Orange Juice blogger post challenged by Mission Viejo city manager

(Picture Courtesy of the Mission Viejo Dispatch)

For several weeks I have received emails from Dennis Wilberg, City Manager, city of Mission Viejo, with allegations that I posted but failed to “trust, but verify” a Mission Viejo Watchdog blog story that contained allegations of an involvement of council member Trish Kelley in the recall of councilman Lance MacLean.

To begin with I am surprised that a city manager would get into the fray to defend one of his five bosses. Let me also point out that Dennis lives in Lake Forest, not Mission Viejo. He therefore cannot even vote on this pending removal. Following is an update confirming my contacting the original reporter to verify their charges of harassment relating to a local merchant and Mission Viejo volunteers gathering petition signatures for the recall which can be found at

MV Watchdog.         Wilberg is Wrong Again

“On March 30, this blog published an article, “Councilwoman Interferes in Recall.” Here’s the opening paragraph:

Councilwoman Trish Kelley has been working behind the scenes to thwart the recall of Councilman Lance MacLean. On March 27, recall supporters learned that Kelley had called a store manager near the area where residents were signing the recall petition. Kelley identified herself to the manager as the former mayor of Mission Viejo and directed him to tell signature gatherers to leave.”

The article was picked up by, a widely read county blog.

After the incident was publicized, Ms. Kelley should have admitted she was wrong. She should have apologized to the store for harassing its manager and to the activists for attempting to deprive them of their First Amendment rights. Instead, City Manager Dennis Wilberg jumped in with an email to the county blogger, impugning him for not verifying the information. Kelley wrote of the blog story in her email, “It’s a blatant lie.” Ms. Kelley has never said she didn’t call the store.

Wilberg erred in assuming the blogger hadn’t verified the information, and he was wrong to believe Kelley’s denial of the incident. Five witnesses have confirmed the information presented on both blogs, and all testimony reaffirms that: 1) Ms. Kelley was the caller. 2) She called the store to complain about recall supporters. 3) She directed the manager to tell the signature gatherers to leave the storefront. 4) The manager came out of the store and spoke with the signature gatherers but didn’t ask them to leave. 5) He came out a second time hours later and talked with the signature gatherers. 6) In both conversations, the manager spoke of his distress. 7) Two days after the incident, on March 27, the manager told an activist that he had received a call from a councilwoman who said she was a former mayor. 8) The manager described the call, including the councilwoman’s comments and his responses.

The manager reiterated the same information three weeks later on April 18. When asked if he personally knew the caller, Ms. Kelley, he said he didn’t personally know her. That’s not the entire story, which grows worse for Ms. Kelley.

For three weeks following the initial publication, Wilberg has continued emailing the county blogger and making accusations the story is false.

This isn’t the first time Ms. Kelley has used her clout as a councilwoman against residents. As another example, she was campaigning several years ago on a school campus (which the district prohibits) when she spotted two parents with a child handing out flyers for Kelley’s archrival, then-councilwoman Gail Reavis. Kelley went into the school building and, within minutes, school officials came out riding a golf cart and chased the family down. They threatened the parents with arrest and frightened their daughter. Meanwhile, Kelley and her king of character, Bill Klimek, continued distributing political flyers for Kelley’s candidates on school property.

With regard to the incident at the storefront, does the city manager’s job include defending council members who use their official titles to harass store managers and attempt to deprive citizens of their First Amendment rights? When Ms. Kelley identified herself to the manager as a current council member and former mayor, she wasn’t acting as a private citizen.

Councilman Lance MacLean isn’t the only council member who is unfit to serve. As the only one who’s being recalled, he’s simply the worst.”

Gilbert comment. The above watchdog blog monitors the city of Mission Viejo and has broken other stories such as “easlegate” where taxpayer funds were trashed for another feel good experience in our city.

Most blogger posts are picked up by my peers in the blogosphere around the country. Even Matt Drudge, who reports having 23 million hits in the past 24 hours, monitors the print media and provides story links which is the same thing that I did with the above issue a month ago.

Whenever he is unhappy I wonder if our city manager contacts the Associated Press to demand verification of stories picked up by the OC Register.

About Larry Gilbert