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Local News

Lompoc Council Meeting Filled With Complaints Over Code Enforcement, Meeting Procedures

Lompoc’s City Council quickly disposed of a few items of business on their agenda Tuesday evening, and spent the rest of the freewheeling, four-hour meeting listening to complaints — and lobbing their own criticisms — at those seated on the council dais.

Council members spent the bulk of the meeting listening to and having testy exchanges with the public and each other about code enforcement, and who has authority to decide who can sit on the council dais, where the speaker’s podium should be placed, and whether public speakers should have to stand with their posteriors facing the audience. 

A scheduled discussion about the city’s complaint-driven code enforcement program requested by Councilman Jim Mosby began with complaints from City Manager Patrick Wiemiller about a recent newspaper article, and led to charges by Mosby that his multiple properties in the city are being targeted for inconsequential or nonexistent code violations by city staff. 

Wiemiller, responding to Mosby’s remarks to a reporter that he had ignored Mosby’s request on Oct. 6 to place code enforcement on a future agenda, played a video recording of the council meeting that showed that although Mosby asked questions about code enforcement, he did not make a request to put code enforcement on a future agenda.

Mosby acknowledged the date could be incorrect, but insisted he did make a council request late last year before he renewed his request to discuss code enforcement in June.

“Your staff did tell me I was now a second-class citizen and my properties would be held to a higher standard,” Mosby said.

The discussion followed a presentation by Steve Boggs, the city’s code enforcement officer, that showed a significant increase in code enforcement cases opened and closed, most with voluntary compliance that did not result in citations. 

Wiemiller said the increased cases demonstrated the success of the staff’s coordinated efforts to follow council direction, but John Linn, a former mayor and current mayoral candidate, disagreed, suggesting it was evidence of staff overreaching.

Ultimately, no action was taken on the city’s code enforcement program — long designated as a council priority in order to improve the appearance of the city. The program has been supported by both the public and past councils for more than a decade.

Contributing to the meeting’s circus-like atmosphere, an audience member tried to stop the council discussion by shouting “point of order” repeatedly until City Attorney Joe Pannone explained only a council member can stop a council discussion using a point of order. The individual later apologized for the stream of interruptions.

At the end of the meeting, Councilman Dirk Starbuck asked for and won concurrence to hold a special meeting on transparency and to discuss state law governing public access to open meetings, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act. 

The workshop on transparency has been requested repeatedly by resident Jane Behr, whose complaints about a Brown Act violation during a discussion held in closed session last year resulted in a warning letter from the county District Attorney’s Office in June.

Behr is also the campaign manager for Linn, who is running for mayor against current Mayor Bob Lingl. 

At the request of Councilman Victor Vega, the council agreed to a future discussion about who controls the use of council chambers, the placement of the speaker’s podium and who should be allowed to sit on the council dais. Currently, the city clerk, city attorney, city manager and assistant city manager sit on the elevated dais along with the five council members. 

After the meeting ended, Mosby approached reporters to announce that what transpired at the meeting had convinced him that he will run for one of two open council seats in November. 

“I need to continue being a strong liaison between residents and City Hall,” Mosby said.

In one of the few business items approved at the meeting, Summit View Homes, a residential development near Harris Grade Road that will be annexed into city limits, received its final approvals to begin construction of 44 homes. Construction is expected to take about 18 months. 

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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