In a rather fishy development, Captain Michael Merino, a member of the city of Orange’s five-member planning commission and a registered Republican, was denied the chance for reinstatement on Tuesday after the Navel reservist took a two-year leave of absence when he was deployed to serve at Guantanamo Bay. The Democratic mayor of Orange, Tita Smith, is refusing to nominate Merino for the now-vacant post. Merino also served in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Councilman Denis Bilodeau, also a Republican, is calling for the City Council to bring up the subject for consideration on Tuesday November 26th, with local veterans groups expected to attend.
Merino served on the Orange Planning Commission from 2006 through 2011.
Smith said Merino’s term expired during his deployment and because he had been on the panel more than five years, a new person was needed to replace him.
Bilodeau stated, “I am heartbroken that Capt. Merino answered his call of duty, and we are not honoring that by giving him his position back.”
Merino has asserted that he thought his job on the commission would be protected by federal regulations covering military personnel, but smith said the federal provisions do not cover the jobs on the commission.
Merino, who had run twice for city council, was disillusioned, saying, “I am disappointed by the council’s actions. I have no intention of running for council again. I don’t understand the politics behind this decision.”