At a special Otay Water District Board meeting on Aug. 21, Board Director Hector Gastelum was censured for a third time in his tenure at the agency.
Gastelum was first censured in 2017 for Islamaphobic remarks he made on social media. More recently in July he was rebuked for denigrating remarks he posted on social media about participants in the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.
At the time, Gastelum expressed remorse for his July post and said he would be more mindful of what he posted on social media. But that changed quickly.
Today’s Resolution No. 4386 carried 3-1 with Gastelum voting no for censure.
Director Tim Smith did not attend the meeting.
Board President Gary Croucher said that in 2017, the Board found the comments made by Gastelum derogatory, offensive and adverse to the values and the mission of the District. He said the Board took action to censure Gastelum and to monitor further activity in light of his incendiary comments.
Director Mitch Thompson said that he felt he was in the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”
“I feel like we keep circling back to the same point and reliving the same day,” said Thompson. “I am sure that as long as Director Gastelum is on our bard we will continue to experience Groundhog Day.”
Thompson read a years old social media post that Gastelum had posted to put it on public record:
“February 2107: “Let’s pressure our legislatures to increase lists of so-called Muslim bans to prevent subhuman scum from US to MAGA.”
Thompson said in a later Twitter exchange Gastelum said he was “denouncing and classifying Muslims who rape, gang rape, stone women to death, throw homosexuals from the roof and are pedophiles as sub-human.”
Hector Gastelum after he was censured by the Otay Water District board the first time in 2017.
Thompson said that was his general categorization in comments of Muslims at that time and the Board ended up with 100 people at a board meeting to denounce that.
“Director Smith and I proposed a censure at that time, he was taken off quite a few committees and calmed down his behavior for a while,” said Thompson. “And on July 4, 2020. I want to read what he wrote that he took off immediately because he was so ashamed of that he promised he would do better.”
“Dear #BlackLivesMatter,” Gastelum posted on Twitter July Fourth. “Thank GOD America was Founded by White Christian Men! By contrast, look at how things turned out in Africa, how many of you want to relocate? So STFU & get a Job! Because we need all Americans to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #MAGA #KAG #HappyIndependenceDay.”
Board President Gary Croucher said Gastelum continued to post on social media comments that were derogatory and offensive, and on July 9, the Board took action to censure him again. He said that when Gastelum said that he would atone for the posting for the rest of his life, he actually believed him.
Thompson said Gastulum’s recent post involved Democratic vice president nominee Kamala Harris on Aug. 12.
“Nothing is more damaging to equality for women movement than a whore like Kamala Harris who F’s the boss for career advancement. And Kamala, what do you attribute your success to?”, Gastelum wrote.
Thompson said the words he used are what is tarnishing the Otay Water District.
Last month Gastelum, “went on to say afterwards that he took on responsibility for what he had posted and said he would make it his life’s mission to be judged by his actions as opposed to a post he was embarrassed by and took down 45-minutes later,” said Thompson. “I am a parent and a grandparent and learned early on that words are cheap, and actions mean something. Your words were cheap Director Gastelum and your actions say more about it than your words ever did.”
At his first opportunity to speak during today’s meeting, Gastelum said he was more disappointed that there is an outrage of him describing Harris’ record of dating a married man for career advancement, citing her relationship with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, calling it adultery.
“I stand 100% behind my criticism of Kamala Harris about her reprehensible homewrecking actions,” said Gastelum. “My criticism of Kamala Harris is 100% related to her lack of moral character as a person who is willing to destroy a family in order to achieve career advancement.”
Gastelum said his criticism of Harris had nothing to do with her skin color, ethnicity, gender, orientation, religion, lack thereof or any other those protective classes.
“It is 100% about her committing adultery and being a homewrecker than anything else,” he said. “I stand by this. Women should be treated with dignity, respect and professionalism. If we are going to have someone who is trying to become vice president and she slept around and dated married men to achieve the position she is at, this is horrible, not just for women who are trying to achieve career advancement but is horrible for the example it sets. And for the community to be more outraged in me describing what actually happened by Kamala Harris and mayor Brown, it’s just a head shaker for me.”
Croucher wondered aloud today what Gastelum’s truly prompted his remorse in July.
“The rhetorical question I have today for Director Gastelum is whether he was mortified by his comments or mortified that he was caught by the community so close to the election,” said Croucher. “People do make bad decisions, but the real issue is do they learn from them. The best measurement and evidence in truly be contrite is your future actions. I am sad to say that barely a month later we find ourselves in the same place.”
Croucher said Gastulum’s recent comments to Harris, who is a woman, are disparaging and unacceptable.
“This continued pattern of behavior is a serious and ugly stain on the good name of the District and the men and women who work hard to meet the daily water needs of this community,” said Croucher. “It is absolutely unacceptable. Reducing a woman to her sexuality is as about as low as anyone can stoop.”
Croucher said identifying any woman by who they have had sex with, or the amount of sex they have is a terrible attack on their gender.
“I believe these comments say more about the person making them than about their female targets,” he said. “As elected officials we are supposed to be role models. Comments by an elected official that degrade women, people of color, immigrants send the opposite message to the community.”
Resolution 4386 states that Gastelum, once again, violated the Board’s Ethics Policy, constituting official misconduct and constitutes cause for censure.
“In the event Director Gastelum’s shameful and inexcusable conduct continues until the elections for his seat on this Board are held in November 2020 or thereafter and, in order for the Board to focus on the business of the Otay Water District, this Censure shall also apply to such misconduct. But, the Board will continue to monitor the future conduct of Director Gastelum and will consider further future actions should such future actions be deemed warranted.”
Otay Water District serves parts of East County, including Rancho San Diego and Spring Valley.