No Secret Ballots - Residents Await Positive Outcome

The Menifee City Council, amid a hail of grumbles, groans, and occasional cheers, approved an application process to fill the vacant council...

The Menifee City Council, amid a hail of grumbles, groans, and occasional cheers, approved an application process to fill the vacant council seat during their meeting on July 19.

The open process, which was introduced by Councilwoman Darcy Kuenzi, outlined an opportunity for residents to submit applications and have each council member choose three applicants to interview. The chosen applicants would be interviewed in a public forum, only answering questions from the council, but in a public meeting. The council would rank each applicant, turning in a score sheet for each one. After the council completes interviews during an afternoon meeting on August 2, they will take a recess and reconvene later for their regularly scheduled meeting. During that meeting the applicant with the highest score will be appointed by the council.

However, the process was heavily criticized by a small contingency of residents.

The July 20 article in The Californian entitled MENIFEE: City Seeks Applications to Fill Council Post states that "each council member would use a secret ballot to rank their top three choices for the job," which had many residents up in arms. In a second article in The Californian entitled EDITORIAL: Special Election Unacceptable, the writer states, "relying on a secret ranked ballot of council members," only added fuel to the fire for these angry residents. A third angry editorial written by Greg August in The Californian used the word "secret" 7 times. Furthermore, City Hall received a barrage of angry emails regarding their concerns over "secrecy".

However, City Attorney Karen Feld refuted those claims and clarified with this statement; "We are not using secret ballots. They were discussed at the meeting but the city council did not agree on it. The city council gave an overview of how they wanted the process to go and staff was charged with working out the details and technical requirements. We have listened to the residents' concerns and believe that the process will satisfy them. It meets all the legal requirements as well as fitting in line with Council direction. You will find that this process will be as open as possible."

It is so unfortunate that the misunderstanding and miscommunication of just a few can culminate in the distress of many. Councilwoman Kuenzi stated time and time again her desire for a fair and open process, one in which every resident who was interested had the opportunity to apply. Yet, as is so often the case, a small vocal group of residents focus on a misunderstanding and taint the entire process. In an attempt to maintain transparency, to unify the community, and to keep the process fair to all residents, Councilman Denver and Councilwoman Kuenzi held their ground, and are now once again vilified.

After hearing from many of our readers, many have suggested an amendment to the process. With the ranking process being the issue, the suggestion is that each council member openly rank their top picks after the application process, speaking only of the benefits their nominees bring to the table. They would only discuss their own nominees, why they have chosen them, and what their nominees have to offer Menifee. There would be no discussion of another council member's nominees.

A greater concern we've heard from our readers is the amount of discourse involved with this appointment. Not necessarily among the City Council, but with the small group of narrow-minded residents who look to vilify certain members of the council, and use this situation as a soap-box from which to preach their own politics. In addition, other news publications have seemingly used this situation to stir the pot and boost readership without fully understanding the dynamics of this matter.

Based on our review of actual emails sent by this small vocal group of residents to City Hall on this matter, these residents are eager to jump to conclusions without letting this situation unfold naturally. This is an open, public process, one in which the residents will have an opportunity to be heard. This small group of residents are inundating City Hall with repetitive emails that cost residents thousands of dollars in staff time to respond.

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