Chino Valley Fire District board member Winn Williams was censured Wednesday night for a fourth time since he took office in November 2018 for using an anti-semitic remark at the June 10 board meeting when talking about a fire district attorney’s last name.
The previous three censures occurred in 2019 when the board alleged that Mr. Williams violated several policies.
The board voted 4-1 to censure Mr. Williams for using the word “Jew” on June 10 when speaking to board vice president Sarah Ramos-Evinger about attorney Isaac Rosen.
That meeting was videotaped and is posted on the fire district’s website — chi novalleyfire.org.
“Sarah, you asked me to resign on my second meeting,” he said on June 10. “And then you made comments twice because I asked our attorney, who has a Jew name, if he celebrates Christmas. And you made a big deal out of that, but you don’t think a thing about asking me to resign on my second meeting.”
During Mr. Williams' explanation of the comment, he mistakenly referred to Mr. Rosen as "Mr. Isaacs."
He stated, “Back during the holidays, I asked Mr. (Rosen) if he celebrated Christmas. That was the statement that I asked Mr. (Rosen),” Mr. Williams said. “I like Mr. (Rosen), he has always been professional and courteous to me, and unlike Jeff Ballanger (another fire district attorney), I think he is ethical and confident. I wanted to know if Mr. (Rosen) celebrated Christmas so I can wish him a Merry Christmas or wish him well for whatever holiday he celebrated.”
Mr. Williams, who said his grandmother is Jewish, stated that since Mr. Rosen has a Jewish or Hebrew name, he did not want to assume he celebrated Christmas.
“If he was offended by my comments at the last meeting, or me asking if he celebrated Christmas, I would appreciate it if he would let me know and I would gladly apologize to him,” Mr. Williams said. “I certainly don’t owe anyone else an apology, especially the others sitting up here on this board. They are trying to make something out of nothing.”
Several board members said they were appalled by the comment.
“I was shocked at the words that you used, Winn,” said board member Mike Kreeger. “It was disgusting. It was horrible. It was just shocking to me.”
He asked Mr. Williams to read fire board policy 2070.2 (d), which states “board members shall at all times conduct themselves with the utmost courtesy to each another, to staff and to members of the audience present at board meetings and shall refrain at all times from rude or derogatory remarks, reflections as to integrity, abusive comments, and statements as to motives and personalities."
“I’m embarrassed by the words that you said,” Mr. Kreeger said. “I do not feel that reflects the fire district or my values and you certainly do not speak on my behalf. And I don’t want you speaking on behalf of the fire district.”
Mrs. Ramos-Evinger said the past 17 months since Mr. Williams was elected have been a “nightmare.”
“There were many occasions when I stayed quiet and hoped Mr. Williams would stop his nonsense, but as an elected director to this board and a citizen of this community, I have an obligation to serve the office and hold the oath I took upon this department,” Mrs. Ramos-Evinger said.
She said the June 10 meeting left her upset and she had trouble sleeping that night after Mr. Williams said she was making a big deal out of nothing.
“His actions and comments were racist, anti-semitic, derogatory, unprofessional and an embarrassment to this department,” Mrs. Ramos-Evinger said.
Three speakers also expressed their displeasure with Mr. Williams' choice of words.
Jody Moore, lead pastor of Transformation Church IE in Chino, said it was wrong for Mr. Williams to assume Mr. Rosen's religious practice based solely on his name.
"This elected official then had the temerity to defend this offense to other colleagues on this board," Pastor Moore said.
"I raise this issue because this nation is in a season of racial unrest. It is my duty to do whatever I can do help my community in this great effort. I can't help but believe that this member of the board made the comment that he made from a place of comfort because this is probably what is said around his dinner table."
The pastor said Mr. Williams has disrepected the "historical harmony" of the fire board and undermined the purpose of the board with personal vendettas.
"Let's just say, someone has caused great harm to the employees of this district," Pastor Moore said.
Chino Hills resident and Inland Empire Utlities Agency board member Steve Elie, who is the agency's liasion to the Chino Valley Fire District, said the comment was appalling.
"That slur, sir, is anti-semitic," Mr. Elie said. "It's a hate crime. Your anti-semitic remarks are unbelieveably callous, wrong, not welcome in any forum, and certainly not in a public forum."
Brad Goldman, a Chino Hills resident who has repeatedly asked Mr. Williams to resign during the past year, said Mr. Williams doesn't care about anyone but himself.
Mr. Williams said he was sorry for the relationship he has with the board and didn’t come to cause problems.
“I think some of the words that I say have been twisted and turned around and used against me,” he said.
“I’m very sorry it has gone the way that it has. I see things that go on and are ignored. I bring them up and try to make an issue out of them. That’s why I am on the board, trying to get things squared away. I guess I am not doing a good job of it.”
He asked board members what he could do to change the situation.
“Stop with the personal attacks,” Mr. Kreeger said.