El Monte City Council Member Dr. Maria Morales was elected in 2018 as a member of “Team El Monte,” a political action committee headlined by former Mayor Andre Quintero. Although Quintero was voted out of office in the 2020 election, residents have routinely attacked Morales for her continuation of his policies.
Most recently, at the 2/1/22 meeting of the City Council, residents called in to oppose the extension of City Manager Alma Martinez’s contract. The contract was not scheduled for consideration in 2022, but the Council agreed to take it up on its agenda, and one resident’s comments on the item seems to have specifically angered Morales.
El Monte resident Cosme Jimenez, who has lived in the City for more than 60 years, accused Morales and her “super-majority” (Herrera, Morales, Puente) of taking orders from Quintero, and reminded Morales and Herrera that their seats are on the ballot in November. Jimenez is one of the main community members who advocates in opposition to the super-majority.
Now, Political Life has been provided with text messages sent by Morales to Jimenez on the morning after the meeting. The text messages raise issues of age-, language-, and ethnicity-based discrimination. The communications are especially concerning because Morales is not only an elected official representing Jimenez, but also a student diversity officer at the University of Southern California, and teaches at Rio Hondo College.
At work, Morales is focused on education and diversity
According to her LinkedIn profile, Morales has received multiple degrees from USC. She also serves as Associate Clinical Professor of Political Science at Rio Hondo College, and the school’s Spring 2022 class calendar shows that is she teaching “Government of the U.S.”
Morales is a part-time instructor at Rio Hondo, but appears to work full-time for USC. Following her doctoral degree conferment in 2021, she was chosen to become the university’s Assistant Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer for Communication, Community and Student Engagement.
USC’s statement on Morales’ position explicitly connects her El Monte experience to her work at the university, saying “her commitment and passion for higher education has led to her service on a range of committees on campus and in her community as an elected member of the El Monte city council.”
Morales attacks senior citizen resident of El Monte
While Morales appears invested in diversity and inclusion at USC, such a focus does not extend to outspoken constituents in El Monte. Specifically, texts reveal that Morales harassed her constituent, Cosme Jimenez, 76-years of age, based on his use of the English language.
At 8:10AM on the morning after the contentious 2/1/22 Council meeting at which Jimenez criticized the behavior of Morales and her colleagues, Morales texted Jimenez and described Jimenez’ public comment call into the meeting as “not speaking with proper English language.”
She then invited Jimenez to lunch (“I’ll pay again and offer you my valuable time”). Mr. Jimenez told Political Life that at their prior lunch meeting in the Fall of 2021, Morales had pleaded for Jimenez to stop attacking her during the public comment time, “because my students are watching.”
In her 2/2/22 texts, Morales also specified her demands for their possible future meeting with Jimenez. She wanted an “intellectual, fact driven conversation.” This is likely a rejection of Jimenez’ statements against Morales, which revolve around her continued support for the policies of former Mayor Andre Quintero, despite his ousting by the voters in 2020.
In observance of Morales’ request at the earlier meeting, Jimenez did cease to attack her for a short number of meetings, but he took a strong stance against the extension of the City Manager’s contract. Morales defended the new contract terms—ignoring multiple residents’ pleas to have more time to review the contract and salary increase.
From language-based discrimination to age-based harassment
Morales initiated her morning texts to Jimenez by characterizing his speech as “not speaking with proper English language,” and she ended with “God Bless and May he allow you to learn to be professional and coherent.”
It is remarkable that a Council Member would tell any resident of the City to “learn to be professional,” but the use of “coherent,” combined with Jimenez’ age of 76, rises to the level of age-based harassment; characterizing Jimenez’ speech as lacking “coherence” invokes negative stereotypes about the elderly.
Mr. Jimenez told us, “When I read that, I felt so offended. I felt depressed. Yes, I do have an accent, but I speak English and I’m using my First Amendment rights. I am defending our City and the Constitution against people like Morales. My rights as a citizen, as a senior citizen, have been violated by Council Member Morales.”
A City Council super-majority against El Monte residents
Jimenez points out that Morales is one of three El Monte City Council members who usually vote together on divisive issues. Mr. Jimenez refers to them as “The Three Amigos” and other residents sometimes use terms like “The Three Puppets.”
Jimenez told us that his inspection of years of campaign records shows that Morales has received $22,000 in campaign contributions from the political committee Team El Monte, and that Council Member Alma Puente received $45,000. Much of Team El Monte’s campaign money originates from Quintero’s own campaign committee. In 2020, his committee contributed $38,500 to Team El Monte.
Jimenez said, “Here in El Monte, we have Quintero using money he gets from the marijuana industry to fund the re-election of his puppets. We in the community voted him out, but the work is not done.”
Another community member who regularly speaks against the super-majority, Irma Zamorano, said “The Three Puppets have always been attacking our rights, but the discrimination and harassment by Morales is new low. She’s a teacher, and she’s attacking a senior citizen? That's not a good example. The truth is she’s upset because Mr. Jimenez is speaking facts, and the facts are that she and the other Puppets are selling out our community.”
Currently, Mr. Jimenez is considering his legal options against Morales and the City. El Monte residents are expected to continue their struggle against the El Monte City Council super-majority.
Political Life is a collective of citizen-journalists in Los Angeles County.