This tumultuous year has proven the essential nature of nonpartisan local news. Every day we bring you news critical to staying informed and active in the community. Join us with a tax-deductible donation.
Outspoken city council members in coastal towns in Orange County keep falling into the hot seat among their colleagues for the remarks they make and the way they behave.
Elected officials in various cities in the county have taken to trying to publicly discipline or punish the remarks and behavior of three city council members in different cities in recent months.
In February, Huntington Beach Councilman Tito Ortiz — who netted the most votes in city history during the last election — came very close to having his largely ceremonial title as Mayor Pro Tem stripped from him by his colleagues for his refusal to wear a mask at public meetings, at a local burger spot and at Oak View Elementary School.
Roughly a couple months before that, San Clemente Councilwoman Laura Ferguson was censured for publicly criticizing the city’s government and releasing public records to the public.
Now Laguna Beach Councilman Peter Blake, who told Voice of OC he doesn’t “take shit from anybody,” might face this very same fate next.
The city council meets Tuesday to consider censuring Blake for insulting members of the public and others in city government, including Councilwoman Toni Iseman. The meeting will be streamed live on the city website.
An Attempt to Censure Peter Blake
The request to censure — essentially a formal condemnation from the council — Blake for his comments was made by Councilman George Weiss.
“They establish a hostile environment for community members to speak without fear of oral or written intimidation. They are not conducive to open dialogue and dissent, which are inherent components of citizens’ democratic rights,” reads Weiss’ request included in a city staff report.
Blake is not surprised whatsoever.
“There’s a political group here in Laguna Beach that’s held power since 1971 and they have opposed me since the day I announced my candidacy and when I got elected things got really ugly and they have been trying to censor me since the very beginning,” Blake said in a Friday phone interview.
The group Blake is referring to is Village Laguna, whose goals are to preserve the city’s character and cultural heritage.
Included in the censure requests are examples of some of remarks Blake has made to the media or at public meetings about the group and members of city government.
Weiss claims in one exchange between Blake and the chair of the city’s heritage committee, that Blake torted, “I am just tired of dealing with you fucks.”
Blake rejects the claim that he insulted the heritage committee.
“That’s not accurate and of all the comments that are in the agenda I own every single word I said and I apologize for not one of them, but I never said that,” Blake said. “That was made up by the chair who’s also a member of Village Laguna.”
Weiss also provides a couple examples of Blake disparaging Iseman claiming she had a “cognitive impairment” as well as calling her “a mess” and “a sycophantic slag.”
“Councilmember Blake’s comments look and sound like abuse of a fellow councilmember,” reads Weiss’s request.
In a phone interview with Voice of OC, Blake was unapologetic and said others in the community lie about him and make disparaging remarks towards him.
“I’m the only one in a spineless group of council people that stands up and fights back. And yes, I have fought back. And yes, I have at times been brash and I’m proud of it. I have no issues with it whatsoever,” Blake said. “The silent majority in this community, they support me.”
In October, Charlotte Masarik — who sits on the board of directors of Village Laguna — called on the city council to take action against Blake’s behavior published in a letter to the Laguna Beach Independent.
Blake fired back in the comments.
This is not the first time Blake has faced backlash for his comments.
He faced similar criticism in 2019.
“I’m a badass and I don’t put up with shit from anybody,” he said in a Friday phone interview.
What Does a Censure Mean?
A censure will not result in fines, penalties or a suspension, but rather an expression of disappointment and condemnation from the majority of the council.
In 2019 the city adopted a resolution on a civility policy for city officials, with rules of decorum like treat everyone courteously and to listen to others respectfully.
Weiss wrote in his request that Blake must adhere to those rules.
For Weiss, the censure is to “encourage” Blake “to engage in respectful disagreement” with his colleagues and residents.
But Blake said a censure is meaningless.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars. It’s a waste of the city staff time,” Blake said. “Instead of talking about something that’s valid about what’s going on in our community. Here we are talking about this.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.