Could Chula Vista Councilmember Andrea Cardenas lose her seat if she keeps missing meetings?
Nearly a month after she was charged with fraud and grand theft of federal funds, Chula Vista City Councilmember Andrea Cardenas has yet to attend a city council meeting.
The first-term Democratic councilmember has missed both meetings held since the charges were announced in early November, citing “personal health matters.”
Four absences in a row could be enough to remove Cardenas from office according to Chula Vista’s city charter, which states that a councilmember's office would be immediately considered vacant if they cross that threshold.
Cardenas is already facing several calls to resign, including from Republican Mayor John McCann and Democratic Councilmember Jose Preciado.
Still, the rest of the City Council does have the power to excuse Cardenas’ absences with a majority vote. They did exactly that on Tuesday, excusing Cardenas for the meeting she missed on Nov. 14. Excused absences do not count towards a removal from office.
The lone vote against excusing Cardenas’ absence was McCann, who said during the meeting that he would not support her request. He said he was concerned her absence was obstructing city governance.
“Councilmember Cardenas's frequent absences from recent City Council meetings denies her district constituents effective representation,” McCann wrote Wednesday in an email to KPBS. “It adds further emphasis to the point that her continuation in office is untenable.”
Preciado and fellow Democratic Councilmembers Carolina Chavez and Alonso Gonzalez all voted to approve Cardenas’ request.
In a phone call Wednesday, Preciado said health issues seemed like a fair reason for Cardenas to miss the Nov. 14 council meeting. He said he wasn’t sure whether he would vote to excuse Cardenas’ second absence if she filed a request at next week’s meeting.
“It just depends where all of us are as colleagues,” Preciado said.
Chavez and Gonzalez did not respond to requests for comment.
In early November, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan charged Cardenas and her brother, political consultant Jesus Cardenas, with stealing an emergency pandemic relief loan of $175,000, as well as laundering the money and putting it towards campaign debt and other personal use.
Political support for Cardenas has eroded in the weeks since. A number of vocal residents have joined McCann and Preciado’s calls for her resignation. The countywide Democratic Party also voted to withdraw its endorsement of Cardenas ahead of the March primary election.
On Nov. 9, Cardenas and her brother were arraigned in court and pleaded not guilty in downtown San Diego.
In statements this month, Cardenas said she does not plan to step down voluntarily and has a right to defend herself against the charges. She did not respond to a request for comment.
The next court hearing for her and her brother is scheduled for Jan. 3.