Tulare County supervisor apologizes for 'bite at the tortilla' comment

TULARE, Calif. (KFSN) -- On Tuesday, Ivanhoe's Esmeralda Garcia went online to listen to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.

She also joined a group chat of others tuning in, including several other county residents and a representative of the organization Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

Together, they're asking supervisors to pass a county evictions moratorium.

But around 39 minutes into the meeting, they heard Board Chairman Pete Vander Poel make the following comment towards Supervisor Eddie Valero:

"Alright, Supervisor Valero wants another bite at the tortilla," Vander Poel said before Valero asked a Tulare County department head another question.

Garcia felt that comment was unprofessional and disrespectful.

She sent a message of support to Valero.

"I told him, 'I'm so grateful that you're our supervisor, thank you for always representing us,'" Garcia said. "Because that comment was made when (Valero) had a question. And he always has questions like that."

Vander Poel apologized to Valero on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he told Action News he regrets what he said.

"You know, sometimes a word will just come out and it was not meant to be intentional and hurtful in any way shape or form," Vander Poel said. "And I am very, very sorry to those that were offended by the remarks."

Vander Poel understands how his comment could be viewed as offensive and insensitive.

He says he's taking responsibility for his actions, a lesson he and his wife work to impart on their own children.

"One thing that we try to teach them is we do make mistakes," Vander Poel said. "But when you make mistakes, you learn from your mistakes, you own the mistake, and you don't ever try to do that again."

"Although his comment was in poor taste and shouldn't be reflective of our conduct in board chambers, I accept his apology and know that he will learn from this mistake," Supervisor Valero said on Wednesday. "I hope he is committed to educating himself on implicit bias, and the effects it has on members of our community."
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