Council's Neal asks mayor for explanation of city-funded golf outing

Council Member Eddie Neal
Council Member Eddie Neal

Normally soft-spoken council member Eddie Neal displayed a touch of anger and disappointment at Tuesday’s Lemoore City Council meeting, chiming in at the end of the meeting, during council requests and comments, that Mayor Billy Siegel may have unnecessarily used city funds to play a round of golf and have lunch at the Lemoore Golf Course.

Just moments after fellow council member John Gordon praised Parks and Recreation Director Joe Simonson for his efforts at organizing and promoting the downtown farmer’s market, Neal took his opportunity and blasted the mayor for not informing the council of an apparent golf outing involving Simonson and the mayor, as well as a city employee.

Recently there has been speculation that the city was considering selling the 21-year-old 18-hole course to the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, but as of Thursday (August 8) Lemoore Interim City Manager Jeff Laws told The Leader than he hasn’t received any kind of offer. In fact The Leader has been told by sources that they don’t expect the golf course to be sold.

Neal wanted Siegel to explain a recent meeting at the Lemoore Golf Course between the mayor, Simonson, a city recreation employee, and a representative of a firm hired by the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino to evaluate the Lemoore course. Apparently the four played golf on the city’s credit card.

“Do we as a council know about this,” asked Neal. “If I’m going to go golfing and the city has to pay for it with our tax dollars…and they eat on it and don’t tell us about it, how does that work? I heard that …Joe Simonson and one of his workers, as well as the mayor, they used our city’s money to go out and golf with these Tachi Palace guys and then have a meeting and lunch.

“How is that fair to the other council members? Is that the new liaison that we didn’t pass? How does that work?” he asked, referring to a Siegel-backed proposal to have a community member or council member sit in on meetings with the city manager. The proposal was tabled last month.

“Be specific,” asked Siegel. “We’re all grown-ups here.”

“I think we all know we’re grown-ups here,” Neal responded.

Following several awkward, silent moments Siegel responded. “We went out to play golf. We went out to evaluate the golf course,” he said and then asked Simonson to explain why he was at the meeting.

Simonson explained that in his job he is often asked to play golf on many different courses to evaluate and give his opinion as the only avid golfer on the staff. The Tachi golf representative, based out of San Jose, may have had some questions of the mayor.

Neal asked Simonson how he was privy to information about the golf course and the council was left out of the loop.

“I work for the city manager,” said Simonson.

“Mr. Simonson has the authority to do that,” said Siegel. “You don’t have the authority to tell him what he can and can’t do,” lectured Siegel.

“Did I tell him what to do?” Neal quickly retorted.

Contacted on Thursday, Laws told The Leader that the golf outing was an opportunity for a golf consultant, hired by the Tachi Palace and Casino, to evaluate the course. He acknowledged he knew about the meeting and approved paying for the golf with a city credit card. It’s unsure who paid for lunch.

“The Tachi wanted somebody to come down and look at the course,” said Laws.

Asked if there were any negotiations occurring during the golf outing, Laws said he doesn’t know. “I do not believe there was any negotiations, but I was not there.”

Comments powered by Disqus