I have been observing the political scene in Lompoc for over three decades; this year the public rhetoric during council meetings has sunk to a new low.

There was a time when government meetings and proceedings were conducted with maturity and respect.

Don’t misunderstand this commentary, politicians need to be held accountable for their faulty decisions, missteps, deception, or misuse of campaign funds. But these criticisms should be based on facts, not internet rumors or unsubstantiated Facebook postings.

The public comment period during City Council meetings over the last 30 years has included citizen input on the agenda items before the council, upcoming public events, and comments about the appearance of the city.

During all those years I haven’t seen any direct assaults or personal attacks on individual council members; those were reserved for print media and based on matters in the public record that the elected official either said or did.

Lately though there has been a loosely organized group that has chosen to personally attack two council members, one is the mayor, and a harsher verbal assault on a councilwoman who had thousands of people vote for her in an uncontested election. I would say that was a vote of confidence in her ability to represent the people in her district.

Last month a very small group of people started showing up at council meetings with a list of allegations conjured up by someone who claimed to have “a juris doctorate and have worked for both private practice law firms and for the County of Santa Barbara Superior Court.” This fellow has made numerous poorly researched claims in postings on a local Facebook website with limited following about his concerns.

When his first try proved to be unfounded, he tried again with another set of questions (allegations) concerning a nonprofit where the same councilwoman serves as a board member.

He was trying to say there were financial reporting concerns; however, he appears to have simply misunderstood the timeline to provide accurate balance sheets and how the organization was organized and funded.

His followers were to say at least rowdy, and at worst rude and disorderly as they spoke during the public comment periods. Some didn’t understand that during public meetings there is a time limit and rules of behavior that apply to all speakers, or that neither council members nor the city staff will engage in a debate during the public comment period.

The reason neither the staff nor the council can debate public comment on unrelated issues is because discussion of items that are not on the approved agenda is prohibited.

The Council Handbook puts it this way: “No action may be taken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda.”

Concerning proper decorum during public meetings, the City Council Handbook describes it this way: “Comments should be fundamentally impersonal: the subject of the debate is the issue, not its proponent. A motion and its consequences may be attacked vigorously, but speakers should not attack the motives, character, or personality of a member, speaker, or any other person, either directly or by implication or innuendo.”

The only thing this group came close to getting right was asking for an investigation concerning their allegations, but even in this request they were demanding answers immediately.

At the end of the meeting on April 4 one gentleman stood and summed it up this way: “Investigations take time, you can’t come to a meeting every two weeks and expect an answer. Let the process play out; either you’re right or you’re wrong, but it will take time to get your answer.”

To this group I would say, if you want your questions to be taken seriously, follow the rules of decorum and have patience. You may not like the answers you get, but they will be based on fact not conjecture.