El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis resigns amid controversy

EL CAJON (CNS) – Longtime El Cajon Mayor Mark Lewis has resigned amid accusations that he made prejudicial comments about the East County city’s large Chaldean community, it was reported late Thursday.

Lewis, who has been mayor since 1998, resigned for “health reason” in a letter sent to U-T San Diego Thursday night, according to the newspaper, which said Lewis pointed to a minor stroke in 2010, cancer and a dislocated shoulder. It was unclear when the resignation would take effect.

Another letter from the mayor was posted on El Cajon’s website earlier Thursday. In it, Lewis made no mention of resigning but he does apologize to anyone he offended and says he did not intend his remarks to be insensitive.

Lewis was quoted in The Progressive magazine in May as saying that some Chaldean schoolchildren who receive free lunches are “being picked up by Mercedes-Benzes.” It also quoted the mayor as saying, “First time (the Chaldeans) come over here, it doesn’t take them too long to learn where all the freebies are at.”

In his letter posted on the city’s website, Lewis explained his comments to the magazine as “I was simply expressing my opinion that I believe that the limited social services made available to our residents in El Cajon should go to those most in need of them, including those within the Chaldean community.”

An estimated 50,000 Chaldeans — or Iraqi Catholics — live in San Diego County and of those, 10,000 to 15,000 are El Cajon residents.