Pubdate: Sat, 03 Jun 2000
Source: Ventura County Star (CA)
Copyright: 2000, Ventura County Star
Author: Aron Miller


PUBLIC OFFICIAL: School superintendent urges Ray Gonzales to step down from 

In 1993, Ray Gonzales was hailed as a hero for saving the Oxnard mayor's 
wife during one of Ventura County's most notorious crimes.

Friday, the Oxnard School District trustee stood in a blue Ventura County 
Jail jumpsuit and pleaded not guilty to accusations he sold methamphetamine 
to a Los Angeles man during a street-level drug deal.

Gonzales' latest troubles could signal the final thud to a fall that has 
happened as quickly as he was thrust into the public light for his heroic 
act seven years ago.

Oxnard Superintendent Richard Duarte called for him to step down from the 
Board of Turstees, which is researching ways to get him removed from his 
position. Under state law, he can't be removed unless he is convicted of a 
felony or a crime related to his official duties as a trustee. The board 
will meet Wednesday to discuss Gonzales' future.

"He has an obligation to serve the entire community as well as the children 
of this community," Duarte said. "By his actions, he's demonstrated that 
he's not able to fulfill those responsibilities."

Fellow Trustee Francisco Dominguez also urged Gonzales to step down, and 
Tom Nielsen, a member of the Oxnard Council of the PTA, was candid in his 

"He should resign in a heartbeat," Nielsen said. "It's a terrible role 
model for teachers, parents and students. You cannot act and behave this 
way repeatedly. He's run amok."

Gonzales, 42, who was convicted of misdemeanor spousal abuse in September 
for pushing his wife during an argument, missed the board's last three 
meetings, according to attendance records. Since Dec. 1, he has missed nine 
of 16 meetings.

He sold his home a few months ago and has been living in his car with his 
wife and at least one child, said Wendy MacFarlane, the deputy district 
attorney who prosecuted the spousal abuse case.

On Wednesday night, he was spotted by Oxnard police officers in what 
appeared to be a drug deal with another man. When officers pulled Gonzales 
over at Channel Islands Boulevard and Ventura Road in Port Hueneme, they 
found several grams of methamphetamine in his car, Detective Robert 
Coughlin said.

They arrested Gonzales on suspicion of sale of a controlled substance, drug 
possession for sale and violation of probation in connection with his 
spousal abuse conviction.

They also arrested Darryl EdwinWarren, 32, on suspicion of similar 
offenses. Gonzales remained jailed Friday with bail set at $55,000. Warren 
bailed out of jail.

The first time Gonzales made headlines in Ventura County was for his 
heroism, not his shortcomings.

OnDec. 2, 1993, a gunman named Alan Winterbourne killed three people at the 
Oxnard Employment Development Office. He injured four others, including 
Irma Lopez, wife of Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez.

As Irma Lopez, who worked as a supervisor at the office, stumbled out of 
the building with two gunshot wounds, Gonzales grabbed her, put her in his 
truck and rushed her to the hospital, where she eventually recovered.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors honored him for his bravery.

During the next few years, Gonzales was viewed as a promising political 
candidate and was backed by the Lopezes and "the Oxnard political machine," 
said Nielsen, who considers himself Gonzales' friend.

The Lopezes did not return repeated phone calls Friday seeking comment 
about Gonzales' arrest.

In 1997, he was elected chairman of Oxnard's Inter Neighborhood Council 
Committee. At the time, he urged committee critics to get involved and stop 

In 1997 and 1998 he served on the Oxnard Planning Commission.

In November 1998, he was elected to the Oxnard School District Board of 
Trustees, and supporters anticipated a long political career, Nielsen said.

But "not everyone can handle the stress," he said. "He couldn't live up to 
the expectations."

Gonzales' problems began in March 1999, when he was arrested in the spousal 
abuse case.

In August, he was fired from his $58,619-a-year job as director of a 
CalWORKS office designed to help welfare recipients get back on their feet. 
Those who worked for him said he had an overbearing management style.

One month later, he was convicted in the spousal abuse case and received 
three years' probation.

Now he faces a June 16 preliminary hearing to see if he will go on trial 
for the drug-dealing charges.

"It seems incongruous that all of this could have happened to one person in 
this period of time," Trustee Dorothie Sterling said. "He has to decide 
what is best for himself and also what is best for the board."
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