District 5 City Councilman Victor Gordo was having dinner with his family one night recently when someone came to his front door with a petition.
Gordo was shocked to hear the young man was collecting signatures so organizers “could bring rent control back.”
The councilman said he was told “Victor Gordo and the City Council had removed that issue.”
Gordo, who knew Pasadena has never had rent control, asked to see the petition and after a closer look realized the petition had nothing to do with that issue.
Instead, the man was collecting signatures for a recall effort that would remove the five-time councilman from office.
“After I tried to take a picture of the second page he snatched it out of my hand and said I wasn’t allowed to photograph it,” Gordo told the Pasadena Weekly. “He walked away swiftly up my front lawn and when I followed him to ask him about it he ran off.”
According to the petition filed by Bradley Hertz of a San Francisco-based law firm, “Gordo puts his personal profits ahead of the people of Pasadena.”
The petition also states Gordo “is unresponsive to calls and correspondence and inaccessible to community members and constituents.”
But perhaps more to the point of this effort to drive Gordo out of office is that the petition also claims that the councilman referred local cannabis legislation to a city committee that he chaired so he could “write a law that punishes state compliant cannabis operators.”
Hertz represents Pasadena business owner Shaun Szameit and Golden State Collective, a now-shuttered cannabis operation that has been cited more than a dozen times for infractions related to operating a marijuana business without a license.
The petition was signed by 88 people, but only 35 of the signatures were from people who actually live in the district, according to one source familiar with the petition. Petitioners needed 25 signatures from residents of District 5 to begin the recall process.
Neither Szameit nor Hertz currently reside in District 5. On Monday, Szameit said he had previously lived in the district. The property that houses Golden State Collectives, which is owned by Szameit, is located in the district.
“I have approached my council member as a district resident, a business owner, a property owner, as a concerned citizen, each time being ignored and postponed without care of cause or effect,” Szameit told the Pasadena Weekly. “We support a candidate who rather than ignoring the controversial issues and only acting when forced, believes in outreach and action.”
Recall backers now have 120 days to collect 2,000 signatures from District 5 residents that are needed to get the issue on the ballot and allow voters to decide Gordo’s political fate.
Even if the recall gets on the ballot, opponents could have a hard time defeating Gordo, who is currently the longest serving councilman in Pasadena. He handily defeated two opponents in the 2016 election with more than 64 percent of the vote.
In the last effort to recall a councilman, opponents of District 6 Councilman Steve Madison only collected 33 signatures in 90 days. The action was taken after Madison supported an environmental impact report that would have allowed the NFL to temporarily play in the Rose Bowl in 2013.
When reached for comment, one District 5 resident said he would continue to support Gordo.
“Some guy who ran an illegal cannabis dispensary is all mad because his shop didn’t get to be one of the licensed ones,” said Jim MacQuarrie, a District 5 resident who approached the council regarding the nuisance liquor stores in his neighborhood in 2005.
“Well, duh, if you show the city that you’re happy to break the law when it suits you, they are going to be inclined not to validate that. So now he wants to buy an election?” MacQuarrie asked. “Nah, I’ll support Victor on this one.”
More than $26,000 in donations were returned to Szameit by the political action group (PAC), Pasadena Patients for Safe Neighborhoods, sponsored by Medical Cannabis Dispensaries, which disbanded in 2018. The group was formed in 2017 to oppose the closure of illegally operating dispensaries, including Golden State Collective. Hertz was an officer in that PAC.
Szameit and three other defendants — Elizabeth McDuffie, Yulissa Gonzalez, and Tony Gutierrez — were scheduled to appear in court Feb. 13 for arraignment on charges of illegal cannabis possession and sale. However, the arraignments were rescheduled for March 22.
The petition also claims Gordo misses council meetings and that he has a conflict of interest on rent control issues because he owns rental property in Pasadena.
Gordo entered local politics as former District 5 Councilman Bill Crowfoot’s field representative in 1997. The district was created by the council in the early 1990s to increase voting opportunities for the city’s growing Latino population. Ironically, Crowfoot is white, but spoke Spanish fluently, unlike his Latino opponent in his first of two successful runs.
Since coming to council in 2001, Gordo, who is also bilingual, has led the city’s fight against nuisance liquor stores, with the city closing down two such businesses, one of which was the site of a murder. Affordable housing has been built at both locations. In fact, more affordable housing units for families, seniors, and first-time homeowners have been built in District 5 than in any other district in the past 15 years.
In 2015, Gordo chaired the committee that recommended that the council raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2020. Also in 2015, Gordo led efforts to make Pasadena an early learning city, with the city establishing the Office of the Young Child, which is committed to providing youngsters and their families with access to early childhood education opportunities.
“I support the legal and lawful sale of cannabis,” Gordo told the Pasadena Weekly. “I do not support the illegal sale of anything in Pasadena, whatever it may be. Take the cannabis out of there and put prescription drugs and alcohol in there and I still would not support it. He is not my constituent. He does not live or vote in my district.”
In 2016, the year state voters approved the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the City Council barred cannabis businesses from operating in Pasadena. Officials changed their tune, however, after opponents of that ordinance began collecting signatures to put a measure on the ballot that would have allowed an unlimited number of dispensaries to operate in the city.
Voters approved Measure CC, which was sponsored by the city and limited the number of dispensaries in Pasadena to one per council district. Before the measure passed, city officials stated that owners of unlicensed cannabis shops who refused to close down would not be granted a license to operate.
“I am elected to represent the people in my district and do the right thing when they are not present,” Gordo said. “I will continue to do the right thing. Mr. Szameit has not tricked me, and the voters should not allow him to trick them. His only connection to my district is the illegal operation that he was running and he is now facing criminal prosecution.”