By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Lemoore City Council: Lemoore's 'must see TV' thanks to the power of social media

The Lemoore City Council – at times – resembles a mediocre soap opera. It can be entertaining, but sadly, and unfortunately, this "soap" is reflecting poorly on the City of Lemoore - and people can watch the antics, and the drama, all play out on Facebook.

This ongoing drama – or comedy – depending on who is speaking at the time, has all the elements of a good story gone bad: fascinating characters, foul language, rules violations, obscene gestures, and litigation, and for the last year, viewers from Lemoore to Moscow can watch it all on their computer screens.

But it's no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Two years ago, could we have envisioned a scenario in which Lemoore's councilmembers, fed up with the antics of one boorish councilmember, find themselves begging a Kings County judge for a temporary restraining order against one of their own?

Was it also within the realm of possibility that a council would deploy a censure resolution against the same councilmember – sending a powerful message that bad behavior is unacceptable?

And, at the same time, local citizens, fed up with a councilmember's antics, mounted a recall, only to see it fall short.

It could make for a good soap opera, possibly a mini-series, or maybe even a boring column in the local online newspaper.

Never in a million years! Impossible! Can't possibly imagine it. As a former councilman and mayor, never could I have envisioned a scenario in which councilmembers take such drastic steps to stifle a fellow legislator. It never remotely occurred on my watch. Such a plot was virtually non-existent.

But it has come to this: a restraining order and a censure? What's next? Councilmembers might think about requesting funds to build a wall around the councilmember's dais seat – and then, of course, make Hanford pay for it?

There is so much to write. Where does one start? When the councilmember failed to convince her fellow councilors to plop her in the mayor pro tem's seat in December  – and failed – she proceeded to refer to her four elected mates as "terrible." Terrible is a confusing term to define in this case. Who was it that appeared to violate The Brown Act, California's sacred code that prohibits local elected officials from conducting business out of the public's view?

Indeed, Ms. Blair may have violated the Brown Act, a prominent state law that forbids local government elected officials from making decisions outside of the council chambers. One can consider excusing the newest councilmembers because as newly elected officials, they probably weren't familiar with the long-standing law.

The first-term councilmember, in her third year on the council, was well aware of the law, even attending essential Brown Act workshops, provided by the League of California Cities. She knew better. The concept is simple. All legislative actions, whether voting to raise the water rates or elect a mayor pro tem, must be discussed in public session.

Of course, the latest embarrassment is the city's request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), which is on sort of a hold – for now. Kings County Judge Kathy Ciuffini, a recently elected judge, who I'm guessing in her wildest dreams wouldn't have imagined litigating a restraining order against a sitting councilmember, denied the City of Lemoore's request so that the two sides might find time during court-mandated mediation to resolve their differences. Good luck with that.

A censure?

A recall effort?

A restraining order?

What's next?

California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento.
California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento.

The latest salvo involving our social-media friendly councilmember comes courtesy of the California Democratic Party, (CDP) which recently booted Mr. Blair from her statewide committee assignments, resulting in the Party's removal of her life-size photo from its headquarters in Sacramento. For some time, her smiling face has adorned a large window on the second floor of the building. Other notable Democrats also have prominent places gracing the building.

In a somewhat brief statement, issued by the Democratic Party, the explanation for her removal was because "Ms. (Holly) Blair is not a delegate to the California Democratic Party. To be on a committee, you must be a delegate."

Blair recently served as the Kings County Democratic Central Committee chairperson, a position that allowed her to serve on various committees until she unexpectedly resigned last year. Former CDP chairman, Eric Bauman, according to Democratic sources, was a booster of the first-term councilmember. Bauman recently resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct, one of the latest politicians forced to step down in the "Me Too" era.

For months the councilmember has railed against the Lemoore Police Department, its chief and many of its officers, and without providing any substantive proof of wrongdoing. She has accused the department of targeting her, including stopping her several times for reckless driving. She also accused the police chief of lying to her and a senior commander of failing to follow up on a sexual assault allegation. She provided no substantive proof that any of her claims were true.

None of the allegations are true, said city officials. She never received a ticket for reckless driving, and the police did investigate the assault allegations. City officials – police officers – don't discuss cases in public.

Furthermore, city officials, in their August censure, accused Blair of improperly publicly disclosing confidential information and breaching the trust and confidence of her council colleagues through public disclosure of privileged personnel matters, engaging in conduct that is disrespectful, discourteous and inappropriate toward city staff,  interfering with city staff and management in personnel matters, and improperly engaging in communications that potentially prejudice the city in liability matters without prior council approval.

During the court hearing in January, during which the City of Lemoore requested a temporary restraining order, the judge declined and instead recommended mediation.

Good luck with that. I’ve got to go. My favorite “Soap” is starting.