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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  1. "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." ~Winston Churchill
    Thank you Menifee 24/7 for putting some pants on!

  2. I like the suggestion of having the Council members read who they picked, and why they picked them.
    Also, it would be best if Council members did not attempt to dismiss or devalue those applicants that were selected by other council members.

    Such a process would be transparent, and positive. (no secrets)

  3. From what I've read on this site it seems the small vocal group is most likely retired residents living in the Sun City neighborhoods. Traditionally, retired people are more active in local politics because they have more time available. With the disproportionately large population (as compared to a typical city) of retired people in Menifee, it's no wonder that they have such a loud voice.

    I'm sure there are plenty of younger people, such as myself, that would like to attend the City Council meetings but can't. My job is in OC so I don't get home until after 7. Then I'm helping with kids and other family obligations. I wish I worked closer to home, but there aren't many white collar, good paying jobs in SW RivCo, let alone the entire IE. The ones that are available are highly sought after and quickly filled. So local politics occur without the input of the majority of the population, just a minority voice.

    I just ask that the retired people remember what it was like when they were in my position; it's not easy to raise a family, even in Menifee. We need to keep every resident in mind when it comes to local politics. Many Menifee residents are just trying to make ends meet and raise their families in a safe community. We appreciate the fact that the Sun City neighborhoods have been in the area for 50 years, but we also ask that the residents of those neighborhoods realize that this city is changing and we can no longer maintain an exclusive focus on what the retired people want. The City of Menifee must keep up with neighboring cities if we want the best residents.

    By the way, from what I've read in the article, I support the Council's process as long as it is legal. There is no perfect way to choose a new council member, so this is as good as any other process as far as I'm concerned.

  4. Anne Pica said
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
    Winston Churchill

  5. Did they hold their ground?

    By Greg August

    “No secret Ballots-Residents await Positive Outcome,” defends Darcy Kuenzi, and John Denver against angry, narrow-minded residents, and pot stirring reporters.

    Steve Johnson, Editor 24/7, has told me that these comment are not offensive and therefore not allowed to be commented on. This is my third try at posting a comment. Please read the above referenced and decide for yourself if the opinion writer’s comments are offensive or not.

    The opinion reports on the recent Menifee City Council’s adoption of a process to nominate a replacement for Fred Twyman.

    As reported by the Californian, “City Seeks Applications to fill Council Post,” Darcy Kuenzi stated, “the process will go something like this.” She stated it would include a secret ballot. So, Darcy Kuenzi, for whatever reason, thought she voted for a secret ballot. That’s what Darcy Kuenzi told the Californian following the city council meeting, 7/19/2011

    Emails started to arrive at city hall the following morning questioning the use of secret ballots.

    My point is there was no misunderstanding or miscommunication. The city council, including Darcy Kuenzi and John Denver voted on 7/19/2011 for a process that included a secret ballot. Did John Denver, Darcy Kuenzi, hold their ground, when it has since been determined that a secret ballot could be illegal, and has been withdrawn from the process.

    If anyone were responsible for spending thousands of dollars (?) responding to emails it would have to be the entire city council. They should have checked with the city attorney before voting on a process they were not sure about. The residents had every right to question and challenge the council’s decision for a secret ballot.

  6. Actually, Darcy Kuenzi and John Denver never desired a ballot that was secret from the public, only a ballot that would be hidden from other council members until AFTER everyone had voted, and then have the ballots made public. There was no secrecy intended, but for some reason, this particular group of people seem to think there was.
    According to Kathy Bennett, City Clerk, the city council voted to have the open application process, but had instructed the city staff to outline details for approval, INCLUDING THE BALLOT PROCESS. Staff did so, at the direction of the council.

    Let me reiterate: the city council never believed they were voting on anything that was secret from the public, nor was that the desire of any city council member.

    The process was concluded by Staff at the direction of the city council to hammer out the details. That recommendation will be presented to the council this evening for consideration. The process was NEVER finalized, nor voted on, nor approved, at the July 19th meeting. The final direction of the council was for staff to work out the details, which they did.

    There was never a revised plan because there was a secret ballot, and nothing that occurred during the process was illegal in any way. Nothing was ever withdrawn, because the process was never finalized.

  7. There was a secret ballot plan and if you would listen to the CD of the July 19th city council meeting you would have heard it stated 9 times during the conversation to have secret scoring forms. They did revise the process and that was because the public objected to the secret ballot process they originaly planned on using. Let me reiterate it was the intention of the city council to have a secret ballot until they were pressured from the community to have an open ballot and the city attorney infomed them that it was illegal. No matter how you try and color it they had to revise it from secret to open voting. I would advise anyone who wants to know the truth about this subject to purchase the CD for $1.00 and find out for yourselves.

  8. Can you quote any of these people you speak of? You say that the city council voted on a secret ballot. Do you have a quote, or series of quotes, that say such a thing? Or is that your personal take on the meeting.
    Did you speak with or receive an email from Mr. Rawlings, City Manager or Karen Feld, City Attorney? Can you share the quote saying it was revised because it was iillegal? Or again, is that you paraphrasing? Because I go based on actual quotes; not someone's summation. Oh, and did the city council state at any time that they wanted to keep their nominees private from the public permanently? Or just until the process was completed?
    Seems to me, and many others, that someone els is "coloring" the truth. Not me.

  9. You go girl!!!!



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