By Ed Martin, Editor
Councilmember Holly Blair
Councilmember Holly Blair

The Lemoore City Council, at its first 2017 meeting, appointed Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith as “acting city manager” as Lemoore City Manager Andi Welsh remains on administrative leave – for reasons known only to councilmembers.

Councilmembers, who met in closed session prior to Tuesday night’s regular session, apparently discussed the employment of the city manager. The closed session agenda included two items relating to the Lemoore city manager, but when they returned to the regular session, councilmembers took no action.

Welsh was placed on administrative leave during a special meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 11. City officials remain silent on the reasons for the administrative leave.

Tuesday night was the first full council meeting for a newly remodeled council, which includes newcomers Holly Blair and Dave Brown. Mayor Ray Madrigal officiated his first full meeting.

While certainly there was a hint of tension in the air due to the circumstances relating to the city manager, councilmembers managed to tackle several items after nearly a month away from city hall. There was even a hint of debate, starting with Madrigal’s appointments to the city’s planning and recreation commissions.

The mayor makes appointments to commissions with the consent of councilmembers. On Tuesday Madrigal appointed Ray Etchegoin to an open seat on the Lemoore Planning Commission. Etchegoin finished fourth in November’s city council elections and is a regular observer at council meetings. The mayor also appointed three new members to the Lemoore Recreation Commission – but not without a debate: incumbent Dustin Fuller and newcomers Leo George and Lemoore Police Officer Jim Cheney.

Blair argued against Etchegoin’s appointment to the planning body, suggesting a “conflict of interest.” Etchegoin is Madrigal’s brother-in-law, and she suggested he step aside due to the nature of the relationship. The mayor countered that it is not a conflict: “I can make a fair choice,” he said. Other councilmembers and the city attorney agreed with Madrigal and approved Etchegoin’s appointment.

Madrigal did fail to get one of his recreation commissioners approved, longtime coach and California Interscholastic Federation official Jeff Cardoza. Cardoza was a teacher and coach at Lemoore High School and now works in an executive position with the Central Section CIF, more than qualifying him for a spot on the commission, yet councilmembers declined to support Cardoza, and instead selected Cheney.

An item Blair requested be placed on the agenda sparked a minor debate among councilmembers. She wants the city to allow her the authority to have her business cards printed at a union shop, which requiring the use of the city’s logo. Currently the city gets its business cards printed in Hanford, at a non-union shop. Blair indicated that her cards would include a union mark on each card.

“I strongly support workers and I support a living wage,” said Blair, who offered to pay for the cards herself. “This would not cost the City of Lemoore a dime.”

Councilmember Jeff Chedester appeared to side against a separate business card. “I would like us to stay together and do it the same way.”

Madrigal suggested city staff investigate the legality of allowing individual use of the logo. “I think we need to have a policy on the logo,” he said. “I think we need to understand the legalities.”

No action was taken.