School incident lands Cypress back in censure limbo

Cypress Mayor Paulo Morales Courtesy photo

Cypress is in for another round of censure chaos at the next council meeting after Mayor Paulo Morales announced they will be seeking disciplinary action regarding Councilmember Marquez’s questionable campaign presentation series earlier this month at Cypress High School.

Approved with guidelines from school officials beforehand, Councilmember Marquez along with two candidates running were scheduled for a three-day presentation series intended to inform students on Cypress election and local government procedures.

Spiking further controversy and tension within the council chamber, the disputed visitation with the students on September 7th and 8th, prompted questions and criticism regarding ethical and non-partisan campaign practices ahead of the upcoming election season.
“It’s fostering future leadership. It’s getting kids to know what’s happening in their community and to get them engaged,” said Marquez, in regard to their intention within the presentation series.

However, their intent to recruit and educate student volunteers about the November election with integrity failed in execution according to parental complaints sent in and read at the September 12 meeting.

“A council member basically used my daughter to promote the two candidates of her choosing in the public school and my daughter couldn’t leave if she wanted to,” the letter states, written from a parent within the Cypress High School Parent Teacher Association.
Yet, complaints from parents arose regarding the exclusivity of the event, generated suspicion on whether the invite, or non-invite, of particular candidates was politically motivated.

The two candidates selected were Troy Tanaka, running for school board against Council member Jon Peat, and Helen Le, running for city council.

Tanaka, father of two elementary schoolers in Cypress, denies any partisan motivated agenda heading into the event, however, stating that their main intention was to recruit student volunteers to aid and get involved in their first election process.

A lifelong Cypress resident, Tanaka says he does not want to be caught up in the controversy. “I just want to do what’s right for our community,” he said, “sticking up for teachers, bringing a voice back into the school system,” he added.

While Mayor Morales continued to align his concerns with the parents, Marquez on the other hand remained firm in her claim that it was an open invite policy.

Having campaigned successfully at the high school back in 2018, Marquez claims it has always been an open invite to any candidates interested in adding volunteers to their campaign.

“Everybody’s invited, nobody is excluded. This is something I have been doing for over 30 years. There’s never been any major complaint,” said Marquez.

In addition to the disagreement over whether or not every candidate was extended an invite or not, Morales scolded Marquez for not consulting with the city attorney or manager beforehand, given that she utilized her formal position to solidify the opportunity for school ground campaigning.

“You want to offer your services to the school? Fine. but again, as we’ve asked, you have to let us know you are doing these things,” said Morales, adding that clear communication between her and city staff could have prevented the issue entirely.

Putting the city at risk for a California Education Code violation, the school notified Marquez and the two candidates running for office that they would not be welcomed back after complaints prompted Morales to contact the school and cease the remaining presentations.

Therefore, prohibited from returning on the third day, secondary accounts argue that Marquez abused the opportunity to influence her own personal political ideology onto the kids and broke campaign guidelines given by the school.

Speaking to over fourteen classes over the span of two days, Marquez disclosed a variety of controversial, yet very publicized, issues currently pending within the city such as the CVRA lawsuits, the city yard and behavior issues on the dais with students.

Approaching election month, Marquez defended the importance of bringing awareness to current city issues when speaking to soon to be voters–stating that nothing she said “went out of line” with the parameters given by the school.

“You have to explain things to kids and educate them. If you’re not telling them what’s going on in their community, allowing them to know what’s happening, then that’s a shame because you’re not engaging them” said Marquez, who has a background in education as a college professor.

However, concerned parents and other council members strongly differ from Marquez’s approach. In fact, according to Morales one of the parents perceived her presentation as a form of indoctrination pushed onto the students.“‘Indoctrination.’ That’s how they felt your words were because the issues of the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit were brought up.

The trash issue in the city yard was brought up. The manner in which your fellow colleagues apparently treat you all of those are unacceptable because you are not presenting the city’s position, you are presenting your own,” said Morales.

Cited to pose liability risks for the city, and a violation of the Cypress’ Civility, Conduct, and Governance Policy, Mayor Morales utilized this as a basis to set another censure resolution against Marquez during their next council meeting on September 24th.

With more answers to come regarding the status and validity of Marquez’s expected second censure ordeal, the entangled politics of Cypress is expected to only heat up as election day nears.