The Ballad of John Nunez

Once upon a time — okay, in 1996 — there was a Garvey school board member named John Nunez. He apparently didn’t really get along with another school board member named Robert Miranda, because one day Nunez told a couple other officials that, according to press accounts from time,  “the reason Mr. Miranda married Mrs. Miranda was because of the size of her breasts.”

Nunez later apologized to the Mirandas and “nothing of this nature will ever happen again.” But apparently Nunez spoke a little too soon, because in 2005, while a councilman in Rosemead, Nunez allegedly sexually harassed a city employee for two years — massaging her, leering at her and, on one occasion, “looked directly into her blouse in an attempt to observe [her] breasts.”

Nunez denied doing anything wrong, but he also reportedly settled the suit with the employee for $330,000. Then, true to form, he apologized.

“Those of you who know me also know that I’m an affectionate person of the ‘old school,'” he wrote in an April 2005 letter mailed to all Rosemead city employees. “As many of you know, when I see friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I often give them a warm hug, a pat on the back, or make what I consider to be a friendly comment… I recognize that my conduct has resulted in hurt feelings and disappointment for some people in Rosemead. For this, I am truly sorry.”

Nunez, who was up for reelection the following March, did not do well. Apparently, voters were still disappointed in him, and he ended up finishing sixth in a six-person race. But then Nunez did something unique, something no ousted city councilman in California had apparently, shockingly, ever done before.

He filed for unemployment. And you know what? He got it.

Nunez ended up cashing state checks over the next nine months for a total of $11,250 ($450 a week) before the press caught on. “[City Manager Jeff] Allred says city officials objected to Nunez’s unemployment claim but the state Employment Development Department approved it anyway,” the Associated Press reported on Dec. 2, 2009.

Now, according to this LA Times blog post,  Senators Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, and Bob Duttton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, are pushing a bill that will make sure no more elected officials who get unelected can collect unemployment benefits.

As far as Nunez apologizing for this latest transgression, don’t hold your breath. When the AP asked him for comment, he said he was being “picked on” by his political enemies.

-Anthony Pignataro

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