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Photos circulating around Facebook on July 3 show Calexico City Hall sometime between 3 and 5 p.m. COURTESY PHOTO

Calexico City Hall ‘Vandalized’ Over Mayor’s Election

Calexico police are investigating an act of “vandalism” that occurred outside City Hall during the daylight hours July 3 in an apparent attempt to embarrass or protest the election of Rosie Arreola Fernandez as the city’s newest mayor just two days earlier.

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Calexico Mayor Rosie Arreola Fernandez | FILE PHOTO

White sheets or pieces of canvas material with spray-painted messages that say “Rosie the Wino” and “Resign Do Better” were set in front of Calexico City Hall along with numerous empty alcohol bottles sometime during the day in what was described as “vandalism with littering,” Calexico Police Chief Gonzalo Gerardo confirmed.

The messages were clearly in reference to Fernandez pleading guilty in January to a single count of driving under the influence of alcohol from a July 2019 arrest in which she collided with another vehicle on Highway 111. Fernandez was given summary probation after pleading guilty to the incident.

Both Calexico city officials and members of the council had already been made aware of the incident by 5 p.m. July 3.

City administration did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment, and the target, Mayor Fernandez, had no comment, only acknowledging that it did happen.

“I just saw it about an hour ago. It’s ruthless. People around here are ruthless … I thought this thing was over with,” Calexico Mayor Pro Tem Morris Reisen said around 5 p.m.

“I think it’s wrong. I’m going to back her 100 percent,” Reisen said. “We stand together, or we fall together. She’s going to stay as mayor as far as I’m concerned.”

Fernandez was unanimously elected as mayor in a council reorganization July 1, while Reisen was unanimously elected mayor pro tem.

Although Fernandez did not address the DUI or other legal issues she had in 2019 during the reorganization, she did speak with the Calexico Chronicle about the incidents on June 30 for a story that ran in the newspaper and online July 2.

“It was an unfortunate mistake … I’m very remorseful of it,” Fernandez told the Chronicle.

In the previous article, Fernandez said she has learned and made restitution, “but I have to move forward.”

Meanwhile, photos of the alleged vandalism were circulating on Facebook, but it wasn’t immediately clear when the alleged crime occurred. Gerardo thought it had happened sometime around 3 p.m.

By 4:40 p.m., the scene had already been cleaned up and police were combing through video surveillance to see if any suspects could be identified, Gonzalo confirmed through a text message.

Asked how it could happen in daylight, Gerardo responded:

“City Hall is closed today. You can park a truck or car, get out, put the stuff there and leave. No one would notice if there were cars parked there.”

Gerardo stated the Police Department does have a direct video feed from cameras outside City Hall.

No other information was immediately available from police. Gerardo stated the case would be considered “vandalism with littering.”

From all outward appearances, the charges would likely be misdemeanor citations.

Reisen, who is a close confidant of Fernandez’s, said about 80 percent of what he has been seen on social media has been mean-spirited postings about Fernandez’s election as mayor. But he thinks she has paid her dues and that she deserves to be mayor.

Although some social media posts have stated Fernandez never commented about the issue to the media, she did in fact apologize and admit wrongdoing in prior published interviews with the Calexico Chronicle.

Fernandez became entangled in two back-to-back incidents in spring/summer 2019, when she initially faced charges for property damage and hit-and-run driving after a May 5, 2019, incident in Calexico in which she was alleged to have driven into a parked car and a stop sign before driving away from the scene.

Then, before that case ever went to court, Fernandez was arrested on suspicion of DUI on July 6, 2019, by the California Highway Patrol following a collision with another vehicle on southbound Highway 111 just north of McCabe Road.

Those cases were combined and taken to court by the state Attorney General’s Office after the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office declared a conflict of interest because Fernandez had worked on D.A. Gilbert Otero’s re-election campaign.

In January, Superior Court Judge Marco Nuñez issued five years’ “summary probation” for Fernandez, dismissing one DUI charge (Highway Patrol issued two counts against her for the single incident) and two hit-and-run charges (Calexico police also issued two counts for the single incident) due to her lack of a record and the likelihood that she would not re-offend.

All four counts were combined by the state Attorney General’s Office under a single case.

As part of her probation, she made full restitution for damages and fines, was given 12 days of community service with a state Department of Transportation work crew and had an alcohol-detection device attached to her car’s ignition. Other conditions included periodic drug-and-alcohol testing, according to court information.

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