Oceano board bows to public pressure over freedom of speech

Director Cynthia Replogle


Responding to public outrage, Oceano Community Services District Board members voted Wednesday to reconsider all committee assignments.

In an attempt to control a director’s speech, the Oceano board voted 3-2 in December to bar Director Cynthia Replogle from any committee, liaison or subject matter assignments for one year. Director Karen White, who made the motion, said Replogle’s opposing views were confusing to Oceano residents.

Director Shirley Gibson then told Replogle, “you should remain mute” if she holds an opinion different from the board majority, sparking a debate over Replogle’s right to free speech.

“Maybe you should read the Constitution,” Replogle replied.

Directors White, Gibson and Linda Austin then voted to bar Replogle from committee assignments for one year. Allene Villa and Replogle dissented.

In the past, Replogle has distinguished her personal opinions from those that represent the district when speaking to other public entities.

Activist Julie Tacker then filed a formal complaint – also known as a Cure and Correct Demand — to compel the district to do the right thing and rehear the matter. Tacker’s formal complaint alleged a Brown Act violation because banning a director from committees was not on the agenda.

On Wednesday, nearly a dozen community members spoke before the closed session, many of them asking that the committee assignments be reheard and to put Replogle back on committees.

During a 35 minute closed door meeting, the board agreed unanimously to reject Tacker’s letter, but agreed to reconsider committee assignments on the district’s second meeting in February.

“Filing the cure and correct demand forced the board to discuss the matter, that they agreed to revisit the committee assignments is a win for the community,” Tacker said.