On February 8, Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Jesse Petrilla, a Second Lt. in the Army National Guard, received notice that he would have to report to Ft. Knox, KY for training at the U.S. Heay Armor School. Due to his call to active duty, Councilman Petrilla would miss six scheduled council meetings.
On February 23, over the objections of Council Members Petrilla (who was already at training) and Steven Baric, the city council voted 3-1 to accept applications for a temporary replacement to the council.
Petrilla, who was elected to the city council for the first time in November, ousted a long-time friend of the three members who voted for his replacement.
To Council Members Tony Beall, Gary Thompson and Jerry Holloway:
I have nothing but the deepest respect for our armed services and the men and women who serve our common good. That respect would be unmatched if it weren’t for the disdain I have towards your recent decision to unnecessarily fill Jesse Petrilla’s seat.
What you are doing is being done because of political pettiness. What you are doing is wrong.
I understand you are bitter. Your tight-knit majority of four was shrunk to three in November after an outsider defeated your friend. Oh, woe is you. Even after that disastrous, one-seat loss, you’re still the majority. So what’s the deal?
With your ability to unilaterally control the Rancho Santa Margarita city council intact, why are you dishonoring Jesse Petrilla, a tank commander in the National Guard, for being called to Kentucky for training?
It makes no sense. He was called away to serve his country; but you still decided that wasn’t worthy of reasonable accommodation. You could have decided to leave the seat vacant, but instead you are taking applications for his temporary replacement.
You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. And if you aren’t, then I am sure the voters in Rancho Santa Margarita are. In fact, if you were planning for any major initiatives for your next term, you’d be wise to start working on them now or abandon them entirely.
Your act of cowardice would keep me from electing you to a junior high study body position, let alone re-elect you to the city council. You see, I believe I am part of a majority of people who recognize that true power isn’t how you wield it; it’s how you restrain it.
You have the self-serving ability to fill the seat, but you have a moral responsibility not to.
In that regard, you fail.
But recognize it isn’t too late. You don’t have to paint yourself into a corner and forever associate your names with words like ‘un-American,’ ‘un-patriotic,’ ‘immoral,’ or ‘un-ethical.’ On March 9, your council will meet again to review applications for the seat Jesse Petrilla holds.
Vote no. Decide not to place someone else in this seat.
On March 9, instead of spitting in one soldier’s eye, why don’t you honor the service that all the men and women of our armed forces provide? Why don’t you declare your support of the mission of our citizen soldiers?
A group named Employer Support of the Guard and Reserves offers you a pain-free way to demonstrate that your heart still pumps and your soul isn’t totally tarnished. Sign a pledge in support of the employment rights of our Reservists and Guardsmen. They have assembled an impressive list of organizations that support our reservists. Why don’t you join them?
It wouldn’t even be something that’s mistaken as genuine leadership. Other cities and counties have already declared their support. In fact, your own county, Orange County, is on the list. They did it for the right reasons, but I’ll accept you doing it to save your own skins.
Integrity might be too lofty of a goal. Let’s not aim for the stars quite yet. Let’s just try to keep you out of the muck.
The choice is ultimately yours. You can replace him for your own self-serving reasons. Or you can respect the choice of the voters. You can leave the seat vacant as a nod to the service he provides to the city, but the country as well.
In closing, I ask you each, to reflect upon what you are doing, why you are doing it, and realize that it is the wrong decision for all the wrong reasons.
And if logic doesn’t prevail, simply remember the same voters who elected him into office will not forget your actions when (I hope) they vote you out.
[This posting has been updated to include the background information at the topic of the page.]