At a San Fernando City Council meeting last November, then-Mayor Hernandez abruptly announced he was filing for personal bankruptcy. “And secondly,” Hernandez added, “I'd like to put out there, to squash the rumors that, yes, I have been in a relationship with Councilwoman De La Torre.” Audible gasps.
That's when his wife, Anna, who was sitting in the front row, stood up. “That's why I'm here,” she said. “We weren't separated.” Cue the dramatic music.
Last night, no fewer than five TV trucks showed up to film the thrilling conclusion to the San Fernando telenovela, in which the former lovers — who filed competing restraining orders against each other last week — would have to sit side by side and discuss city finances, despite court orders that they remain 100 yards apart.
On July 3, Hernandez had filed a restraining order against De La Torre. He alleged that she was enraged that he would be going on a spiritual retreat for the weekend, and pushed him against a wall, punched him in the face and tried to choke him. She screamed, “If I could kill you right now I would,” he told police.
Two days later, on July 5, De La Torre fired back with a restraining order of her own, claiming that she was the victim, both on the occasion covered by Hernandez's order, and in December, when, she says, he shoved her into the wall, choked her and threatened to leave her and return to his wife.
The couple, in happier times, celebrating San Fernando's 100th birthday. From left: Councilmember Maribel De La Torre, Mayor Brenda Esqueda and former mayor Mario Hernandez with members of the community. Courtesy I Am San Fernando.
Hours before Tuesday's meeting, Hernandez submitted a letter to the city clerk announcing his resignation from the council.
“Unfortunately, our city became entangled in my personal life back in November and once again faces the same challenge today,'' he wrote. “I wish to apologize for the inconveniences caused by my personal life. It was never my intent to damage or inconvenience our city.”
Tuesday night's meeting was called to discuss $512,000 in redevelopment funds the city has been ordered to pay the state, and speakers were asked to limit their comments to issue at hand — but no one did.
“I think it's like a soap opera,” San Fernando resident Carolina Perez told the Council. “It's not good for the residents to find out in the news, Mrs. De La Torre, about your troubles with Mario.”
“Maribel: resign your seat, pack your luggage the way Mario did,” Renato Lira demanded. “The way how you cause drama in our city — you need to leave para siempre!”
Several speakers also demanded the resignation of Mayor Brenda Esqueda. All three — Hernandez, De La Torre and Esqueda (who has been accused of having an affair with a police officer while voting on police matters) — have been targets of a recall effort recently approved for the November ballot.
The majority of speakers at the meeting though, shrewdly took advantage of the television cameras to publicly pressure the City Council to preserve the position of Virginia Diediker, director of San Fernando's Ballet Folklorico Ollin.
Funding for Diediker's position was scheduled to be discussed during a closed-door session about the city's budget.
De La Torre sat stony-faced through the calls for her resignation, before listening to City Administrator Al Hernandez's briefing on the $512,000 the city must pay to the state by July 12. The meeting adjourned shortly after, at which time, De La Torre quickly donned a pair of dark sunglasses and pushed past a scrum of reporters to exit City Hall chambers.