City official’s tweet brings ethics controversy


Christopher Paul Cardoza

Jocabed Marquez won her Place 5 seat on the council after garnering 62.81% in a run-off election against Rick Henderson December 11, 2018.

Daniel Weeks, Assistant News Editor

A tweet from San Marcos Councilwoman Jocabed “Joca” Marquez prompted a formal ethics complaint, currently being investigated by the Ethics Review Commission.

Nov. 6, 2019, Marquez published a tweet on her personal account criticizing affordable housing developers.

“All the developers seeking to make big profits in SM from ‘affordable housing’ all have the same look: White, male, tall, wear blue blazers, money hungry, and emotionless… AND It feels damn good to vote against their proposed developments,” Marquez said.

Real estate manager and San Marcos resident Phil Hutchinson noticed this post and proceeded to attend the following City Council meeting Nov. 19, 2019, giving a brief speech during the public comment period. He referenced the tweet during his speech, accusing the post of containing bias and stating Councilwoman Marquez can not make objective decisions.

Hutchinson said he believes Marquez exhibited ethnicity bias in the following council meeting.

“After the speech I waited to see if there was any backpedaling on social media afterwards and there was not. I showed up at the next city council meeting listening for the same thing,” Hutchinson said. “What happened at that meeting was a developer with an affordable housing project (came before the council). He was white and wearing a blue blazer, and Joca voted against. (Marquez) has basically said in her tweet than an applicant’s ethnicity is a factor in her decision, so I think she should step down or be removed.”

Hutchinson worries that Marquez’s denying of developers in this way could harm San Marcos’s reputation, subsequently disincentivizing prospective low-income housing projects.

“The issue of affordable housing is close to my heart, so part of the concern I had with Joca’s tweet had to do with her suggestion that the city council should or could control the amount of profit a developer might make when they bring affordable housing projects to San Marcos,” Hutchinson said. “If we remove the profit motive for developers, our odds of getting good projects goes way down. The community of folks doing tax credit or other types of affordable housing projects is small, and word will get out that San Marcos is a difficult town to deal with. It’s not for Joca to say what constitutes ‘big profits’”

In response to the criticism she received, Marquez said her now-deleted tweet was in reference to a system rather than a particular person.

“People are always thinking that it’s about a person but it’s really not about a person, it’s not about a white person – it’s about a system,” Marquez said. “A system of whiteness that has oppressed people of color and has gentrified our city that is just seeking to make big money—that’s what it was.”

Following the Nov. 19, 2019 City Council meeting, Hutchinson submitted a formal ethics complaint to the San Marcos Ethics Review Commission on Dec. 12, 2019. The complaint states Marquez’s tweet violated the city’s Ethics Ordinance code 2.421.

“It is the policy of the city that all city officials and employees shall conduct themselves both inside and outside the city’s service so as to give no occasion for distrust of their integrity, impartiality or devotion to the best interest of the city and the public trust which the city holds,” Hutchinson said.

The Ethics Review Commission held an executive session Jan. 6 to discuss the complaint, voting to hold a public hearing to further discuss the situation.

Marquez reposted the previously deleted tweet, defending the message by stating its intentions were to address systematic oppression.

Clayton Bradshaw, graduate student, said Marquez’s statements follow the ethics ordinance by prioritizing the needs of San Marcos citizens.

“She is not exhibiting discrimination but rather protecting people from it. Focusing on this tweet instead of the arguments made in council chambers distracts us from the task at hand,” Bradshaw said. “In fact, it follows it closely by demonstrating that she handles ‘each administrative problem objectively and empathetically.’ The problem that many seem to have is that her empathy lies with the people of San Marcos, not the outside developers who with to exploit those people.”

The Ethics Commission’s private hearing will take place Jan. 29. city council appointed the Davidson Troilo Ream & Garza law firm as special counsel to advise the commission during the process of considering Hutchinson’s complaint.

San Marcos City Council meets every first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. The agenda can be accessed through the agenda center on the City of San Marcos website.

News Editor Chase Rogers contributed to this article.

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