At last night’s meeting of the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education, board member Alfonso Alvarez gave a terse apology for his July 29 drunk driving arrest while his board colleagues attacked those who called for Alvarez’s resignation over the DUI.
On the night of July 29, Alvarez was arrested for Driving Under the Influence after he crashed into another car. He had spent the afternoon on a “Mystery Bus” tour of three Elks Lodges, organized by the Santa Ana Elks, of which Alvarez is a member. The SAUSD pays for Alvarez’s lodge membership, claiming he is the district’s “representative” to the venerable charitable fraternal organization.
The SAPD field report states the person whom the school board member hit told the police dispatcher that Alvarez “smells of alcohol” and “appears to be out of it.” The victim complained to the dispatcher of neck pains and requested paramedics.
Last night was the first SAUSD Board of Education meeting since his DUI arrest. Earlier yesterday, Santa Ana City Councilman David Penaloza – whose father was killed by a drunk driver – called on Alvarez to “resign from his elected office immediately. Santa Ana families deserve better.“
During public comments at the beginning of last night’s meeting, resident John Ramirez called on Alvarez to resign.
“It is important to display integrity and responsibility. And when you break the law, there are repercussions for your actions. That’s just how life works – and parents and students need to see that,” said Ramirez.
“It is for this reason that I call on the board to be united as one and call on Dr. Alvarez to resign his seat. Show your responsibility as board members and holding him accountable,” said Ramirez.
Alvarez, however, limited himself to reading a brief apology at the end of the board meeting:
“On July 29, I was cited for misdemeanor for driving under the influence. I take full responsibility. My decision was irresponsible and there is no excuse for my actions to my constituents, family, friends supporters in SAUSD family. I am deeply sorry. I will learn from this and will continue to do my best to serve our community. Thank you,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez came in for little-to-no criticism from his board colleagues driving drunk and hitting another vehicle. Rigo Rodriguez called it “a mistake” while Katelyn Brazer Aceves “seconded” what Rodriguez said. Board President Carolyn Torres termed his drunk driving arrest “a difficult personal matter.” Hector Bustos ignored it completely.
While they had little criticism for Alvarez endangering the lives of other drivers, his board allies had plenty to say about anyone calling for his resignation or even drawing attention to Alvarez’s arrest – while practically painting him as the victim in all this.
Torres said criticism of Alvarez – an elected official – for drunk driving amounted to “politicizing” the issue.
“I want you to imagine what that would be like, if that happened to you. That a mistake that you made was made not only made public and written about and folks taking the opportunity to talk about it, but to then have it be politicized and use to denigrate all the work that you would spend your life doing,” complained Torres. “I really want you to think about that.”
Rodriguez expressed his “utter support” for Alvarez to “those of you that like to weaponize the situation.”
“I hope that folks understand that things like this happen,” said Rodriguez. “For people to take one incident, and turn this into a request to ask him to resign ignores the years and years and years of work that he has done on behalf of our community. And so I stand strongly behind him.”
Brazer Aceves said she agreed with everything Rodriguez said about Alvarez and added, “I’m grateful to have him on our team.”
None of the board members had anything to say to the person who was injured when an intoxicated Alvarez collided with them.