Friday, Kern Law Enforcement Association, KLEA, announced they have rescinded their endorsement of Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman for Kern County Sheriff.
23 ABC reported last week, KLEA, decided to vote on whether or not to continue their endorsement of Chief Deputy Fleeman for Kern County Sheriff.
In March, KLEA sent out a press release saying they plan to endorse Fleeman in the upcoming election against current Sheriff Donny Youngblood. In the press release KLEA President David Kessler stated, "It was clear from our members' comments, that there is wide dissatisfaction with the status quo."
Friday KLEA said in a statement, 64.9% of those who voted said, they wanted to withdraw their current endorsement of Chief Deputy Fleeman. Members were asked one question with two answers, whether they wanted to continue their endorsement of Chief Deputy Fleeman or remain neutral. KLEA officials say the vote came after a petition was brought forward “expressed disappointment in the Fleeman’s campaign’s salacious attacks on the Sheriff’s Office as a hole and perceived damage to all of those who wear the uniform.”
23ABC spoke to the President of KLEA and Chief Deputy Fleeman Friday to get both sides.
"They were unhappy with some of the tones and messages that he was saying in the campaign and made our members bring it to our attention some of the issues," KLEA President David Kessler said.
According to Kessler, numerous members of KLEA brought forward a petition expressing disappointment in the Fleeman campaign because of vulgar attacks Fleeman was sharing about the department, "A lot of it had to do with the tone about deputies having sex on duties, some of the stuff we don't see happening and made it sound like it was happening every day."
In March Kessler also said that deputies were quote, "unsatisfied with the status quo," meaning deputies wanted to see change in the way things were being run in the department. The original vote supported that statement, when 117 people voted in favor for Fleeman and 30 people voted for current Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
After members were resurveyed via email last week today's vote showed something different, "There's 188 that voted to withdraw the endorsement there was 99 that voted to keep the endorsement," Kessler said.
However, candidate Fleeman said that vote is not the one holding the most weight, "Just because they say I'm not going to endorse you, worried about themselves...when they go to that ballot box on June fifth and check, nobody is going to see the results, no one is going to see nobody is going to know who they voted for or who they signed up for. The people will speak on June fifth and I feel confident that I’ll be the next Sheriff."
Fleeman said he believes members were pressured into signing the recall petition, in light of fear and what could come their way if they didn't sign against the endorsement, "Promotional opportunities, potential retaliation."
However, KLEA members are also not swaying the other way according to Kessler, "No there's no endorsement out there for any other Sheriff candidates, we're going to stay out of this campaign we're going to let the voters decide who they want to be their next Sheriff."
Kessler also said members were unhappy with what Fleeman said during our 23ABC Sheriff debate which took place last week in the 23ABC studios. Fleeman said the organization knew where he stood before they endorsed him.
Fleeman also said that he reached out to his other endorsers, including the Kern County Detention Officers association and that this had no impact on their standing with Fleeman.
If you would like to see the debate that created so much controversy you can watch the whole segment here.