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Official is removed from panel

Thomas Gordon, a member of Santa Ana's anti-gang commission, had written blog posts critical of other leaders.

December 05, 2007|Jennifer Delson | Times Staff Writer

A Santa Ana commissioner who had been asked to resign his appointed post earlier this year because of his critical writings on the Internet has been removed from the city's anti-gang commission.

The City Council took the action Monday night but offered no public explanation.

Thomas Gordon is one of three city commissioners who were asked to resign earlier this year because of their contributions to an Internet blog that is frequently critical of the city's government and leadership.

Gordon was removed from the Early Prevention and Intervention Commission on a 6-1 vote.

Gordon said Councilman Sal Tinajero, who appointed him, put the item on the council agenda after complaining that Gordon had confronted him at a recent meeting about traffic.

Gordon said the confrontation never occurred. Tinajero could not be reached for comment.

But it was reported on the Orange County Register's website that Gordon's removal was prompted by the commissioner's behavior at the recent meeting, and not because of his blog writings.

Gordon said he was surprised by his firing.

"They didn't even discuss this. How did they even know why they were voting?" said Gordon, a one-time mayoral candidate who was appointed to the panel in January. "What happened leads you to believe there was a backroom discussion."

Only Councilwoman Michele Martinez voted against ousting Gordon. In a city with few regular City Hall gadflies, Gordon has stood out.

He has been critical about what he considers a lack of city response to graffiti, crime and the lack of parks and libraries.

He has also complained about the conditions of city streets and the local school district.

In the fall of 2006, Gordon alerted authorities about illegal asbestos removal at One Broadway Plaza, the city's largest commercial development.

In October, some council members asked that three bloggers who sit on city boards and commissions tone down their criticism of city officials.

The other bloggers are Art Pedroza, a housing and redevelopment commission member, and Sean Mill, a planning commissioner. Both Pedroza and Mill remain commissioners.

But Pedroza said he thinks he could soon be removed.

Gordon's "behavior is just an excuse to get him out. There isn't room for dissension in Santa Ana."

Martinez, Gordon's lone supporter on the council, said the vote shows "a disregard for the community."

"He has a done a good job on this commission. This is his government. He should be critical," she said. "Why are we censuring people?"

Other council members could not be reached for comment.

Martinez, who opposed Thomas' removal, said she reviewed a tape of the meeting where Gordon was alleged to have criticized Tinajero: "It never happened," Martinez said. "This is a plot to get rid of the bloggers. They are going to do it one way or another."

The bloggers have contributed to the orangejuiceblog.com website that, among other things, has attacked the founder of the city's artists village for not living in the city, criticized a Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee for his appearance and questioned the educational experience of the chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said removing Thomas wasn't illegal.

But he questioned whether it was appropriate.

"Are you going to just get rid of people because they express views you don't like?" he said. "Isn't it healthy to have a variety of opinions?"

A dozen people spoke in support of Gordon at the council meeting, among them Iliana Welty, vice chairwoman of the anti-gang commission.

She conceded that Gordon "could definitely be a bit more tactful at times."

But, she added, "his voice on [the commission] is unique, and it's a perspective that's needed."

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jennifer.delson@latimes.com

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