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Ventura County

Oxnard Mayor's Wife Says Flynn Threatened Her

Allegations: In a police report, Irma Lopez contends the supervisor twice shouted, 'I'm gonna get you!' to her at a weekend barbecue.

June 27, 2002|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The wife of Oxnard's mayor has filed a police report contending that Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn verbally threatened her last weekend during an annual Democratic Party barbecue.

Irma Lopez maintains she was leaving the luncheon at a ranch in south Oxnard about 3 p.m. Saturday when Flynn twice shouted at her: "I'm gonna get you!"

During the confrontation, Lopez, 55, said Flynn was gritting his teeth and his face was "beet red and veins were bulging." The exchange was witnessed, she said, by a friend who was standing nearby.

"He scared me so much--he was livid," said Lopez, who is married to Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez. "People may say, 'Oh, that's just John Flynn,' but I don't take threats lightly."

Lopez said she asked Flynn what he meant, but that he did not respond. She then returned home and called Oxnard Police Chief Art Lopez, who advised her in a return phone call later the same day that she should file the report.

Flynn, 69, denied making any threats and described the incident as the latest in a series of attempts by Irma Lopez and others to "publicly embarrass" him and get him ousted from office. They are motivated, he said, by a desire to have more Latinos and blacks in public office.

"[Lopez] won't be happy until she sees a sea of brown faces in every political office in west Ventura County," Flynn said in a telephone interview as he was driving to meet with Chief Lopez and Oxnard City Manager Ed Sotelo about the incident.

Flynn said he was walking down the driveway toward his car when he playfully said to Lopez, "Irma, I'm going to win." The reference, he said, was to winning the attack on his position and reputation.

After Flynn made his statement, he said, he walked around Lopez and then in front of her, at which time she yelled to him that it was improper for him to turn his back on a woman. At this point, Flynn said he told Lopez: "I'm not sure you're a woman."

Lopez said she was interviewed about the incident by a detective who came to her Oxnard home early Monday. The matter will be investigated by police, who will also ask the district attorney to review the matter, she said.

In her interview with the detective, Lopez said she explained that she takes threats very seriously since being traumatized in a shootout nearly a decade ago.

In 1993, unemployed computer engineer Alan Winterbourne opened fire in an Oxnard unemployment office where Lopez worked. She was shot, but dragged to safety. Four people, including an officer, were killed before police fatally shot Winterbourne.

"Ever since that happened, I've had flashbacks," she said.

Lopez said she will consider a restraining order against Flynn--which he said he would gladly sign--but also hopes that the supervisor seeks anger-management counseling for what she described as a history of such problems.

In December 2000, Flynn was accused by Oxnard Elementary School District Supt. Richard Duarte of grabbing Duarte's arm after a controversial school site vote. At the time, Flynn alleged Duarte pushed and elbowed him.

On Wednesday evening, Flynn named Duarte and Rio School District Supt. Yolanda Benitez as two of the people involved in Lopez's alleged plot to oust him.

As examples of the alleged witch hunt, Flynn said that his name has been omitted from an invitation for an upcoming fund-raiser for Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), to be held at Lopez's house, and that he also wasn't invited to a fund-raiser held three months ago in Oxnard for Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

"She purposely excludes me from everything," Flynn said of Lopez.

Lopez said she has long supported her fellow Democrat and been a friend of Flynn and his wife for more than 20 years. She said she isn't sure why Flynn allegedly threatened her, but believes it could be over her friendship with Benitez.

In the 2000 election, Benitez initially endorsed Flynn, but then threw her support to Oxnard School District trustee Francisco Dominguez.

"I cannot understand this," Lopez said. "It's very bizarre."

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