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Our Opinion: Who's the boss?

June 25, 2001

No politician in the Imperial Valley has a legion of admirers as large as David Dhillon's.

Those admirers praise his work with kids, his devotion to his community and his cultural awareness.

At the same time, no politician in the Imperial Valley has a legion of detractors as large as David Dhillon.

Those detractors say he is a grandstander, a man of many promises but little fulfillment, a man with the look and résumé of a fine public servant but little in the way of accomplishment.

Three of Dhillon's most vehement detractors are on the El Centro City Council with him. They have been fed up with him for awhile, and the latest brouhaha involves Dhillon calling himself the mayor when he is not.

The council people say Dhillon doing so has hurt the credibility of El Centro in regional and state circles. Dhillon has said if he has been referred to as mayor since he left the post a couple years ago it was inadvertent and he apologizes for any misunderstanding.

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No formal action was taken against Dhillon at last week's City Council meeting, although three council members publicly upbraided him for his behavior. Dhillon fought back, insisting things were being blown out of proportion. Finally City Councilman Jack Terrazas, not one of the council people who had been attacking Dhillon, said enough had been said about the matter and he asked the council to drop it, which it did.

Dhillon and his supporters say this issue was a tempest in a teapot, and we agree with those folks. We do not think the city's credibility has been seriously damaged.

What we are more concerned about is a pattern of what appears to be questionable behavior by Dhillon, from which he always seems to have a back door to escape. The two latest entanglements are the "calling himself the mayor" scandal and a voting controversy that has, as far as we know, yet to be resolved. That imbroglio started last year when Dhillon was running for county supervisor. It involved activities of one of his supporters and some tainted absentee ballots. It's ugly business. Dhillon insists he had no knowledge of any improprieties.

While Dhillon deserves credit for his involvement with the Project for Immigrant Lives, which has been working to keep illegal immigrants from dying in the desert, we are concerned Dhillon has a history of making grandiose proposals to some of our most vulnerable people — children and seniors — with nothing coming to fruition.

What happened to the skate park? The Padres' Little League Park? The senior citizens' center? While similar projects get done in other Valley cities, in El Centro these projects, spearheaded at least at one time by Dhillon, are floundering if not dead.

Dhillon would probably get much less derision from his detractors if he got more done and in doing so was less overt in seeking publicity. And if he does get things done in a few years, there could be the chance he could accurately call himself "Mayor David Dhillon" again.

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