Larry Formalejo, the first Filipino mayor of Colma, stepped down from his post Wednesday after an incident stemming from his son’s DUI arrest became public.
In his resignation letter to City Manager Diane McGrath, which he read aloud at a packed Town Council meeting, Formalejo said that in 2006, his son was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Called to the police station by his son on the night of the incident, Formalejo said he attempted to seek “assistance with the officer in charge on how to help me with my son’s situation.”
Although he resigned from his seat as mayor, Formalejo will keep his seat on the Town Council.
“I am sorry we had to get to this because we take our job very seriously,” Vice Mayor Helen Fisicaro said Wednesday night. She will take over as mayor.
An investigation into Formalejo is continuing, and a report will be issued during the council’s next meeting on March 12.
It is unclear what Formalejo, who was then a council member, said to the officer after the arrest of his 21-year-old son, Dustin Formalejo. In his letter, he said, “I took some actions that may have been perceived as in conflict with my ethical obligations as a City Councilman at that time.”
City Attorney Roger Peters said he thought resigning was the right thing to do “to avoid any perception of improper behavior.”
“I am very sad he resigned. He is the first Filipino mayor and I am just getting to know him,” said Josephine Mirando-Aquino, a member of the Filipino American Association of Colma and one of the many Formalejo supporters who crowded Wednesday night’s council meeting.
City staff had remained tight-lipped after releasing a report Friday calling for an investigation into Formalejo’s alleged misconduct. Peters explained that he did not reveal any details about the mayor’s inappropriate behavior prior to the meeting because he wanted to give Formalejo a chance to explain himself.
Formalejo is the third high-ranking town official that has been embroiled in controversy in recent years. Last year, former Mayor Philip Lum and former Councilmember Ronald Maldonado were indicted on corruption charges for accepting first-class airline tickets from Lucky Chances Casino owner Rene Medina for trips to the Philippines.
Formalejo’s friend and mentor Alice Bulos, an active member of the Filipino community, said Monday that she was surprised to hear of the accusations because the mayor was a role model for local Filipino-Americans.