SALINAS, Calif. - A big decision made by a Central Coast city in the middle of a legal battle with one of its own council members. The remaining Salinas city leaders said they'll take whatever legal means they need to as long as it means council member Jose Castañeda pays a fine, he's been ordered to pay.
Council members voted to take that step in a closed session on Tuesday. The city has been waiting for Castañeda to pay a $5,000 fine following a conflict of interest case.
"That means the city attorney will take what action is necessary to collect the money and send it to the state of California," said Mayor Joe Gunter.
Gunter said the city had to protect itself after Castañeda refused to step down from the Alisal Union School District board, while holding an elected seat on the City Council. In September, a judge found Castañeda was in violation of Government Code 1099, a code stating Castañeda couldn't hold both seats at the same time.
"It's something that we can always come to a disagreement with in a really civil manner. But I think it's just been too long already of us carrying these type of issues and we are not moving forward," Castañeda said.
Since it was the city's decision initially to take Castañeda to court, Gunter said now it's the city responsibility to make sure he follows through with paying the $5,000 fine.
"We don't know what it'll cost yet. I'm sure it'll become public record of what it will cost us and what it will be. We're hoping to handle it in house with our city attorney and keep the cost to a very minimum," Gunter said.
It's been a long journey to get to this point. Gunter said Castañeda has options, like appealing the court decision or setting up a payment plan. We asked Castañeda if he planned to pay the fine.
"That's the whole matter that I'm, gonna go ahead and start looking at the legal counsel for," Castañeda said.
Gunter said this current legal battle doesn't affect Castañeda's time on the city council and won't affect his ability to serve the city.
On Tuesday, Castañeda said extra Salinas police officers were on hand outside the closed-door session. Castañeda stated this was to reportedly make sure nothing go out of hand once council members announced their decision in open session. We're reached out to the city for an explanation but haven't heard back yet.