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Kids Book Sparks Dispute Between Huntington Beach Official and Political Rival

Kids Book Sparks Dispute Between Huntington Beach Official and Political Rival

A group of Huntington Beach residents organized a pop-up event to raise awareness of what they say are “inappropriate” books in the children’s section of the city's library, at City Hall in Huntington Beach, Calif., on April 16, 2024. (Patricia Pappas)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

5/23/2024

Updated: 5/23/2024

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A children’s library book is once again at the center of a conflict in Huntington Beach–one that involves allegations of defamation and a cease-and-desist order between Councilman Dan Kalmick and a political opponent.
Lifelong Huntington Beach resident and former Navy Seal veteran Chad Williams, who is also running for Mr. Kalmick’s council seat in November, first brought the book “The Big Bath House” by Kyo Maclear to the council’s attention in March.
Mr. Williams told The Epoch Times that another resident discovered the book in one of the local libraries and showed it to him.
The book, which describes a young girl’s visit to a traditional Japanese bath house, includes illustrations of young children and adults bathing together nude.
In outrage, Mr. Williams said he posted images of the book on his Facebook page—and Facebook promptly removed the post, claiming it contained “child sexual exploitation,” and banned Mr. Williams’ page for 30 days.
On March 19, Mr. Williams brought the book before the City Council, asking them to remove it and other such books from the children’s section of the library.
During that meeting, Mr. Kalmick said he didn’t see a problem with the book, and that he would “absolutely read that [book] with my 4-year-old.”
At the following council meeting on April 16, Mr. Williams said he put Mr. Kalmick’s above remarks side-by-side with a screenshot of Facebook telling him his post about the book contains “child sexual exploitation.”
“Normalizing adults bathing with children is, whether you like it or not, a pedophile’s dream come true,” Mr. Williams said at the April 16 meeting. “Yet there are those here on the council like Dan Kalmick who would tell you that is child education.”
At that meeting, Mr. Williams also called on voters to elect him in November and “send the likes of Dan Kalmick to read whatever and do whatever with his [children].”
About a month later on May 16, Mr. Kalmick’s attorney sent Mr. Williams a cease-and-desist letter, claiming Mr. Williams’ remarks were defamatory and implied that Mr. Kalmick was engaged in unlawful acts of child molestation or exploitation with his own children.
The letter also demanded Mr. Williams retract his statements—either at a council meeting or in local newspaper The Daily Pilot—by June 6 or else he would pursue litigation.
Both Mr. Williams and Mr. Kalmick spoke about the letter at the May 21 council meeting, with Mr. Kalmick saying that Mr. Williams “crossed the line” with his comments.
“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. Williams, during public comments, told Mr. Kalmick that his allegations were false, that he did not imply that Mr. Kalmick was engaged in unlawful acts of child molestation or exploitation, and that he would not issue any retraction.
He also said that if Mr. Kalmick pursues litigation, he would countersue.
Mr. Kalmick and his attorney were not immediately available for comment.
The discussion came after months of debate over so-called “inappropriate” books in the children’s section of the city’s libraries.
In October, the City Council approved a resolution, introduced by Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark, to create a panel of community members with oversight of the books in the city’s five libraries.
Ms. Van Der Mark said she did so after some raised concerns over books with alleged inappropriate sexual content—including depictions of nudity and sex acts—in the children’s section of the city’s libraries.
Under the resolution, the panel reviews books and then asks city libraries to move those with sexual content out of the children’s section. It also requires a parent or guardian’s consent to access such materials.
The new ordinance also creates two options for library cards for minors—one with access to the “youth-restricted” section and one without—with parents deciding which library card their child receives.
However, a group of Huntington Beach residents told The Epoch Times that when they went to one of the libraries last month, the “youth-restricted” section was empty, and some of the books that were requested to be moved were still on the children’s and teens’ shelves.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

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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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