La Puente Replaces Council Member Following Absences, Lawsuit

Her removal has been clouded in mystery as the matter is surrounded in pending litigation


Mayor Charlie Klinakis answers a resident’s question while former Mayor Pro Tem Violeta Lewis takes notes.

Former planning commissioner Nadia Mendoza officially replaced council member Violeta Lewis following a special meeting of the La Puente City Council on Jan. 25.

Mendoza, who had served on the commission since 2015 and previously served on the council from 2007 to 2012, was approved in a 3-0 vote with council member David Argudo absent.

Argudo was present during Mendoza’s nomination, on Jan. 11, when he nominated longtime resident and council member John Solis to fill Lewis’ vacancy. Failing to receive a second, Argudo’s nomination failed.

This result was similar to Solis’ reelection bid in 2020, where he lost the third available council seat to Lewis by a total of 39 votes.

That 4,904 to 4,865 loss was bifurcated further by votes going to a new challenger to the council, hairdresser Gabriel Quinones, who led a successful social media campaign and ended as the second highest vote getter at 5,648. Quinones was just 167 votes behind Argudo.

Rounding out the election campaign was Dan Holloway, who had passed away during the campaign trail but garnered 3,365 votes. In his last election, in 2016, Holloway was the mayor and top vote getter with 1,194 votes. Lewis trailed 48 votes behind him in that election.

That election had been a similar struggle for Solis, despite gaining over 1,000 votes. That time, however, he edged out incumbent Charlie Klinakis by six votes. Solis had previously served on the council from 2000 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2020.

Mendoza’s appointment was motioned by newcomer Quinones and seconded by mayor pro tem Valerie Munoz and approved in a 4-0 vote after a brief discussion followed the council’s three options on how to fill their council vacancy.

Options For Filling Vacancies

When a vacancy appears on a local board or council, the governing body has three actions it can take: It can appoint someone, call a special election or do nothing.

Doing nothing still triggers a special election, but that option does not involve having the city work with the county on initial setup. Thus, it is really just two options.

The city opted for an appointment process after a brief discussion.

Absence Turned Into Vacancy
The seat was declared vacated on Nov. 17, around 239 days after Lewis’ last council meeting on March 23 in a 3-0-1 vote. Klinakis abstained.

Government code considers the seat vacant after 60 days, according to the city staff report.

Lewis had missed 239 days and she later filed a lawsuit against the city of La Puente, its mayor and its city manager alleging sexual harassment was covered up. Mayor Klinakis was later dropped from the suit.

As more information becomes available, this article will be updated.