City Council Authorizes Formal Complaint Against Fuhrman

The sometimes stormy relationship between Menifee City Council member Tom Fuhrman and other city o...

The sometimes stormy relationship between Menifee City Council member Tom Fuhrman and other city officials took another turn Wednesday night, with council members voting 4-0 in closed session to approve two actions against Fuhrman.

The council voted to direct City Attorney Julie Biggs to file a formal complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission for alleged violations by Fuhrman of political law regarding conflict of interest.

In addition, Biggs announced during the regular meeting that council members voted to direct city officials to move forward with all code enforcement matters related to Fuhrman's 37-acre Wooden Nickel Ranch and to authorize civil litigation if necessary.

For the last few years, Fuhrman has been involved in several battles with city officials over zoning issues with his ranch, located on Holland Road on the west side of town. The situation has become more complicated since Fuhrman was elected to the city council in the fall of 2010.

A year ago, Fuhrman had to recuse himself from negotiations between the city and four property owners -- himself included -- over the paving of a privately owned stretch of Holland Road leading to the new Herk Bouris Elementary School in Lake Elsinore. In the past, Fuhrman's applications to host Civil War re-enactments on his property have been denied by the city, with code violations listed as the reason for denial.

Then last month, Fuhrman was the center of discussion prior to the council's 4-1 vote to approve an urgency ordinance regarding manure management and disposal standards on livestock property in the city. City documents revealed that the ordinance proposal was the result of violations cited against Fuhrman, alleging accumulations of manure that could potentially enter a water source on his property (left).

Refusing to recuse himself from the discussion, Fuhrman was the lone dissenting vote. He says his decision not to leave the room during that discussion and vote is the reason for his colleagues' unanimous decision to file a complaint with the FPPC.

Fuhrman was not invited to attend the closed session. He said he has not seen specifics of the proposed complaint or the complete list of code violations against him.

"If you put just what she (Biggs) said, it makes me out to be a criminal," Fuhrman said. "It seems to me they want every code violation fixed before they will approve anything."

Fuhrman said he is frustrated because city officials won't issue him a business license to host weddings and other events in his "Wooden Nickel Pavilion" (right), a large covered patio area, even though he says the building has passed inspection. He also said the violations cited against him are increasing, even though he complied with the new manure ordinance by stating in writing his removal practices.

Fuhrman also defended his decision, upon his attorney's advice, to remain in the council chambers during the discussion of the manure ordinance.

"They wanted me to leave the room so they could run over the rural people," he said. "I'm the spokesman for the rural people. I needed to be in there."

This is just the latest controversy involving Furhman. In a discussion preceding an Aug. 6 City Council vote to approve a ban on mobile marijuana dispensaries, Deputy Mayor Wallace Edgerton argued that if one really wanted to get marijuana in Menifee, one could do so. As part of his statement, he said, "You could go to Tom Fuhrman's Wooden Nickel Ranch and they would come running out with a bag for you, I'm sure."

Claiming the comment was made in jest, Edgerton issued a public apology during the next council meeting. Fuhrman left the room, refusing to take part in the discussion.

Biggs announced Wednesday night that a second closed session with legal counsel held prior to the regular meeting resulted in "no reportable action." One of the items on that agenda was a written claim against the city by former Community Development Director Carmen Cave, who was fired on July 2. In her complaint, Cave alleges gender and age discrimination and wrongful termination.


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