Mayor Siegel served with notice of intent to recall him during study session

Mayor Siegel served with recall notice
Mayor Siegel served with recall notice

A local committee charged with recalling Mayor Billy Siegel, took the first step toward booting him out of office by serving the controversial mayor with a notice of intention to circulate recall petitions at the start of Tuesday night’s Lemoore City Council Study Session.

The original petition was signed by 10 Lemoore registered voters and presented to Siegel by committee member Jane Dart, one of the organizers of the recall effort that originally included Councilmember John Gordon.

Gordon was not included in the recall notice Tuesday night. Committee members say Gordon is up for re-election in November and members will campaign against his election.

“I think it’s going to happen,” said Dart who has been working diligently on the recall effort since last summer with former planning commissioner Lisa Elgin. “We’re going to need 2,000 signatures.” According to Elgin, the committee had between 25-30 active members. Elgin, who could not be at the meeting Tuesday night because she’s finishing up her Senior Project for Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She’s currently working as a public outreach coordinator for the City of Redwood.

“The recall effort is stronger than ever due to Billy’s (Siegel) unrestrained arrogance,” said Elgin. “For all the reasons listed in the notice and many more, including threatening to remove Councilmember Neal for missing meetings while recovering from serious injuries in an auto accident, the recall will be successful.”

The recall effort must also file and publish a notice of intention in a local newspaper to proceed with a recall election. Siegel will 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 Dart that comes out to about 2,000 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.

The Committee to Recall William Siegel had been threatening since last summer to recall Siegel and Gordon, but finally opted just to serve notice on Siegel Tuesday night. A number of reasons are cited in the notice, including Siegel’s actions in regards to the firing of City Manager Jeff Briltz and dismantling the entire planning department and laying off all its employees.

The notice also cited Siegel’s attempt to create a council liaison and nearly doubling Siegel’s compensation package as well as his negotiations regarding the sale of the golf course that included meetings that other councilmembers were unaware of. It also mentions Siegel’s golf outings paid for by the taxpayers and an illegal free meal paid for by a representative of the Tachi.

Siegel’s recent actions and decisions have been no better, say committee members in the notice to recall.  The grounds for the recall as they appear in the Notice are as follows:

During his one year as mayor, Mr. Siegel has ignored the City Council’s adopted Code of Ethics, terminated key employees that stood in the way of his plans, voted himself taxpayer benefits that nearly doubled his compensation, hired his unqualified friend to be city manager, wrote and sent defamatory e-mails speaking for the City Council and signed as mayor, accepted illegal gifts, attacked and spoke in poor taste of citizens while sitting on the dais, appointed two family friends to Planning Commission, and attempted to create a “Council Liaison” position so he could attend all meetings with city manager.  Most disturbing, Mr. Siegel has repeatedly refused to listen to the public when they speak at meetings, and refers to the public that does speak out as “a mob.”

According to Dart, flyers spelling out many of the accusations against Siegel were distributed as Lemoore residents left the council chambers Tuesday night. “Everybody took flyers as they left,” she said. “One man took a stack and said he’s going to go around his neighborhood and distribute them. I didn’t get a negative response,” said Dart.

The text of a recently circulated flyer by the group reads as follows:

The City Council adopted Code of Ethics demands trustworthiness, respect, fairness, caring, citizenship and responsibility.  All of these characteristics are absent in the decisions and actions being made by Mayor Siegel.

Termination of Key Employees that Stood in His Way

Very shortly after a disagreement of a legal interpretation the city attorney was replaced.  The city manager, who piloted the City through the financial crisis without laying off any employees and maintained the reserve funds at over $6 million, was called and forced to resign while away on a family vacation.  With no notice, all employees of the planning department and code enforcement were told to pick up their purses and leave because they were being placed on administrative leave, and were all later laid off.  The reason given for eliminating these four employees was that their salaries had to be cut in order to pay the city manager’s severance package.  However, the city manager had left enough money in reserves to pay his severance package more than 35 times.

Voted Himself More Taxpayer Benefits – Nearly Doubling His Compensation

On March 19, 2013 Mayor Siegel voted to increase council member’s benefits.  Historically, the mayor receives $400 per month.  However, Mayor Siegel initiated and then voted for a new benefit package that would have the taxpayers of Lemoore contribute an additional $354.54 per month into a deferred compensation account that he will collect upon his retirement.  Mr. Siegel says he is committed to small government and ending unnecessary spending, but nearly doubled his own compensation package. 

Hired His Poker Buddy to be City Manager

In June 2013, after determining experience and educational requirements for the position of City Manager, the mayor gave interim city manager and poker buddy, Jeff Laws, the go ahead to review applications for the position of city manager.  Laws and administrative analyst, JP Pritchard, determined the list of lucky individuals to be interviewed by both a professional and a citizen panel.  The top candidates were then interviewed two more times by Council.  However, none of the candidates were chosen, and the mayor’s friend, Laws, was given the job.  Laws does not have the education or experience required of applicants. He did not go through the process as required by Council and was able to determine who did get to go through the process.  By the way, after Mr. Siegel squealed repeatedly that the former city manager’s severance package was excessive, he voted for a comparable package for his friend, Jeff Laws, which also protects Laws from being fired after new council members are elected. 

Disrespectful, Unfair, Dishonest, Irresponsible….E-mails

On September 1, 2013 Mayor Siegel sent not one, but two nearly identical e-mails to former mayor Ed Martin seven hours apart.  These emails, which were also copied to another council member and city staff, refer to Mr. Martin’s life as “inconsequential”, and accuse him of having a serious chemical imbalance, homosexual tendencies, and infatuation with young boys.  Mayor Siegel spoke for the City Council in the e-mail and signed it as the mayor.

Sale of the Lemoore Golf Course

Throughout the summer, rumors spread that the golf course was for sale.  Mayor Siegel denied that there had been an offer made, but did go out to play a round of golf on the taxpayer’s dime with the Tachi representative….and received a free/illegal meal while playing.  On December 3 and 17, 2013, the public was invited to present their questions and concerns regarding sale/lease of the golf course.  Many ideas were brought forth.  Members of the public, who spoke at the meetings, overwhelmingly favored an option other than selling the golf course. 

Mayor Siegel decided that instead of following State law that governs the sale of most municipal land and requires a 4/5 vote, he would list the golf course as surplus land, even though he has insisted for months that the golf course is not for sale.  Listing the land as surplus requires only a 3/5 vote.

Although Mayor Siegel says that he wants to involve the public in the decision-making process, he tasked the city manager on December 23, at a special meeting to write a letter to Rich Rhoads of Rhoads Golf, LLC that terminates his contract after 180 days.

The Leader attempted to contact Mayor Siegel for his reaction to the recall.

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