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City of Lompoc looking into allegations against councilmember

Posted at 6:34 PM, Apr 05, 2023

Lompoc city officials say they are looking into allegations by a community member that a councilmember is living outside of the city limits and personally benefiting from her position on another board.

Lompoc resident Martin Bender is accusing District 1 Councilmember Gilda Cordova of potential misconduct. She denies the allegations.

"I am a longtime Lompoc resident. My wife was born and raised here. My four kids all live here, and I have no financial interest in any of this," Bender said. "I don’t benefit from any of this. This was simply me looking into a public official and an organization."

Bender says he began looking into the situation in January when he received word that Cordova was living outside of the Lompoc city limits which, by policy, would have prohibited her from serving on the council. However, in a Facebook video post, Cordova states she purchased the home in the Mesa Oaks neighborhood solely as an investment property and doesn't actually live there.

Bender is also accusing Cordova of personally benefiting from her position on Visit Lompoc's Board of Directors. Visit Lompoc serves as the city's Tourism Business Improvement District.

On Monday, Cordova provided KSBY with the following statement: "I am committed to bring clarity to the allegations being made against myself and my position both on City Council and as president of Visit Lompoc LLC. I am working hard to provide a response with factual information so that the people of Lompoc may have comfort and reassurance that I have represented their best interest."

Bender claims he found other issues with Visit Lompoc's multimillion-dollar contract with the City to help boost local tourism, including late financial reports and miscalculations.

In response to the allegations, Visit Lompoc's Board of Directors held a special meeting last Thursday and voted to have an independent party complete audits of their financial records. They will also have their private attorneys address all of Bender's accusations.

Visit Lompco Board Member Atul Patel also called into Tuesday night's Lompoc City Council meeting and asked the public for patience.

"I find it very offensive that people are already making accusations, alleged accusations. Please give us, the Board, that is an all-volunteer board, the benefit of the doubt and stop accusing or making allegations that are unnecessary until a financial audit is done," Patel said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

A spokesperson with the City of Lompoc says the city attorney's office is conducting its own evaluation of the allegations, but that a preliminary review of Bender's claims found several legal inaccuracies regarding the city's contract relationship with Visit Lompoc.

At Thursday's Visit Lompoc meeting, Board Member Paul Patel told KSBY any appearance of a lack of transparency from the organization has been inadvertent. Though he denied to comment on-camera, he emphasized a complete denial of any financial malfeasance.

Bender also spoke at Tuesday's City Council meeting and requested the city conduct its own audit of Visit Lompoc's finances. On behalf of the Board, Patel said he would support an independent city audit of their books if they voted to do so.