Fellow council members deny Mayor Neal's assertions that they're seeking to oust him

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore Mayor Eddie Neal
Lemoore Mayor Eddie Neal

Lemoore council members are disputing Mayor Eddie Neal’s assertions – told this week to The Hanford Sentinel – that some of his fellow council members were trying to remove him from the mayor’s post. Former mayor Ray Madrigal also denied involvement, saying that Neal's reference to him in the article was disingenuous and misleading.

According to the May 21 article, Neal “reached out to The Sentinel” to express his concern that three of his fellow council members, presumably Dave Brown, Chad Billingsley, and Stuart Lyons, were planning to force a realignment of the Council at its May 21 meeting.

Neal declined to speak with The Leader. Following a phone call (Neal’s voicemail was full) and emails to his personal and city accounts, he finally replied: “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I declined to interview. Thank you, sir.”

Tuesday’s scheduled 7:30 p.m. May 21 council meeting did not include Neal’s suspected realignment. Instead, the Council, despite the absence of Councilmember Holly Blair, went on with business as usual, ending the meeting at about 8:25 p.m.

According to the Sentinel, Neal said he had been “informed that the council wishes to remove me … with three votes from councilmembers Billingsley, Brown, and Lyons,” he stated in an email.”

The Leader contacted Brown, Lyons, and Madrigal, all of whom disputed Neal’s statements made to the Sentinel. Councilmember Chad Billingsley was not available.

Neal told the Sentinel that Brown warned Neal that the Council would realign at the May 21 meeting and allegedly asked him to step down as mayor, citing health reasons. Neal also told the Sentinel that the three members were trying to remove him from the mayoral position “due to a perceived alliance between Neal and Councilmember Holly Blair,” who has been a polarizing figure on the current council.

Brown completely denies Neal’s allegations, telling The Leader Wednesday morning that he did not tell Neal that the council was going to realign on May 21. “At no time did I talk to Ray Madrigal or any other council member about this. That’s a fact,” said Brown.

Brown cited a conversation he and Neal had when they both attended a San Joaquin Planning meeting, held at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino. The meeting was held May 9-10 at The Palace. “I was there because I was a part of KCAG (Kings County Association of Governments).”

“He (Neal) mentioned to me that he had his health problems,” recalled Brown, a first-term council member. “When he mentioned to me about his health, I told him … well, if this is ailing you – just as I would say to one of my children – get rid of what’s ailing you. I’ve known Eddie for a while. I consider him a friend of mine. When somebody tells me he’s ailing, I take concern for him. It’s my capacity as Dave Brown, not as a councilman.”

Brown told The Leader that he never talked to other council members about this.

“It’s sad that it has come to this,” he said.  “This is very sad. I’m not a political or partisan guy. I’m not in this for any gain or notoriety. That’s the honest to God truth. I’m trying to serve, make life better for our kids and the people in our city. I just don’t understand how (it) got to this.”

Neal also told The Hanford Sentinel that he received a text message from the former mayor, Ray Madrigal, whom he said referred to him as “a fool” warning him to “get away” before being “hit with the shrapnel.” The Sentinel also reported that Neal said that Madrigal named Billingsley, Brown, and Lyons as the votes intended to remove him.

Madrigal disputed Neal’s assertions and provided The Leader with a copy of the referenced text message. In the text, Madrigal is referring to a post by Councilmember Holly Blair that appeared to suggest that Lemoore would be better off financially without the Lemoore Police Department and instead should consider contracting out police and fire services with Kings County.

Fellow council members deny Mayor Neal's assertions that they're seeking to oust him

In her post, Blair also suggested the city go a “step further and eliminate every department head and save the biggest labor costs in each department.”

“I am disappointed that Eddie involved me in an internal council issue,” said Madrigal. “His reference to my message was disingenuous and misleading. Our communication was in regard to an entirely different concern I have with him as mayor.

“His actions in this matter are just another example of why many people in this community have lost confidence in his ability to lead the council,” said the former mayor.

Councilmember Stuart Lyons refuted Neal’s assertions that the council was on the verge of some form of council realignment. “That’s never been said,” he told The Leader.

“I have had people express their concerns about Eddie’s ability,” he added. “I’ve had concerns about remarks he’s made,” but nothing about removing him from the mayor’s seat, he said.

Fellow council members deny Mayor Neal's assertions that they're seeking to oust him

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