[CORRECTION: A previous statement made in this editorial needs to be corrected. Former councilman Gary Creagle was not involved in a fistfight in city hall back in the 1980s. Although he was present he was not the aggressor. I have been informed by residents who were present at city hall at that time that Creagle only attempted to deescalate the confrontation. For the sake of fairness and accuracy I must appologize to Mr. Creagle for the error.]

We’re only a few weeks away from the most important election in American history and in Fillmore’s history as well. I think it’s important to understand what has happened to city government since the last election.

Three incumbents (Washburn, Brooks, and Westling) are trying to hang on to their seats, two on the council and one as city clerk. These three are political clones, members of the infamous Katzenjammer cabal. I know, I’m tired of that nickname as well, but if we are to understand how all of the damage and corruption was inflicted by this council majority during the past four years the responsible individuals in that group must be identified.

These incumbents have acted as an agenda-driven group determined to “take back our town” with a vengeance, with a vendetta against numerous former staffers and employees. They hated the former city attorney (Ted Schneider); they hated the former city manager (Tom Ristau), they hated another former city manager, Roy Payne, and former city engineer, Bert Rapp. Include in that list, former city finance director, Barbara Smith, and assistant clerk, Steve McClary – etc. These good people are now gone because of the Katzenjammers. What a loss.

Walker has had a grudge against the Meyers law firm since she was censured back in 2004 for an ethics violation. Brooks came on the scene swinging a sword, informing everyone that “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Brooks is a local pastor, and surprisingly, so is his running mate Sandy Pella, within the same denomination. It’s a two-fer. One of his first campaign promises was to limit the salary of city manager to about $85,000. He ended up voting our last manager a salary of about $160,000, highest ever. He was close. He also arbitrarily, without cause, terminated Diane McCall from her prominent position on the Planning Commission. Later, Gayle Washburn was to cause the resignation of three Commissioners as a result of a probable Brown Act violation, which she denied before admitting her action. Brooks, perhaps the least qualified among all of the unqualified council majority members, did distinguish himself by being bounced off the teaching roster at a prominent local Christian school for an uncommon lack of common sense – taping a student’s mouth closed for being too talkative. With Brooks, admittedly, everything is “personal, very personal.”

Brooks is the protégé of former failed mayor Gary Creagle, as is our clerk, Clay Westling. Creagle is also a charter member of the Katzenjammer cabal. He makes regular appearances at city hall during public comment sessions, and enjoys lecturing everyone in front of the TV camera. He was also campaign manager for both Brooks and Westling at the last election.

During one of Creagle’s more memorable recent lectures he condemned former council members, mayors, city managers, and especially our former city attorney, for what he alleges amounts to gross negligence, even misfeasance. The problem is, he usually has no idea what he is talking about.

On July 10, Creagle strutted up to address the council as usual with his prepared notes. That night he lectured on just how lawyers should act. Boasting of his experience on the Sheriff’s department, where he had known many attorneys, he said a good attorney should protect the city. He gestured to our city attorney, implying negligence in the Owens & Minor tax litigation, which Creagle grossly misrepresented. Then he referred to the much maligned, award-winning, water treatment plant, specifically to the Perry Ranch Company sale which provided property for the plant. Why did the city pay ten times more for the property than Creagle deemed it was worth, “$19,000 per acre”? Someone should have reminded him of the difference in value between property zoned agricultural and that zoned commercial. As usual, he didn’t know what he was talking about in this attack.

Then he involved himself deeply into pure fiction, as Fillmore resident Linda Crockett indicated in her July 26 letter to the Gazette. “You remember Shorty Crockett” Creagle had said. “He was Perry Ranch Company. “...He wanted to sell. There was no money in oranges so he wanted to sell.” He went on and on about why the city negligently failed to buy the land from Shorty. But one thing was wrong, according to Ms. Crockett “Yes, “Shorty” Crockett’s given name happens to be Perry, but in no way was he Perry Ranch, or even affiliated with them.” Ms. Crockett continues, “I know my father-in-law would be setting Gary Creagle straight on the facts if only he could, but I’ll speak in behalf of Perry “Shorty” Crockett, and hope that in future appearances before the council and all viewers of Channel 10, Mr. Creagle looks into the archives to see who owned what.”

Well said. Creagle is not only the man behind our city clerk Clay Westling, and council member Jamey Brooks he’s an unreliable blowhard.

Creagle has, on at least three occasions, warned (threatened?) the city about what was about to happen in the five-year-old case of former Fire Chief Pete Egedi. Criminal charges were dropped in that case, after three years of investigation, and it never went to trial. We’ll see. Why Creagle bothers to antagonize this extremely sore issue is anyone’s guess.

Former council member Patti Walker was a major player in the cabal, but she has retired to the groves outside city limits. So the folks I’m most worried about are appointed mayor, Gayle Washburn, council member Jamey Brooks, city clerk Clay Westling, and Sandy Pella, who is running with Washburn and Brooks.

Next week, we take a closer look at appointed mayor Gayle Washburn’s involvement in the mass-resignations on the Planning Commission, her alleged Brown Act violations relating to the new cell tower, and most serious of all, her blatantly unlawful action in causing the removal of our former city attorney. I can hear her now “I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove anything.”

“Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power [even when wielded by pipsqueaks] tends to corrupt absolutely” (Lord Acton).