Longtime Seal Beach resident Joe Kalmick dropped by city corridor final July to file papers relating to his run for council.
That mundane errand, now viewable on YouTube, would come again to hang-out Kalmick six months later – within the remaining days of his mail-in runoff election that ends Jan. 29. It additionally would flip Seal Beach’s Previous City neighborhood, which denizens proudly name “Mayberry By the Sea,” right into a hotbed of anger and intrigue.
Through the first week of the brand new yr, accusations erupted that Kalmick threw a punch at city worker Dana Engstrom.
Subsequent, inconclusive footage of Kalmick’s interactions on the city clerk counter emerged. Taken from totally different angles, the 2 movies don’t seize audio – making a split-second arm thrust all of the harder to interpret.
Then, on Tuesday, Jan. eight, residents discovered of their mailboxes – alongside ballots – a flier claiming that “Kalmick is a lawsuit waiting to happen.” An analogous second flier arrived on Thursday, Jan. 10.
Kalmick, 74, denied in an interview that he meant his gesture as a menace. “That is not the person I am,” he stated. “I had a store on Main Street for 40 years. I was a volunteer firefighter forever. People around here know me – and if I had a violent temper, it would not be a secret.”
Many residents have rushed to defend Kalmick. “It’s defamation of a leading citizen,” stated retired instructor Carla Watson. “Joe is one of the nicest people in town.”
The fliers are paid for by California Taxpayer Safety Committee, a conservative fund-raising group with nationwide ties. Up to now this month, the group has spent $7,464 to defeat Kalmick, in accordance an expenditure report filed with the California Truthful Political Practices Fee.
“It’s because of threats by individuals like Kalmick that the city is considering installing bullet proof glass to protect city employees,” the primary flier reads, attributing that assertion to the small city’s weekly newspaper, the Seal Beach Solar.
Nevertheless, the Solar didn’t determine Kalmick in its December story a few “Choose Civility” program launched by then-City Clerk Robin Roberts. Quite, the article paraphrases Roberts’ anecdote about an unnamed resident making “a punching gesture over the counter toward an employee.”
“We do not appreciate someone using our reporting out of context,” stated Solar writer Steven Remery.
Roberts retired from her submit on the finish of December. Engstrom, now the interim city clerk, declined to offer a remark for this story.
In a phone interview, Roberts stated Engstrom “indeed perceived the extended arm as threatening.”
Roberts didn’t witness the gesture. “But afterward, Dana told me, ‘He took a swing at me,’” she stated. “I feel a great responsibility to protect my employees.’”
The city requested the police division to evaluate video from hallway cameras, Roberts stated. No fees have been filed.
Roberts stated the incident was “one of many contributing factors” that impressed Select Civility. “I’ve labored for a number of different cities, and I’ve by no means seen a lot aggression as I noticed in Seal Beach – like, individuals yelling at us, ‘I pay your salary!’
“Seal Beach is such a lovely town,” Roberts added. “I can’t explain it. I think social media creates a lot of animosity.”
The movies seize Kalmick greeting City Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, who occurred to be within the hallway, as he enters. He stops on the city clerk’s window with a folder of paperwork, and Engstrom gives help.
Then, all events agree, Kalmick expresses frustration upon studying he had wasted time fruitlessly trying a activity that would not be completed on-line. He might be seen pretending to shoot himself together with his fingers.
Deaton comes over to the window. As she stands beside him, Kalmick jerks his proper hand ahead whereas conversing with Engstrom. Neither lady visibly reacts. Moments later, Deaton rubs Kalmick on the again and departs.
Roberts quickly joins Engstrom on the counter. For the subsequent seven minutes, the three flip by way of paperwork with obvious calmness. Chuckling, Kalmick packs up his papers and waves goodbye.
Whereas the interactions all through look pleasant, Roberts stated Kalmick caught her consideration by “raising his voice” throughout his preliminary burst of annoyance over the paperwork.
Deaton, an influential voice on the council, termed out final fall after representing Previous City for eight years. Seal Beach is split into 5 districts, every with round three,000 registered voters.
5 candidates ran for the nonpartisan submit Deaton would vacate. Deaton endorsed fellow Republican Peter Amundson Jr., 29, a relative newcomer to the world. Kalmick, 74, is a Democrat.
Kalmick took 41 % of the vote within the common election and Amundson 27 %. Lawyer Scott Levitt got here in third with simply 38 fewer votes than Amundson. In Seal Beach, a city council candidate should obtain greater than 50 % of the vote to win. Deaton will proceed to carry her place till the runoff consequence decides her alternative.
On group web sites such as Nextdoor, some neighbors level the finger at Deaton as the instigator of the assault ads. “I’m seeing, ‘Shame on Ellery for ruining Joe’s reputation,’” she stated.
Nevertheless, Deaton stated she knew nothing concerning the fliers till she discovered one in her mailbox. “Do I like it? No. But is everything in there factual? Yes,” she stated. “If the person had not behaved that way, there would not be a flier.”
Requested why she didn’t reply to Kalmick’s arm motion when it occurred, Deaton stated, “I didn’t understand how upset the girl behind the counter was. I should have been more attentive to her needs. Do I think Joe would’ve harmed her? No. But Dana didn’t know that.”
Like Deaton, Amundson stated the fliers caught him unawares. “I was surprised, shocked, all of the above,” he stated. “But if those events are true and he really did throw a jab at a lady, that’s pretty intense.”
The son of Arcadia councilman Peter Amundson Sr., Amundson moved to his household’s second residence within the gated group of Surfside after an unsuccessful 2016 run for the California State Meeting in his hometown’s district. He works at his household’s trucking firm, Minuteman Transport, within the City of Business.
“I’ve been going to Seal Beach since I was a kid,” Amundson stated. “I love it.”
Amundson, too, has taken warmth for the now notorious fliers. “It gave some people another reason to criticize me,” he stated. “Before this happened, it was, ‘He’s just a kid from Arcadia.’”
Former candidate Levitt counts amongst those that say Amundson continues to be too unfamiliar with the city. “I don’t think an outsider can suddenly come to Seal Beach and be an effective leader,” Levitt stated. “You need to understand the dynamics of the town to get things done.”
Though a “lifelong Republican,” the 2018 Chamber of Commerce president endorsed Kalmick after dropping the November election.
“It’s not about parties but about what’s best for Seal Beach,” Levitt stated. “And now that I’ve seen those fliers, it’s one more reason to support Joe. Joe is a slow-speaking, mellow, laid-back individual. I can’t imagine him taking a swing at someone.”
Levitt questioned why a political motion committee based mostly in Northern California “would take an interest in little District One,” suggesting that somebody nearer to house “used the PAC to fund the fliers.”
Mike Spence, spokesman for California Taxpayer Safety Committee, stated, “The candidate has nothing to do with this.”
“We do local elections up and down the state,” Spence added. “There are very few races going on right now, so why not Seal Beach? Workplace violence is an important issue that shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.”
Each lively within the San Gabriel Valley politics, Spence and Peter Amundson Sr. attended a small anti-Obama rally in Pasadena in 2014. Spence switched districts in 2015 in an unsuccessful bid for the California State Meeting. Final Might, Spence was eliminated as mayor of West Covina throughout a police investigation of his drug overdose in a Costa Mesa lodge room.
Final yr, California Taxpayer Safety Committee spent about $150,000 to thwart Irvine City Council candidate Lauren Johnson-Norris, a Democrat. Fliers and Instagram posts denounced the lawyer, a former public defender, as a “paid defender of child molesters.”
“It was outrageous,” stated Johnson-Norris, who misplaced the race. “These shell PACs are factories for hit pieces that their donors hide behind. We need campaign finance reform.”
In Seal Beach, the sensational fliers now overshadow the precise incident they promote: Whether or not mistakenly or not, a city worker perceived Kalmick’s arm gesture as aggressive.
Even so, Roberts stated, “I don’t understand why this information is coming up now. I thought we’d moved on. It’s disheartening that this has been politicized.”