Brando Villapudua, a sitting member of the Stockton City Council, was unsuccessful in his bid to secure a permanent restraining order against 209 Times founder Motecuzoma Sanchez. But Villapudua indicated he plans to pursue additional legal action.
The council member’s restraining order was quashed by by Judge Erin Guy Castillo during a hearing in a San Joaquin County Superior Court room in Stockton on Wednesday.
Villapudua filed a request for a civil harassment restraining order March 16, accusing Sanchez of continually harassing him starting with an incident two weeks prior on March 1 in a local restaurant following a City Council closed session meeting. The request was partially approved temporarily pending additional court proceedings.
Despite the court ruling, Stockton’s District 5 representative told Stocktonia in a statement that he remains undaunted.
“I took the first step in holding a marketing company that poses as ‘free press’ accountable. I understand the legal scope of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is very narrow,” Villapudua said. “There is no doubt, that multiple individuals associated with 209 Times have engaged in harassment of many that do not do their bidding. That is why I am proceeding with a broader civil case to hold Motec and 209 Times accountable.”
He also invited other citizens who have “been targeted by this marketing company to challenge their heinous actions.”
Attempts to contact Sanchez by Stocktonia via phone Thursday were unsuccessful.
The original complaint
Immediately following a March 1 closed session City Council meeting, Villapudua wrote in court filings that he went to the Valley Brew restaurant on Stockton’s Miracle Mile, whereupon arrival Sanchez “rushed in right behind me” and “approached aggressively with his phone up and (recording) yelling about the closed session items.”
Villapudua described Sanchez demeanor as “verbally attacking and became physically aggressive in such a quick manner,” alleging that Sanchez was upset that he had not voted during closed sessions to oust Stockton City Manager Harry Black.
Sanchez has previously disputed Villapudua’s characterization of the encounter.
All that is officially known about the closed-session meeting in question is from the meeting’s agenda and Villapudua’s account in court documents. The meeting is believed to have included a performance review for City Manager Black where a motion was made to fire him.
According to the Council’s online meeting archive, the agenda for a special meeting held that day was scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and lasted approximately four hours. There were just three items listed on the agenda, all for closed session, which included a “public employee discipline/dismissal/release” relating to the city clerk and two items described as “public employee performance evaluation,” one of which concerned the “City Manager.”
Villapudua said in court documents that the closed session meeting had been schedule “to address Executive Management,” describing himself as the tie-breaking vote that saved Black’s job. Four of the seven council members would have been needed to vote for Black’s removal as city manager.
The other six council members either did not previously respond to Stocktonia’s request for comment or refused to discuss closed-session business due to the legal implications of mandates imposed by the California Brown Act, a state law that requires government meetings and decision making be open to the public.
David Snyder, executive director of The First Amendment Coalition, told Stocktonia at the time that provisions in the California law dictate that members of a public government body, such as a city council, are not typically permitted to divulge closed session discussions to the public. Stockton City Attorney Lori Asuncion also told Stocktonia that city staff are not even privy to what happens in the Council’s closed session meetings unless their presence is necessary to the immediate discussion, such as to present information or answer questions.
But Villapudua stated that some sort of Brown Act breach is exactly what happened, as Sanchez had information about the meeting an outsider should not had access or knowledge.
The relationship between Sanchez and Villapudua has disintegrated since the 2022 election, when Sanchez was a consultant and vocal supporter of Villapudua’s efforts to win the city council seat.