MURRIETA (CBSLA.com) — The Murrieta City Council on Thursday voted to oust embattled Murrieta Mayor Harry Ramos for alleged violations of the city’s Code of Conduct, including character attacks, misuse of authority and sexual harassment.
The Murrieta City Council called for a special meeting Thursday to discuss details from an 80-page report commissioned in late June in response to a slew of complaints from council members, city employees and other parties.
The report, authored by private investigator Betty Kelepecz, chronicles more than a dozen incidents of ethics transgressions that undercut “fairness, accountability, honesty, responsibility and integrity” in government.
At the meeting, CBS2’s Tom Wait reported Ramos was effectively stripped of all power and they voted to oust him as mayor. The vote to remove him from office was unanimous.
Ramos denied all of the accusations.
“There was no due process here – while I always felt this was a witch hunt. There was always the perception of shred of due process,” Ramos said.
According to Kelepecz, numerous attempts were made to interview Ramos to get his position, but he continually deferred meeting opportunities, referring the investigator to his attorneys, who provided no assistance during the two-month inquiry, which ended Oct. 3.
Kelepecz’s report includes interactions with retired Councilman Doug McAllister, City Manager Rick Dudley and Councilman Rick Gibbs, but devoted a large portion to alleged sexual harassment of Kathleen Smith, who helped coordinate a Jan. 22 “mega mixer” event hosted by the local chamber of commerce at the Murrieta Spectrum Mall, attended by more than 1,000 people.
Smith has since filed a lawsuit against Ramos and the city, claiming Ramos pursued her, making unwanted sexual advances on multiple occasions, including groping her from behind and kissing her.
Smith told the city’s private investigator that Ramos tried to impress her with talk about his political accomplishments and persuaded her to give him a ride across the mall parking lot to his vehicle.
One witness told Kelepecz that she saw Ramos pressing his body toward Smith as she tried to get into her vehicle, and Smith alleged that he put his hands up her shirt as the two drove.
“Smith stated as a youth she had been the victim of sexual assault for two years and had learned to block things out and not fight,” Kelepecz wrote. “Smith stated that was what she did with Ramos.”
There were no witnesses to the alleged groping or kissing, and one woman told the investigator that the interactions between Ramos and Smith appeared to be mutually friendly that day.
Ramos has called the allegations completely false and intended as a “blatant and disgusting attack” on his reputation, perpetrated by political opponents.
During the meeting Thursday, Wait reported that Ramos had his share of supporters and detractors.
Ramos unraveling comes about a year after fellow councilman Alan Long had to step down as mayor after he faced a DUI charge for slamming his vehicle into a group of teens riding in another car.
Wait reported that Ramos gets to stay on as a councilmember. The group does not have the authority to remove him outright — that could only happen through a recall.
Ramos’ term comes up next year.
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