was no intention or goal of violating anything. If it’s a crime to educate young people, and let them know what is going on in their community, so be it. But I think that this is an opportunity where we have young people that have knocked on doors and talked to voters. It’s something that they can put on their college resumé. They can, for a job application. That opens paths to careers. And that was my sole intention. And that’s it. Thank you.”

Councilmember Peat proposed the adoption of the resolution censuring Councilmember Marquez. Mayor Pro Tem Hertz-Mallari seconded. The resolution passed 4-1, with Councilmember Marquez opposed.

During her opportunity for rebuttal, Councilmember Marquez again stated that they were not provided with guidance and that the candidates were not told not to hand out flyers, and that her only goal was to encourage civic engagement by the students to learn about government.

Additional reporting for this article by Katie Wiedel.