By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor

A local group, dissatisfied with the actions of at least two members of the Lemoore City Council, has organized in an effort to recall Lemoore Mayor Billy Siegel and Council member John Gordon. To mount a successful recall is not an easy undertaking, but according to local organizer Lisa Elgin, it would be worth it.

To the best of anyone's knowledge there never has been a successful recall in the City of Lemoore.

Elgin, a former planning commissioner and city council candidate, told The Leader that there is currently a core group of 20-25 persons committed to the effort to recall Siegel and Gordon. The group held its initial meeting Saturday at the Lemoore Trinity Hall and came away with a plan for the recall.

“We have three reasons we decided on (the recall),” said Elgin. “The main one is that they are just not listening to the majority of the people of Lemoore.”

She cited a recent public hearing in the Lemoore Civic Auditorium where nearly 200 persons showed up to hear the reasons for eliminating the Lemoore Planning Department. Every person who spoke at the gathering was against eliminating the planning department. Not one person spoke out in favor of the proposal, yet the council voted to eliminate the department by a 3-2 vote that same evening.

She also cited the current council’s intentions to change the zoning ordinances, only months after completely overhauling them.

“They’re not listening to anybody but their own special interests,” she said.

Elgin said the recall committee is a strong one. “I think it’s a very committed group,” she said. “We have a cross section of all the demographics in Lemoore.”

Elgin also says the recall effort will have some funds behind it. “We have quite a bit of money pledged,” she said.

Siegel is currently in his second four-year term, having been re-elected in November. Gordon is in his first term following his election in 2010. Other members of the council include Willard Rodarmel, Lois Wynne, and Edward Neal.

The Leader attempted to contact Mayor Siegel, but he hung up the phone when asked about the recall effort.

Council member Gordon was more forthcoming in responding to the suggested recall. “I want to see some hard documentation,” he told The Leader. “I don’t want to speculate.”

He added: “We live in a democracy … and when I see what their concerns are I’d be more than happy to address them.”

The council members came under fire earlier this year when they forced out longtime city manager Jeff Briltz. They followed that with the elimination of the planning department and the hiring of Quad Knopf to run the city’s planning department.

The latest issue to strike a note of discontent with some is Siegel and Gordon’s proposal to create a liaison, which was tabled at the council’s last meeting July 2. Council member Edward Neal appeared to rebuff the mayor when he changed his stance on the liaison, forcing council member Gordon to suggest they table the issue.

The liaison was an idea put forth by Siegel and Gordon to keep council members and the public better informed of important daily business proceedings. Under plan the council liaison could be any council member or a member of the public who resides within the city limits. The liaison would be informed of any important meetings related to city business and could attend and participate in the meetings with the city manager.

The proposed liaison would have required council action to allow a liaison, whether a member of the public or a council member to sit in on meetings with the city manager. At the initial council meeting where the liaison was discussed, council member John Gordon suggested that Mayor Siegel take on that role, though no formal action was taken.

Siegel, in arguing for the liaison told council members a liaison is needed for the public’s right to know what’s going on with their city. “We’re not trying to micromanage,” he said. “It’s a matter of checks and balances.”

Siegel seemed to blame the need for a liaison on former city manager Jeff Briltz, who the council unceremoniously forced out earlier this year. “With the former city manager, I don’t feel that I was informed. I’m hearing things now that I should have known then,” said Siegel. “People ask me questions. Why was the city allowed to this to us? I don’t know because I didn’t get the information.”

Gordon supported the concept of a liaison. “We have a responsibility to keep informed, and we’re here to act on behalf of our constituents.”

Siegel was adamant about the liaison suggesting that the public doesn’t know what former city manager Briltz steered away from the city, and neither do we,” he said. Siegel even cited the case of a constituent who he claims had less than desirable negotiations with Briltz involving a parcel of land. Siegel claimed the landowner had a bitter taste in his mouth after dealing with the former city manager.

If there is no liaison then council members will indeed start micromanaging, insisted Siegel.

The committee hopes to serve an initial notice of intention to the council members at their next meeting on July 16. They must also file and publish a notice of intention to proceed with a recall election.

The council members who are noticed then have an opportunity to file an answer to the recall notice within seven days. Elections officials then have to approve a formal petition and once approved the circulators have 90 days to gather signatures. The petitions can only be circulated by residents of the city and only those registered to vote in city council elections may sign the petitions.

The recall committee will need to collect at least 25 percent of the signatures of those registered to vote in the city of Lemoore, and according to Elgin that comes out to about 2,500 signatures.

Once verified by the city or county elections, the city council must issue an order stating there will be a recall election. The election shall be held not less than 88 nor more than 125 days after the issuance of the order.