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By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Councilmember Liana LeBaron

Updated March 6, 2022 8:30 p.m. with comments from Councilman Gastil.

March 6, 2022 (Lemon Grove)  -- After weeks of contentious meetings, the Lemon Grove City Council will hold a special meeting on Tuesday, March 8 to consider a resolution for the Council majority to condemn alleged misconduct by Councilmember Liana LeBaron including disruptions at Council meetings and accusations made against staffers that the City contends are false.

The City Attorney has also sent a letter to LeBaron and other Councilmembers threatening legal action against her. 

Le Baron has denied wrongdoing. An attorney representing the Project for Open Government has also weighed in, criticizing the City's actions.

LeBaron claims actions are retaliatory

LeBaron denies wrongdoing. On Facebook, she states to her constituents that the Council’s aim is to “punish me for the work I do on your behalf.”  She posted the resolution, along with a letter she received from the City Attorney Kristen Steinke on March 3 which she says contain “false accusations.” To the public, she wrote, “I encourage everyone to attend the meeting.”

The resolution’s allegations

The proposed resolution accuses LeBaron of “disruptive, obstructive and inappropriate behavior at Council meetings” including shouting over colleagues and interrupting others when not recognized by the Mayor. It also alleges that she made “baseless” accusations targeting staff including fraud and hiding the truth about city finances, having a “detrimental impact on the City’s ability to attract and retain talented staff,” among other things.

The censure motion asks LeBaron to refrain from public attacks on city professionals and threatens that the city might fail to indemnify her if an aggrieved employee or former worker were to file an action against her.

LeBaron has been persistent in seeking questions on finances and procedures, at times talking over others when the Mayor would not recognize her or direct that her questions be answered by staff.

But multiple Councilmembers have complained that disruptions by LeBaron have delayed meetings and impeded Council’s ability to get things done. A recent Council meeting was adjourned early as a result of LeBaron demanding an answer to a question on procedures for groups to gain access to the rec center, a question that the City Manager would not provide. Councilmembers have united in refusing to answer any of LeBaron’s questions, according to a post made by Councliman Jerry Jones on ECM’s website.

Councilman Jones criticizes LeBaron’s conduct and timing

Jones wrote, “Lack of decorum, bullying and shouting over every member of the Council has become the norm for Le Baron…It’s not the questions but the combative and disrespectful style and disruptive presence on Lemon Grove’s Council that has caused the rift between Le Baron and the rest of Council.” He adds, “Le Baron’s constant lists of requests are not in line with the Council’s policy of setting an annual work plan. It’s not the questions but the timing and manor. She can ask any time, but these things are better addressed on an annual basis with our goal setting policy and budget development. This is why she gets no response from the rest of us.”

Councilman Gastil speaks out

Councilman George Gastil, in an email to friends in Lemon Grove with a copy sent to ECM, encouraged residents to attend the meeting.

" Ms.LeBaron often says that she was elected to serve the people. All five of us were elected by the people, and I have to say four of us are serious about serving the people," he states. "The people did not elect Ms. LeBaron so that she could disrupt meetings, harass staff, and swear at her fellow Council members. That is not serving anyone, and that is what needs to stop."

Attorney for Projects with Open Government slams City for “railroading” LeBaron

The fracas has drawn the attention of prominent attorney Cory Briggs, who contacted ECM to advise that he’s representing Project for Open Government , a 501c3 nonprofit, and will be requesting records to determine whether Lemon Grove officials can back up their serious claims. According to its Twitter feed, the nonprofit has a mission statement that pledges, "Working to ensure unethical and illegal conduct by government and those doing business with government is exposed and appropriate remedies are pursued." The group recently filed a lawsuit against the County of San Diego over alleged free speech and open government violations.

Briggs had strong words for Lemon Grove's efforts to discredit LeBaron, which he suggests amount to “railroading.” He stated, “It appears that the four-member majority of the City Council, aided and abetted by the City Attorney and City Manager, are trying to steal an election.” He added pointedly, “Stealing an election is a crime.”

According to Briggs, “Councilmember LeBaron is doing exactly what her constituents seek her to do: ask tough questions, tell the truth, make sure the public truly benefits, and hold officials accountable for their misdeeds. That was her platform, she got the most votes in her election, and she is delivering.”

Disclosure: Briggs also represents Chris Williams, a marijuana dispensary applicant suing the City of Lemon Grove over alleged discrminatory actions for denying his application after a physical altercation with former Councilman David Arambula, which resulted in Williams hospitalized with serious injuries. Briggs told ECM that his representation of Project for Open Government is unrelated to Williams.

City Attorney threatens restraining order, says access codes changed to City Hall

The City Attorney’s letter to LeBaron accuses her of unauthorized use of a conference room at City Hall, disrupting staff, and ignoring a prior request Feb. 25 to cease these actions. The letter claims this exposes the City to potential liability due to employee claims including one received Feb. 14. 

The letter states that access codes to City Hall for all Councilmembers are being revoked as a result. The letter asks LeBaron to cease such actions, adding, “If you refuse, the City Council will proceed to seek a court order to restrain your behavior.”

How to attend special meeting Tuesday

The special meeting will be held Tuesday, March 8  at 6 p.m. at the Lemon Grove Community Center, 3146 School Lane in Lemon Grove. The resolutions is the only item on the agenda.

The meeting is in person, with no option for remote participation or viewing, despite repeated requests by the public and this media outlet for meetings to be accessible on Zoom or another virtual platform. Members of the public can request speaker cards to testify for or against the resolution.



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Garbage In Garbage Out

If one listened to mayor and the speaker explain how the Urban League item came to the Council in the first place, then you would have heard the answer. Yes, it was a bit muddy and maybe I heard it because I've seen this happen more than once in my time. I also knew and know that the Mayor and City Manager were acting on ongoing priorities and council discussion during last year’s goal setting. Just as with the bathrooms in the park, staff and even council members are always looking for opportunities to bring outside resources to the City. That means bringing those opportunities to the Mayor and City manager for further discussion and action. And that means more than just asking for an item to be placed on an agenda for discussion, but that's a much longer discussion on proper and effective advocacy. Without all the disruption, I had planned and would have asked the City Manager if any licensed organizations with credentials (and insurance) had come forward and the follow up would have been, who would they contact if there were the desire and a plan? But I never got the chance which is exactly the problem isn't it? That's the difference between a constructive conversation and interrogation, disruption and bickering. Sometimes the problem isn’t the answer but the question and how it’s asked. Yes I would have used my two questions to help clarify hers. Had I been allowed to speak I may have been able to get things cleared up. But Council Member LeBaron never shuts up long enough to allow anyone to join her side of the issue. Doesn't happen you say? At our team building workshop she expressed concern about a suggested change to our council protocol handbook. She felt that the language was too strict, and I agreed. George wanted to leave it in, and Liana wanted it take out altogether. When the conversation turned to finger pointing and bickering, I had to pointed out to her that I was on her side. I worked between Liana and George, and we changed a few words so that the wording was acceptable to everyone. There was actually a fleeting glimmer of hope right there, but it was short lived. There is an ongoing problem here that needs to be addressed and you've chosen to isolate one instance as if everything that came before, and since, doesn't matter. It does.

The context all matters.

When we report on a meeting we don't always have all of the backstory, Jerry.  Thanks for providing additional details on this contentious situation.

if Cory Briggs

is behind something then you know they are in the wrong and Liana LeBaron is WRONG. Liana LeBaron drinks the tRump cool-aid. she needs to learn roberts rules of order

A Real Pespective

Miriam, Your article for the most part is accurate, though pretty bias, with the exception of the statement that LeBaron’s questions haven’t been answered . This is not true and we’ve talked about this before. The unanswered questions from the dais have been out of order and unrelated to the agenda. In addition, many times, these are not clarifying questions but rookie questions that can and should be asked ahead of council meetings and addressed with the City Manager. More often, the questions are grandstanding, meant to disrupt meetings and insight her followers in the audience that she packs. The questions aren’t the problem, it’s the scope and unreasonable demand for immediate answers and the staff time that takes away from the Council majority’s annual work plan. Asking a question is one thing. Asking a question repeatedly when you don’t get the answer you want is childish and unacceptable ____________________________Some of Le Baron’s concerns are actually shared by the rest of Council. So she has no exclusive on hard questions for staff or representing the concerns and questions of her constituents. Anyone that recognizes and respects the team nature of a governance body understands that. And it’s that lack of respect for the team environment, colleagues, and the process that’s at issue here. LeBaron’s repeated requests for “agenda items” are again a rookie’s understanding of the process. As I’ve said many times, more than a few of her requests are on our work list for staff time and agenda discussion. If it weren’t for her constant obstruction of city operations and distractions of staff time, some of them would have already been addressed. It’s the constant and unrealistic demand for immediate action that demonstrates a rookie understanding of the resources required to bring an agenda discussion to the Council. No amount of shouting and bullying will change that. ____________________________I find it humorous and insulting that Cory Briggs talks about stealing elections. All of us on the City Council were elected by the same people that elected LeBaron. We all have constituents that share their concerns, desires and hopes with us on a regular basis. In the past year I have been shouted over, threatened and interrupted by LeBaron on a regular basis. Who is it again that is being silenced? Who is it, again, who is trying to steal an election? Watch the link below and tell me that this behavior is acceptable. Seriously does no one recognize the paranoid ramblings of a group of conspiracy theory extremists? Has everyone forgotten that some of us on this council have had some bitter disagreements on more than a few issues. We are not and have not been in lock step on many issues but we are on this censure. Has everyone forgotten that I ran against Mayor Vasquez in the last election and yet today we find ourselves allied in opposing this serious threat to our city from sources inside and outside of our little community? ____________________________ Lemon Grove deserves better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eulJdDN2v8&t=1s


I appreciate your perspectives and agree with some of them but I watched recent council videos and I don't see how anyone could say her question on how groups might access the community center was answered. She definitely spoke out of turn when not recognized on some occasions and was argumentative. I do not condone anyone being rude or interrupting colleagues.  But it's simply not accurate to say that the question was answered. You did later say that no other groups had sought to use the center, which is informative, but that wasn't what was asked - it was about the process. We posted a link to the full meeting so that people could see the full context of what went on and draw their own conclusions.

I do hope that some reasonable resolution to these conflicts can be found so that everyone on the council and staff are all treated with respect at all times, and so that all councilmembers can get questions answered where it's reaasonable to do so.