In the Palm Springs home where the city's first mayor lived, Frank Bogert's widow, Negie Bogert, said the campaign to move a statue of her husband is full of slander and lies.
"I am very proud of who I am but I am even prouder of who Frank was and what I know about Frank," Bogert said in an exclusive interview with News Channel 3. "I don't think that he was perfect but he was not by any means what they portray him as being."
A bronze statue of Frank Bogert on a horse sits out front of Palm Springs City Hall. This week, city council will vote whether or not it should be removed.
The city's Human Rights Commission recommended earlier this year the statue be removed, saying it's a painful reminder of past racism in Palm Springs.
Community activist David Weiner started the online petition that now has nearly 3,000 signatures to move the statue. He said the former mayor's role in evicting communities of color from Section 14 in 1961 – their homes set on fire and demolished – is something the city's residents no longer stand for.
"I question why we have the mayor from that period in a place of honor in front of our city hall," Weiner said.
"For them to say my husband is racist, it could not be any further from the truth," Bogert said. "I truly believe that Frank was colorblind when it came to human beings."
Bogert, who was born in Mexico and is now a U.S. citizen, is a member of "Friends of Frank Bogert," a group which has flooded the internet and airwaves with commercials defending the ex-mayor's legacy.
"Frank Bogert is one of Palm Springs' most respected mayors," one commercial says. "He worked tirelessly with every community of color, working with the Mexican community in friendship and harmony."
Bogert wasn't yet married to her late husband when Section 14 was destroyed, but she disputes how it's been portrayed.
"People had enough time to make arrangements to move out," she said. "To continue to allow those people to live in those circumstances, it would have been more inhuman. There was not running water; there was not sewage; there was not electricity."
Weiner, who said the evictions were absolutely wrong, now just wants to make amends. "Isn't it time that we just do the right thing," he said.
Last week, the Friends of Frank Bogert tried to delay Wednesday's hearing on the statue, claiming ethical and procedural violations in city council.
The city said the claims are "baseless." The meeting is set for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.