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Merced Councilmember Bertha Perez Faces Scrutiny for Alleged Threats, Inappropriate Conduct
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By The Merced Focus
Published 2 weeks ago on
May 16, 2024

Merced City Councilmember Bertha Perez is under scrutiny for allegedly threatening a witness in her son's child abuse case and sending an expletive-filled voicemail to a local nonprofit leader, raising renewed questions about her conduct. (CVJC/The Merced Focus)

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Renewed questions are being raised about a member of the Merced City Council who was previously the target of formal complaints for statements deemed improper for an elected official.

Bertha Perez, who represents Merced City Council District 3, was named in a Merced police investigative report concerning her son, Marcos Perez III, 39.

He was arrested in March on multiple charges for allegedly abusing up to four children. Councilmember Perez allegedly made threats to a witness in a case, court documents say.

Christian De Jesus Betancourt

The Merced Focus

Separately, the leader of a local nonprofit shared with The Merced FOCUS an expletive-filled voicemail from Perez related to a different matter.

Councilmember Perez – who is serving the final year of a four-year term and will be up for re-election in November – declined to comment for this story after multiple attempts to reach her were made by The Merced FOCUS.

Alleged statements made in son’s case

The felony charges against Councilmember Perez’s son, Marcos Perez III, include lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old, oral copulation of a victim under 10 years, sodomy of a child under 10, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault of a child.

The allegations stem from an investigation that began Feb. 26, according to court documents.

Deputy Public Defender Christopher Loethen, who is representing Marcos Perez III, said he was examining the discovery in the proceedings and had no comment at this time.

A Merced police investigation obtained by The Merced FOCUS found the guardian of one of the reported victims expressed concerns to detectives about her children’s safety and cited threats allegedly made by Councilmember Perez.

“(Councilmember Perez) has called her and threatened to ruin her life, to sue her, to come for her, that she better have enough evidence because she has ‘pull’ and is coming for her head,” according to the police report.

It’s noted on the police report that Councilmember Perez did not specify any criminal threats but rather civil lawsuits.

During a forensic interview, one of the child complainants expressed fear of the defendant’s mother due to her position on the City Council, stating that she felt Perez “has so much control,” according to the police report.

No charges have been filed against Councilmember Perez, but Merced County District Attorney Nicole Silveira told The Merced FOCUS her office is reviewing the case.

Under California law, intimidating a witness or victim can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the case’s specifics, such as whether the intimidation was part of a larger conspiracy or involved threats of violence.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense can result in a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, and a 10-year ban on gun purchases.

If treated as a felony, the offense can carry a prison sentence of up to four years, substantial fines, and a lifetime ban on gun purchases.

A excerpt from the Merced Police Department report concerning Marcos Perez is shown. The report mentions Councilmember Bertha Perez. (The Merced Focus)

Expletive-filled voicemail sent to nonprofit leader

Recently, another well-known member of the Merced community said she, too, has been the target of threats by Councilmember Perez.

The comments in question surfaced in a voicemail allegedly made by Perez to the personal phone of Claudia Gabriela Corchado, deputy director of the nonprofit Cultiva Central Valley.

Corchado, who volunteers with a local softball league, said Councilmember Perez left a threatening message about a disagreement with one of Perez’s other sons, who coaches an opposing team.

“I see you’re trying to slander my son’s name,” the voice states in the recording. “We’re going to talk about you now. You got my attention now. You think you can slander my son … and I will stay silent? Well, let’s f***ing go, you f***ing trashcan b***h.”

Others in the community have accused Bertha Perez of making concerning statements during her time on the City Council.

In 2021, two Merced business owners – auto dealership owner Tim Razzari and Merced Yosemite Realty owner Terry Ruscoe – each filed formal complaints with the City of Merced against Councilmember Perez.

In those cases, she allegedly sent expletive-laden emails and shouted threats, the Merced Sun-Star reported.

Editor’s Note: The voicemail below was allegedly sent by Merced Councilmember Bertha Perez to the phone of Claudia Gabriela Corchado, deputy director of the nonprofit Cultiva Central Valley. Listener discretion is advised. (The Merced Focus)


Do alleged threats violate Merced’s code of conduct?

It’s unclear whether Councilmember Perez could face any consequences, given that the last time citizens filed complaints against her, the City Council did not take formal censure action.

Still, the city’s code of conduct and ethics spell out how members of the City Council are to behave while in office.

According to subsection No. 3 of the code: “The professional and personal conduct of members while exercising their office must be above reproach and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges, or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of the council, boards, committees, and commissions, staff, or the public.”

Corchado believes the language used in the voicemail is inappropriate for a member of the City Council. “We need to be an example,” she said.

“We need to reflect our community values, which include respect and trust. We want to build our community, have healthier environments, and be safer, and yet here we are, being bullied and attacked verbally by someone at the City Council of Merced. She needs to be removed from the City Council immediately. She does not deserve to represent us at the City of Merced.”

The Merced FOCUS called the number connected to the voicemail left on Corchado’s phone.

During a text correspondence with a reporter, the owner of that number denied it was connected to Bertha Perez.

That person then called The Merced FOCUS from the same number, identifying herself as Bertha Perez.

After learning what the inquiry was about, she told The Merced FOCUS the story was a “waste of time,” saying she shouldn’t have to comment on someone else’s arrest.

She then followed by saying, “no comment,” before hanging up the phone.

Marcos Perez III remains at the Merced County Jail on bonds totaling $1 million.

About the Author

Christian De Jesus Betancourt is the bilingual communities reporter at The Merced FOCUS, a nonprofit newsroom covering Merced. The Merced FOCUS is part of the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative.

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