On October 8, the Oceanside City Council meeting got off to a fiery start. The first speaker, Ray Melendrez, president of the Oceanside Firefighters Association, accused Councilman (and mayoral candidate) Rocky Chavez and Councilman Jerry Kern of holding a clandestine meeting to look into privatizing the city’s ambulance services without the knowledge of fellow councilmembers and current mayor Jim Wood.
According to Melendrez, the meeting took place between Chavez and Kern and consultants working with groups affiliated with private emergency services company American Medical Response. “Councilmen Chavez and Kern unilaterally and independently initiated discussions with a consultant and a marketing firm,” says Melendrez. “This is unethical, illegal, and incredibly irresponsible behavior in advancing their privatization agenda and breaching the sanctity of the public’s trust. This community deserves better, and the community deserves the truth. I am requesting an immediate internal investigation into this matter.”
Not a second after Melendrez stopped speaking, Councilman Kern responded to the allegation. “American Medical Response approached us, and we had a meeting with the police chief and the division chief. We will meet with anybody at anytime. So, Mr. Melendrez basically told you a bunch of lies. I welcome the investigation. There’s no other way to say it. Everything is on the table all of the time. We work for the taxpayer and our doors are always open,” said Kern.
He then went on to address the audience and television cameras and implied the allegation was politically motivated, that it was an example of “silly season” (election time) antics.
“Mr. Melendrez told you a bunch of lies. To have a public employee come and basically lie to the public is very disturbing to me.”
For Kern, a little insult to injury was added when fellow councilmember, Esther Sanchez stuck up for the firefighter. "I did not know about this meeting. I've known Mr. Melendrez now for eight years, and I know him to be a man of integrity, and I don't like calling people liars on the dais. I am concerned this is a possible violation of the Brown Act."
Councilmember Chavez did not respond to the allegations.
To find out how hot Oceanside’s City Council can get, download the meeting at ci.oceanside.ca.us.