El Monte’s newest Council Member caught deleting public records
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Martin Herrera is El Monte’s newest Council Member. His recent Facebook posts show that he has attended almost all City events in the last few months. Yet, Political Life has learned that Herrera has also used Facebook to engage in the illegal activity of destroying a public record.
As held by Courts around the country, public officials who use social networks are creating an official public forum each time they make a post or a tweet. That is, the social media profiles of elected officials are themselves a public record. No matter the content contributed to such profiles by members of the public, a public official cannot censor the public through blocking, much less through the deletion of content.
California’s Government Code Section 34090 is clear in that cities must retain public records for at least two years. In the case of Herrera, images were provided to Political Life showing that Herrera deleted a comment critical of his personal background. The comment appeared underneath a post on Herrera’s official, government Facebook account – “City of El Monte – Council Member Martin Herrera.” Herrera's post was a shared post from the El Monte Police Department.
The deleted comment, from El Monte resident Irma Zamorano, was visible on Sunday, August 8th, 2021 at 3:51 PM but had been deleted by 5:15 PM. The comment read, “Stay sober Martin Herrera No more DUI’s.”
Zamorano’s comment seems to be a reference to Herrera’s application for appointment to the Council, which disclosed a DWI—Driving While Intoxicated, a designation often used by non-California states.
Zamorano told Political Life “Herrera is abusing my rights, my freedom of speech. How many other peoples’ comments has he deleted? This is wrong and obviously illegal.”
Herrera again took to Facebook on Tuesday August 10th, this time writing that Zamorano’s comment did not come from a “place of sincerity.” He said to her, “plastering those words on nearly every post or tweet you could find signaled to me that your intent was to shame me; to somehow diminish the work I’m doing.”
The implications of Herrera's words
Herrera’s statement suggests that he deleted Zamorano’s comment based on her viewpoint—viewpoint discrimination, in direct opposition to recent federal rulings, including the landmark Knight v. Trump. Moreover, in this particular case, Herrera is in violation of the California Government Code mandating the maintenance of public records.
Curiously, Herrera’s deletion of the public record comes just as he is pushing for the censure of his colleague, Mayor Pro Tem Vicky Martinez Muela, for allegations involving a lobbyist.
Political Life observes the irony of Herrera pushing to censure Martinez Muela when his attitude in regard to his own DWI is, "Going through this experience forced me to accept that I am a flawed person. That we are all flawed people. But to hold people back or to be dismissive of them because of their differences or flaws, is the real impediment to progress in our community."
While Herrera appears to desire that community members read about his own views of his DWI, it is not clear that Herrera understands the implications of his censoring of the public and destroying public records related to discussions of his DWI.
Community members are expected to voice discontent at upcoming meetings of the City Council.
Update. Five hours after the publication of this article, Zamorano's comment became visible once again. Thank you to community members for demanding government accountability. Contact us with more tips: firstname.lastname@example.org
Political Life is a collective of citizen-journalists in Los Angeles County.