Huntington Beach Reaffirms Constitutional Rights After Feud Among Election Rivals

Huntington Beach Reaffirms Constitutional Rights After Feud Among Election Rivals

Residents speak during public comments at a city council meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif., on June 4, 2024. (Rudy Blalock/The Epoch Times)

Rudy BlalockMicaela Ricaforte
Rudy Blalock & Micaela Ricaforte


Updated: 6/6/2024


The Huntington Beach City Council passed a resolution June 4 on a vote of 4-0 affirming the city’s “commitment and respect” to the U.S. Constitution and that the city is a First and Second Amendment friendly city, a move that led three councilors to leave the meeting before the item was approved.
The agenda item was initiated by Mayor Pro Tem Pat Burns, which came on the heels of a months-long dispute between current Councilman Dan Kalmick and a political opponent who is running for his seat in November.
“We see that there are times for basic statements of fact and or confirmation,” Mr. Burns said during discussion of the resolution. “This agenda item is an example also, so that there can be no misunderstanding of these two constitutional amendments, and where our fair city stands in support of that.”
Mr. Burns said he agendized the item in light of an issue between the two political opponents. The dispute began over a children’s library book and has led to allegations of defamation and a cease-and-desist letter sent by Mr. Kalmick to Huntington Beach resident Chad Williams, a Navy Seal veteran running for his seat.
The letter was sent over alleged defamatory remarks made by Mr. Williams in an April meeting, and demanded he issue an apology to Mr. Kalmick to be published in the Daily Pilot—a local newspaper—by June 6 or face a possible multi-million-dollar lawsuit.
But Mr. Burns said such was an abuse of power and infringement of Mr. Williams’ constitutional rights, specifically that of freedom of speech. He said such has become an issue both on a local and national level.
The council’s three-member liberal minority walked out of the meeting before the vote, implying their disapproval.
“What does this have to do with the budget, or homelessness, or any of the other things that we need to be focused on?” Councilwoman Rhonda Bolton said of the item.
Mr. Burns referenced the recent conviction of Donald Trump, referencing a gag order imposed on the former president during his so-called “hush money” trial in New York City.
“From a presidential candidate defending himself from unreasonable charges in court to a city council candidate being attacked by an incumbent through ‘lawfare’ for speaking out ... laws are being made to weaken the laws that protect those of law-abiding citizens and businesses,” a passage from the resolution reads.
Referencing Mr. Kalmick’s request for a cease-and-desist, Mr. Burns said, “This should be a bipartisan issue, which was turned into some theatrical act of stupidity.”
The dispute began during a March 19 meeting when Mr. Williams brought the book “The Big Bath House” by Kyo Maclear to the council’s attention, which he discovered was in one of the local libraries.
The book describes a young girl’s visit to a traditional Japanese bath house with illustrations of young children and adults bathing together.
Mr. Williams asked the council to remove the book from the library’s children’s section, noting Facebook suspended his account for 30 days after he posted a picture from the book which Facebook moderators, he said, considered “child sexual exploitation.”
“This is normalizing adults bathing nude with children. This is a pedophile’s dream,” Mr. Williams said during the meeting.
Mr. Kalmick, however, said, during the same meeting, he didn’t see a problem with the book, and that he would “absolutely read [it] with my 4-year-old.”
In response, Mr. Williams, during public comment of a May council meeting played a video of Mr. Kalmick’s remarks and a screenshot of Facebook’s decision and questioned the councilor’s comment about the book.
“Normalizing adults bathing with children is, whether you like it or not, a pedophile’s dream come true,” he said at the meeting. “Yet there are those here on the council like Dan Kalmick who would tell you that is child education.”
He also used public comment time to call on voters to elect him in November and “send the likes of Dan Kalmick to read whatever and do whatever with his [children].”
Those remarks led to the cease-and-desist letter a month later claiming Mr. Williams implied Mr. Kalmick was engaged in unlawful acts of child molestation or exploitation of his own children.
In the following meeting, also in May, both Mr. Williams and Mr. Kalmick continued their back and forth spat over the issue where Mr. Williams defended his actions, and said he wouldn’t issue a retraction to be published in the local paper. He also threatened to countersue if faced with litigation.
“To be clear, I never accused or called Dan Kalmick anything whatsoever ... [his] cease-and-desist is loaded with putting words in my mouth that never happened and attempting to draw mind-reading inferences that are unequivocally false,” Mr. Williams told The Epoch Times in a recent interview.
During the same May meeting, Mr. Kalmick said the comments hurt him and his family.
“This person crossed a line and came after my family, and inferred that I was a pedophile and I hurt my daughter,” he said. “These defamatory remarks not only caused me pain but my wife and family pain.”
Mr. Kalmick didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.
He called Mr. Burn’s item “ridiculous” during this week’s meeting before packing up and heading home.
“This item is performative. And it’s absolutely completely ridiculous. I’m going to continue working to try to find solutions to these budget deficits that actually affect day-to-day residents instead of national issues, or silly issues like this,” he said. “Call me when you guys are ready to be serious and govern, I’m going home.”
On his way-out the councilor was followed by Ms. Bolton and Councilwoman Natalie Moser.
Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark ridiculed the councilors’ walkout.
“It’s blowing my mind that three people who were sworn in onto this council, and they raised their hand and swore to protect and defend our Constitution walked out on this item. That’s very telling,” she said.
The debate of “inappropriate” books in the children’s section of the city’s libraries has continued to be at the forefront in recent months.
In October, the city council approved a resolution by Ms. Van Der Mark to create a panel of community members to oversee which books enter the city’s five libraries. She said she agendized the discussion after learning there were books depicting nudity and sex acts in the children’s section.
The panel is tasked with reviewing books and asking city libraries to move those with sexual content away from children. The resolution also requires parent or guardian permission for children to access such materials.

Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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