Tensions High as Ever at MV Council Meeting Before Recall Vote

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Ed Piskor / OC Weekly
Voters today are heading to the polls in Mission Viejo to decide whether or not to recall Mayor Lance MacLean.

You'd know that fact already, many times over, if you'd been at last night's Mission Viejo city council meeting.

For years, the council's public comments portion of the meeting has seen the same group of activists--the group now behind the recall--getting up and berating the council.

Last night, though, you'd have seen a different group.

More than 15 of the 20-or-so commenters stood at the mic to blast the recall and its proponents; quite a few opened their speeches by holding up their California driver's licenses--a reference to the fact that recall proponent and council candidate Dale Tyler, according to a recent Register article, has an out-of-state drivers license. The pro-recall crowd--historically, the ones throwing names at council meetings--endured a few choice epithets: "traitors," "scam artists" and "embarrassment" among them.

Then came an item we mentioned in yesterday's Navel Gazing post: City Manager Dennis Wilberg asking for a changes in his contract, changes that would largely deal with his own termination. Wilberg himself ended the speculation about why he was asking, saying it indeed was because of the possibility that Tyler would be elected to council. Wilberg pointed to a post on Tyler's Mission Viejo Watchdogs blog:
In addition to residents' dissatisfaction over the way city government is run, Wilberg's own staff may be dissatisfied with his performance. Information has quietly come from insiders who say shell games and "two sets of books" have been used to hide expenses and give an illusion the city is awash in cash. Wilberg has stated during council meetings that the city has $20-million-plus in "discretionary reserves." Because nearly all monies are obligated, encumbered or already spent, less than $500,000 is available for discretionary use.
Wilberg called those charges "false" and "offensive." They're examples of why he thinks Tyler's election to the council might be a bad thing for him: Tyler tends, in Wilberg's view, to make things up.

The council approved the changes in a closed session that came at the end of the meeting. But first came the comments from council members.

Cathy Schlicht
, a recall proponent, dropped what she probably thought was a bombshell on the meeting: At some point in the last year, she claims, MacLean got so angry at her that she had to ask a sheriff's deputy to stay in the council chambers at all times until MacLean left. She didn't provide any more details, but as MacLean pointed out, there's always been a deputy in the chambers. "Come on, that's high school," council member Frank Ury said about Schlicht's allegations.

MacLean used his comments portion to say that regardless of what happens tomorrow, he'll be at peace--while his opponents will be worried about pending investigations of misconduct from the DA's office and the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Three-term council-member John Paul Ledesma, a recall proponent, seemed poised to engage in some campaigning as well. "Certainly, tomorrow's a very big day," Ledesma started. "It's Groundhog's Day."

That was the only real laugh of the night.

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