However, she said she saw no reason to relinquish her post, and other city leaders agreed.
“I apologize for my mistake,” she said. “I read (the Modesto Bee’s question) legally, but I answered it incorrectly.”
She said she was not under oath when she answered the question and did nothing illegal.
Mayor Luis Molina agreed and then deferred to City Attorney Tom Hallinan.
“This is not a council issue,” Molina said.
In response to the mayor’s request for clarification, Hallinan said Lustgarten’s truthfulness on a newspaper questionnaire was not relevant to her status as a councilwoman.
“You don’t have the power to remove her for these issues,” he said.
Lustgarten revealed recently that she had previously been in an abusive marriage for more than 10 years, resulting in two bankruptcies and a foreclosure during the 1990s.
The situation drew the ire of rival candidates Dennis McCord and former Councilwoman Annette Smith last week.
On Tuesday, however, about 10 people in the audience showed support for Lustgarten on Tuesday by wearing purple, the color of domestic violence awareness, and about half a dozen stood and clapped after she spoke.
Others spoke in support during the public comment period.
“Let’s all grow up,” said longtime Patterson resident Barbara Perreira.
Patterson resident Laura Bessette said she was proud of what Lustgarten had overcome.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is trash,” she said, holding up a Modesto Bee article from Jan. 6. “Those that are pointing fingers should clam up.”
No one from the audience asked Lustgarten to resign.
The Modesto Bee asked Lustgarten and other candidates on an October questionnaire, “Have you or a business you owned or had principal interest in ever filed bankruptcy?”
Lustgarten simply answered no.
She told the Irrigator last week that she had misread the question and thought that from a legal perspective, her bankruptcies were no longer relevant, because they were more than a decade old.
Bankruptcies by law drop off a credit report after 10 years, and foreclosures fall off after seven years.
Lustgarten filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1994 with her former husband because of medical bills and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1999. During financial woes in 1998, they lost their house. She also said her ex-husband forged her name in attempts to file bankruptcy in 1996 and 1998 that were thrown out of court by a judge.
During her statements Tuesday, Lustgarten pleaded with others to stand up to bullies and abusers.
“I ask everyone to have compassion when someone is being bullied,” she said. “Do not ever let anybody define who you are.”
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31, or firstname.lastname@example.org.