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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include Mayor Kerry Ferguson’s complete responses to questions from The Dispatch. Those responses are posted at the end of the article.
By Allison Jarrell
A San Juan Capistrano resident—along with 121 residents who have signed his petition—are calling for the San Juan City Council to vote “no confidence” and remove Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson from her current role as mayor.
In his online petition, which launched on June 9, local business owner Ted Rosenfeldt wrote that Ferguson “lacks the leadership skills to motivate the Council to make important decisions concerning the future of San Juan Capistrano.”
“She has not demonstrated the ability to bring issues forward and develop consensus among the Council to address the needs of our community,” the petition states.
Rosenfeldt wrote that Ferguson lacks understanding of important transportation issues and is unable to encourage decorum from the public and other Council members.
“Indecision, rancor and derision are wasting time, taxpayer money and setting us back,” Rosenfeldt wrote. “We call on the City Council to act decisively and relieve Kerry Ferguson from her position as Mayor and restore order to the governance of San Juan Capistrano.”
Mayor Kerry Ferguson responded to the petition and its claims via email, saying that the petition is “the latest from a group of schoolyard bullies,” and went on to call out the political biases of individual petition signers.
“The behavior of this small group is reminiscent of what we are seeing on a national level; character defamation and spreading of rumors by those whose candidates did not get elected,” she wrote.
“There is plenty of lack of decorum to go around both on and off the dais, but as Mayor, I pledge to redouble my efforts to set an example for others,” Ferguson wrote. “I hope everyone will do the same. It would greatly help us to efficiently conduct the city’s business.”
Rosenfeldt presented his petition with 110 signatures to the City Council on Tuesday, June 20 during oral communications. He encouraged the Council “to replace the mayor and reconfigure the leadership of the Council so that meetings could be run effectively and efficiently.”
“I know that it’s difficult for people to make a decision like this. It certainly gives people a hurt feeling not to have the best review of their job performance,” Rosenfeldt said. “But I’ve reviewed for the last six months the performance, and I have seen chaos and rancor in City Council meetings, especially in front of the kids in the community that are required to attend these meetings.”
Rosenfeldt isn’t the only one who has commented on the lack of decorum and order at recent City Council meetings. After Ferguson repeatedly interrupted a Ladera Ranch resident who was speaking during public comment at the Council’s June 6 meeting, Councilman Derek Reeve took to Facebook with his opinion.
Reeve, Ferguson and Councilwoman Pam Patterson ran as a slate in the 2014 City Council election, but since then, Reeve has distanced himself politically from Ferguson and Patterson and often disagrees with them on policy issues.
When asked for her response to Reeve’s remarks, Ferguson wrote in an email that Reeve “has a long history of launching personal attacks on those with whom he disagrees.”
“He has been using his Facebook page to further inflame Mr. Rosenfeldt’s group with misinformation,” she said.
Rosenfeldt later told The Dispatch that he does not intend to file an official recall—his aim is to start a dialogue. Rosenfeldt said he’ll leave the petition online.
“This isn’t a recall effort,” he said. “The petition was purely my idea, completely written by me and circulated by me to people in the community.”
The City Council is not obligated to react to or act on the petition’s request. If Council members were to take a “vote of no confidence,” Ferguson would not be required to step down from her role as mayor. Rather, the vote would show that the majority of the Council does not support or agree with the mayor’s policy and decision-making.
“I see it as an opportunity to make things more efficient, make it better,” Rosenfeldt said. “I’m really not trying to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m just hoping that they will become more functional.”
To view the full petition, click here: https://ipetitions.com/petition/replace-mayor-kerry-ferguson-sjc
For Kerry Ferguson’s complete responses to questions from The Dispatch, read below:
CD: In general, what is your response to Ted Rosenfeldt’s petition to unseat you as mayor?
KF: This is the latest from a group of schoolyard bullies, many of whom hang out at coffee chat. The author was caught on video taking a newly delivered stack of Community Common Sense newspapers out of their rack and throwing them in the trash denying their freedom of speech. Among the signers is one of the most constant bullies who rails at council and commissioners, taking up hours of time that might be better spent. He was forced to resign from ASAP (police services volunteer group) after stealing signs from residents advocating against SDGE’s substation expansion. Again, he sought to crush their right of free speech. Another is former councilman Allevato, who had to be ordered by a judge to allow free speech at the front door of City Hall after he led his council majority to deny the rights of a newspaper in a close door session. All has been orchestrated by a Councilman who, while pretending to be a champion of free speech sought to shorten council reports. His constant interruptions during meetings delay the business of the Council, and his rude and demeaning comments regarding his colleagues diminish the body as a whole. The behavior of this small group is reminiscent of what we are seeing on a national level; character defamation and spreading of rumors by those whose candidates did not get elected.
CD: A lot of assertions are made in the petition. One such line reads: “…her written and oral statements concerning future San Juan Capistrano transportation needs and plans…underscores her lack of understanding concerning complicated issues. Failure to act now will put San Juan Capistrano at sever disadvantage, while other surrounding municipalities are organized and engaged with Orange County Agencies.” What is your response to that remark, specifically in regards to transportation concerns?
KF: Regarding regional transportation needs, as a member of TCA and the Southern California Association of Governments I have studied and consulted with several esteemed traffic engineers. I have also listened to residents. As a result, my position is that no roads that negatively impact an established community should be considered. That includes the Beltway and extensions of San Juan Creek Road and Camino Las Ramblas. Regarding the Ortega Widening, since OCTA has now assumed the task, I have obtained assurances from both the CEO and the Vice Chair that San Juan Residents will have a say in the design, and the agreement with the Hunt Club for mitigations will be upheld. In contrast, Councilman Reeve took to Facebook misrepresenting where roads would go and what they would look like in order to sway public opinion. Additionally, he has made it known that he cares little what happens to other cities. To me, that shows a basic lack of understanding of the importance of working with our neighbors.
CD: Another assertion: “Her failure to demonstrate control at Council meetings, inability to encourage decorum from both the public and council members has created a rancorous environment exposing guests and students assigned to attend civic events to hostile, demeaning and argumentative discourse. She has through selective enforcement of the Council Decorum Statement, emboldened meeting attendees to taunt and bully one another.” On Facebook, Councilman Reeve posted the following: “If Mayor Ferguson will not stop interrupting speakers and interfering with their First Amendment Rights, then she needs to step down as Mayor OR be removed.” What is your response to these remarks?
KF: The events of the last few days make inflammatory remarks like this all the more unfortunate. Councilman Reeve has a long history of launching personal attacks on those with whom he disagrees. He has been using his Facebook page to further inflame Mr. Rosenfeldt’s group with misinformation. His caustic remarks and personal attacks have been aimed at city commissioners, fellow council members and even private residents with whom he disagrees. He uses these tactics to sway opinion in support of his personal agenda. His bad behavior dates back many years. In 2011, for example, he garnered national media attention for naming his female dog “Mohammed.” When denounced by Muslim groups, he refused to apologize. He was also fired from a teaching position after unapologetically admitting to plagiarism. Residents can google Derek Reeve’s background for more information, but I believe they’re smart enough to see his behavior for what it is. Unfortunately, his tactics, including interrupting at will himself, are taking valuable time and focus away from the really important issues facing San Juan.
There is plenty of lack of decorum to go around both on and off the dais, but as Mayor, I pledge to redouble my efforts to set an example for others. I hope everyone will do the same. It would greatly help us to efficiently conduct the city’s business.