Public Forum Set for Saturday Goes On, Despite Controversy

Residents have raised concerns over possible soil contamination in Menifee, including parts of the ...

Residents have raised concerns over possible soil contamination in Menifee, including parts of the new Audie Murphy Ranch development.
A Menifee town hall meeting scheduled for Saturday has confused residents regarding its purpose, changed sponsorship since its formation, and resulted in accusations against city and county officials.

The public forum will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wooden Nickel Ranch, 25690 Holland Road. It will be sponsored by the newly formed Menifee Citizens for Honest Government and will be conducted by the group's creator, former mayoral candidate John F. Smith.

But that's not what it says on promotional fliers for the event that were circulated around town by another group of concerned citizens -- the Committee Against Toxic Exposure.

Members of CATE expressed concerns during a recent town hall meeting about the possible contamination of soil in Menifee by sludge -- toxins in processed sewage that was once used to fertilize agricultural fields in the area. Areas of concern include land where the Audie Murphy Ranch is being developed -- a project environmentally approved by Riverside County before Menifee was incorporated as a city.

A second public forum was organized to further discuss the issue, primarily under the direction of former city council candidate Carol "Red" Sullivan and Janine Matelko, a Menifee resident and longtime activist regarding soil contamination.

But today, Sullivan has removed herself from the issue. She asked not to be quoted for this article and said she will not attend the meeting. Meanwhile, Matelko said she also will skip the meeting and criticized Sullivan for her change of stance on the subject.

And amid all this, Smith -- who was asked to join in sponsoring the event on his group's behalf -- has pledged to carry on with the forum, and that "sludge will not be the forerunner of the event."

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The paving of Holland Road has been a primary
concern of John F. Smith's group.
Smith said the intent of the first public forum was to allow citizens to discuss any issues of concern. A planned primary topic wa