Ripping the Sheets off Mayor Valerie Amezcua’s Dirty Work for the Police Union.

Okay, before we jump right in to the sleazy story of Santa Ana Mayor Valerie Amezcua‘s conspiracies with Gerry Serrano’s SAPOA (police union) to remove City Manager Kristine Ridge and Police Chief David Valentin, a story which I can add to, we first need to give MAJOR PROPS to the intrepid researcher and journalist Ben Camacho (writing for KnockLA) without whom we wouldn’t have any of this information. Yet neither of the Register stories relying on his work mention him at all, and the two Voice of OC stories only mention the publication he works for, KnockLA. I know from personal experience that the little guy who does the hard work breaking the story rarely gets any credit.

And Ben Camacho (right), who grew up in Santa Ana but now works in LA, fought for half a year to get his hands – our hands – on a document that is of intense public interest – Kristine Ridge’s Sept. 2022 legal claim against Santa Ana, available here but still with tantalizing redactions, which led the City to pay her over $600k of public money to keep quiet. It took six months and, finally, legal threats, to get this much out of the City.

Cities and other agencies are getting bolder and more stubborn in resisting the release of embarrassing information in compliance with our vital California Public Records Act (CPRA). And as if that weren’t bad enough, some Democrat legislators (Josh Lowenthal, Blanca Pacheco) are pushing legislation aimed at weakening the Act even further. Ben is even facing a lawsuit from the City of Los Angeles for his perfectly legal use of the Act in another case. All of this needs to be discussed in another post, but I wanted to give credit to Ben before we dive into our story:

History Rhyming in Serrano’s Golden City

First, know that Santa Ana’s Police Union (the SAPOA) is like Disney to Anaheim – the largest contributor to political candidates, and the greediest special interest when demanding favors in return from a pliant Council. PLIANT – that’s a good word – it means you do whatever they tell you to do after they PLY you with money and power.

And for the last several years (until late last year) that union was led by the notoriously hot-headed and greedy Gerry Serrano, famed for threatening to “burn the city down” if he didn’t get his way – his way including a bigger pension for himself and unaffordable raises for his membership.

You know how they say “History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes?” Well, here’s a perfect example of recent history RHYMING – in both 2016 and 2023, Serrano wanted a relatively decent Police Chief, who was standing in the way of his desires, to be fired. And in both cases he found that he FIRST had to get rid of a decent City Manager to accomplish that. So in both cases he pressured his puppets on the Council to do that, to get rid of the troublesome City Manager and Police Chief.

It worked in 2016, back in the dark Miguel Pulido days, when the only Councilmember who would say no to Gerry was feisty Republican Cecilia Iglesias, who was RECALLED by Serrano for her effrontery. But Serrano had easily enough pliant puppets on Council that year to force out the popular and competent City Manager David Cavazos, allowing him to get rid of Chief Carlos Rojas, whose offenses were disciplining lawbreaking cops as well as blowing the whistle on Mayor Pulido’s cannabis corruption. Obviously this Rojas cat had to go.

Well, seven years later in 2023, it was Chief David Valentin who had to go, and City Manager Kristine Ridge that had to go first. Except by then, Serrano had had setbacks in the 2020 and 2022 elections – due to his own arrogance and ineptness combined with excellent populist movements and candidates, the Union no longer had a majority of Pliant Puppets – only 3 out of 7.

But at least after the ’22 election, Serrano had himself a real bulldog Mayor, a Valerie Amezcua, who would go the extra mile to do anything to make the Police Union happy. Getting Valerie elected cost Serrano’s union $217,851; plus another $191,000 to get her two pliant allies, Phil Bacerra and David Peñaloza and Gerry STILL didn’t have a majority to can Ridge and Valentin. And to can Ridge, Mayor Valerie would FIRST have to remove the “Evergreen” clause from Ridge’s contract. “Evergreen?” Yes.

An “evergreen clause” in your contract means that your contract automatically renews each year, making it much harder to terminate, say, a City Manager for no cause. Makes for more stability. The fine, experienced CM Ridge had an evergreen clause put into her contract when she started working for Santa Ana, because the City had been through so many CM’s recently. First order of business for the new Mayor Valerie was to schedule the removal of Ridge’s evergreen clause for closed session so she could then get rid of both Ridge and Chief Valentin.

Valerie already had met with her pliant colleagues Phil and David and had them on board for this, but she needed one more. So her mind went to Johnathan Hernandez, whose cousin Brandon Lopez had recently been killed by the police. A vulnerability!

Valerie Tries to Manipulate Johnathan!

Immediately after being sworn in, according to Johnathan’s Brown Act Complaint, Valerie met with him over lunch and tried this tack to get him to back ditching Evergreen so they could fire Kristine so they could fire Chief Valentin: “You know Valentin got your cousin killed, right?” How gross was that? Even though Johnathan is a police critic, he was well aware that this was a vendetta of the Police Union, and Chief Valentin had nothing to do with getting his cousin killed. As he wrote later in his complaint,

“Mayor Amezcua has continuously attempted to use my personal experience as a political pawn in an attempt to lure me into supporting her agenda to fire the City Manager. There are no words to describe how dehumanizing this experience is…

I bet. Johnathan’s cousin was blown away by four Anaheim SWAT cops, who had followed him to Santa Ana, and believed he was armed. And the reason they believed he was armed was because SA officer Nelson Menendez, who was observing Brandon from a Terradyne Armored Vehicle, told them wrongly that Brandon was armed. Chief Valentin had nothing to do with all that. A few months later Menendez’ fellow cops created a satirical BOLO ribbing Menendez for this reckless mistake, which we reported on at the time:

And true to form (by now it was April ’23) Mayor Valerie sent this satirical BOLO to Johnathan, with crocodile-tears commentary, still hoping to get him on board firing Ridge and Valentin:

If anything, Nelson Menendez was not a crony of Chief Valentin, but of Gerry Serrano and Valerie herself, as shown in these cozy photos from the “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.”

So, Johnathan refused to be used in Valerie’s & Gerry’s vendetta against Valentin and Ridge. But there was a second problem here, for Valerie. As she had already met privately on this Evergreen/firing matter with both Bacerra and Peñaloza, her subsequent meeting with Johnathan added up to “serial meetings” and a violation of the Brown Act; hence, Johnathan’s Brown Act complaint. A complaint that, along with Ridge’s complaint has supposedly led to a serious investigation. May it be so. Insh’allah.

Ridge & Valentin Driven Out

Somehow though, despite Mayor Valerie’s lack of a majority, she still managed to drive out the hated Police Chief and City Manager, simply by making their lives miserable. Valerie is good at that, like a skunk. In his September resignation letter, Chief Valentin wrote,

“In spite of what a handful of people did in failed attempts to destroy me professionally and personally, all because I had the audacity and internal fortitude to speak truth to absolute corrupt power; allow my experience to serve as an example of the importance of perseverance and redemption, based on facts and truth, and why we chose this most noble profession – to serve others ethically as our top priority, not ourselves.”

And the following month Santa Ana had to pay Kristine Ridge over $600,000 to go away and keep quiet. Thanks to Ben Camacho, we can now see Kristine’s redacted legal complaint that resulted in the payoff: credible claims of “discrimination, harassment, retaliation and pressure to take illegal action” – the illegal actions generally being favors desired by Gerry Serrano, like unilaterally increasing his pension.

On top of all that she gives examples of Valerie taunting her for being white and not speaking Spanish. This checks out. A couple years ago when Valerie was first running for Mayor, I was contacted by a black gentleman, who’d experienced the exact same thing from her when she was on School Board, but the guy got cold feet and asked me not to write about it.

You ever notice that these politicians who make a big deal about their race, their ethnicity, their language, their being “homegrown,” are the ones who don’t actually serve their own people well? Just saying.

“Please understand that this is not remotely an exhaustive list of the misconduct to which Ms. Ridge is being subjected but I wanted you to understand the gravity of the misconduct…” Ridge’s letter teases us. I bet. Mayor Valerie HAS TO GO. Except,

Who is going to run against her???

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.