By Miriam Raftery
File photos: Councilmembers Liana LeBaron, left, and Jennifer Mendoza, right
Update March 3, 2023: A hearing on the TRO has been postponed until April 3.
Updated Feb. 27, 2023 to add copy of restraining order (redacted for privacy), Mendoza harassment claim, and Sheriff background chronology. LeBaron has acknowledged receiving ECM's request for comments, but despite three emails to Le Baron, she has not provided comments. ECM will public a response from LeBaron if received.
February 25, 2023 (Lemon Grove) – A judge has granted a temporary restraining order requiring Lemon Grove Councilmember Liana LeBaron to stay at least 100 yards away from fellow Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza, as well as Mendoza’s home and vehicle, pending a March 6 hearing. The order further orders LeBaron to avoid harassing or intimidating Mendoza, and prohibits LeBaron from owning firearms.
“I’m filing this request because I’m afraid that LeBaron’s stalking and harassing of me is escalating,” Mendoza states in a description detailing a pattern of alleged harassment. She adds, “I am concerned about my safety.”
Mendoza notes that LeBaron has a “history of violent behavior and an uncontrollable temper.” LeBaron was arrested in April 2022 for allegedly abusing her husband, and later released on bail. Her husband obtained a restraining order and an order for removal of LeBaron from their home due to alleged spousal abuse. At the time, LeBaron claimed those abuse allegations by her husband were false and accused him of trying to portray himself as “the victim rather than the aggressor” during divorce proceedings, noting that he could lose his right to carry a gun or work as a police officer.
The most recent incident that sparked Mendoza to seek the restraining order against LeBaron occurred when Mendoza and her husband were attending an anniversary party for 13 Point Brewery in Lemon Grove and LeBaron arrived. Mendoza says LeBaron walked to their table and when Mendoza declined to respond, “She then snuck up behind me and said she was glad to know that she could have control over me.”
LeBaron claimed Mendoza pushed a chair into her knees and toes, according to the Sheriff's background chronology on the incident.
According to Mendoza, she left the room briefly and returned after LeBaron moved away. Around 10 minutes later, two Sheriff deputies arrived. “Deputy Russo told me that LeBaron had called the Sheriff’s Department and stated that I assaulted her…I told him tkat I was trying to get away from her because she was harassing me and this was a pattern of behavior that has been going on for several years.” The deputies determined that no assault or injury had occurred, and no report was filed following LeBaron’s claim.
Mendoza says she has received emails and texts from LeBaron in the past that were insulting and questioning her character. “My response to all these bullying, intimidating and harassing communications is to ignore her,” she states, but problems continued.
In a council meeting, LeBaron interrupted Mendoza and told her to shut up, an incident witnessed by others and documented on tape. At another meeting, she screamed a profanity overheard by a lieutenant and resulting in the mayor interceding, Mendoza says.
At a Lions Club meeting last year, Mendoza asserts that LeBaron “snuck up behind me and hissed in my ear that I was juvenile and hypocritical for demanding that she wear a mask at a city meeting.”
The Council considered censuring LeBaron for alleged harassment of staff as well as her conduct during meetings, but opted against doing so.
Matters escalated during last year’s Council campaign with several more incidents, including LeBaron stopping her car in the middle of the street in front of Mendoza’s house, where she was “blocking traffic and repeatedly honked her horn for several minutes to try to get my attention” for two days in a row,” Mendoza’s statement continues. “My neighbors asked me why this person was harassing me and blocking our street.
On another occasion, Mendoza says LeBaron pulled up in her Jeep and “jumps in front of my elderly husband to wave her friend’s campaign signs. I continue to ignore her. She kept walking in front of my 79-year-old husband, who has difficulty walking and he got very annoyed.” In response to remarks he made, Mendoza says of LeBaron, “she just lost her mind and starting screaming all kinds of obscenities and vicious statements at me” until Councilmember George Gastil walked over to intervene.
Mendoza also accuses LeBaron of making a “very dangerous maneuver” while Mendoza was on her way to get a pedicure “to try and position her car so that my car would pull up alongside her.” After Mendoza pulled behind LeBaron to try and avoid another confrontation, she says, “She ended up blocking the intersection and had to back her car up.”
Mendoza says she for an extended time has avoided speaking to LeBaron or responding to her in any way. At City Hall, she says she makes sure LeBaron enters and leaves the room first, and asked to have someone else sit between herself and LeBaron at all times.
“I feel that I need to protect myself from her harassing behavior and insulting comments. Why should I have to subject myself to any of that?” Mendoza asks.
ECM reached out yesterday to LeBaron for comment on this story, but she has not responded.
The temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Peter A. Lynch. A hearing on whether to make the temporary restraining order permanent, or lift it, will be held on March 6 at 9 a.m. in the El Cajon courthouse.
View restraining order: page 1 (redacted), 2, 3, 4, 5
The TRO hearing has been postponed until early April
due to Councilmember Mendoza's vacation schedule.