Just before a vote to possibly censure and strip him of his executive title on the board, Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency Director Dan Mortensen preemptively resigned from his seat representing District 3.
While a handful of SCV Water Agency directors expressed their continued support for Mortensen, Directors Kathye Armitage, Beth Braunstein and Lynne Plambeck asked for a vote formalizing the elected body’s disapproval of their former colleague’s actions. They were later informed that the board cannot censure a member of the public.
“Again, this is according to what the jury ruled, (and that we’re taking) a stance here that we say that we are not OK with this,” said Braunstein, before she was informed of the board policy surrounding censure. “The public is looking and we are all going on record on who we want to be as humans.”
In a written statement sent to the board before the meeting and read by Board President Gary Martin, Mortensen maintained his innocence despite his resignation.
“While I am completely innocent of the charges the government brought against me, I am sensitive to the impact of media and public attention on the smooth functioning of the board,” Mortensen said in his statement. “In order to prevent as much disruption as possible, I tender my resignation from the board at noon today.”
Director BJ Atkins said he believed Mortensen when he maintained his innocence, and said he remains proud of the work Mortensen did as an elected official. He added that “no one knows exactly what happened here” and that it was “an unfortunate sequence of events.”
“Jury got it wrong,” said Atkins, emphasizing each word of the sentence. “And I believe in my heart that he is innocent of this; he was a victim of a series of misunderstandings on the part of the police, put in the government meat grinder and, at the end, the government chose to present a case that the jury simply made a mistake on.”
“I think Dan has been the victim of mistreatment by the prosecutor…and all we know is what we read in the (newspaper),” said Vice President Jerry Gladbach, adding that he did not know if The Signal’s coverage of the trial was accurate or not. “I don’t know that any of us know, but we’re making a judgment based on what may not be true.”
Plambeck said that if the individual board members did not wish to judge Mortensen, or wanted to claim that the jury misunderstood the judge’s instructions, that was their prerogative, but she would listen to the 12 jurors who heard all the evidence and found him guilty.
“Instead of realizing that our judicial system has found a problem in these actions, you have made excuses for him,” Plambeck said, in reference to the statements made by her colleagues. “And I just want to ask you, each of you: In your soul, if a woman did this, if a woman was arrested for prostitution, would you make an excuse in your soul for it?”
Dozens of written comments and public speakers joined together in condemning Mortensen and his actions; while a minority of others continued to defend him.
Mortensen was convicted earlier this month on a single charge of domestic violence in connection with his April 2020 arrest.
In the Santa Clarita courthouse on March 7, a jury stated that the longtime board member and local tax attorney had been responsible for his wife, Morgan Mortensen, being found on the ground in a pool of her own blood in their shared bedroom.
Although offered a 52-week diversion program that would have resulted in the criminal case being dismissed in lieu of a trial, Mortensen informed the judge he wanted to go before a jury because he could not be in domestic violence classes while running for reelection in November.
He is scheduled to return to court on March 29 for his sentencing.