Jensen comments about book issue caught on video

1 month ago Fremont Tribune

Editor’s Note: This article contains the use of minor foul, offensive words.

The passions surrounding the presence of a sex education book in Fremont’s Keene Memorial Library were caught on tape Tuesday night, Jan. 31, when Fremont City Council President Mark Jensen was shown on city-recorded video apparently muttering the word “bullshit” as a local grandmother addressed the council.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, many speakers addressed the controversy over the sex education tome “Sex is a Funny Word.”

The main complainant about the book — local grandmother and downtown business owner Sandra Murray — was speaking when Jensen is seen on the city video feed apparently saying, “Bullshit.”

The comment was not heard because council members can turn off their microphones. The Fremont Tribune was made aware of the incident by readers who had watched the city video on YouTube.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Feb. 2, Jensen said he did not specifically recall whether or not he used the word members of the public allege in several Facebook posts, but did admit that the word “Bullshit” reflected his personal feelings about complaints from Murray about the presence of “Sex is a Funny Word” in the city library.

“If I may have muttered something under my breath … I can’t confirm or deny that. I may have … it was certainly the way I felt. I felt her depiction was inaccurate and I have no problem holding that position,” Jensen said of the incident. “(My comment) wasn’t spoken publicly. I do recall feeling that way. I won’t deny feeling that (Murray’s) depiction is less than accurate. If I did mouth (the word ‘bullshit’) and it caused any problems, I would apologize for that. Sometimes my heart goes on its sleeve more than it should. It is what it is.”

Murray told the Fremont Tribune she was unaware of Jensen’s alleged comment until acquaintances had shared the video on social media websites.

She said the comment was disappointing.

“It is pretty disrespectful. It doesn’t shine a good light on (Jensen),” Murray said. “When I saw the video, I was like, ‘Wow … that was very unprofessional and weird.’ But I was not hurt by it.”

Fremont Mayor Joey Spellerberg said he was unaware of Jensen’s utterance, but said he had no comment on the issue or possible use of foul language by the council president.

“It is important for me to run professional meetings and I think that is what you saw on Tuesday,” Spellerberg said. “You’d have to ask the city council what their thoughts are on potential actions.”

Spellerberg said any efforts to censure or admonish Jensen for the comment would have to originate with a sitting city council member, as he cannot initiate those types of elected body actions in his role as mayor.

Book controversy began in December

Murray and her daughter, Brianna Kindler, first complained about the book, along with four LGBTQ+-themed titles, during the Dec. 27 council meeting public comment period. Both women asked that the books be removed from the library.

Since that initial complaint, “Sex is a Funny Word” and six other sexual education books in the children’s section at Keene Memorial Library were relocated to the adult section of the library. That move was on Dec. 28, following a meeting between Library Director Laura England-Biggs, Spellerberg and other city and library officials.

Murray later filed an official request for reconsideration complaint with the library to have “Sex is a Funny Word” removed from the library. That request was denied in a Jan. 16 decision from England-Biggs. Murray has appealed the retaining of the book to the library’s five-member, volunteer advisory board.

Jensen said he fully supports the presence of “Sex is a Funny Word” in the Keene Memorial Library, and noted because of the current relocation of the library to Fremont City Auditorium as a new library expansion and renovation is worked on, the book may have been misplaced.

“From what I’ve read about this book, my take on this book is it is a good tool for anyone, or any parent, who wants to approach this subject with their children to use. It is not pornography in my opinion. It is something some children should be made aware of,” Jensen added. “(The book) talks about ‘secret touching.’ Personally, I think it is pretty important that children understand that if someone is talking (to them) about ‘secret touching’ (of their genitals), then something is wrong and you need to tell somebody. We are in a temporary library position. This may have been put in the wrong place. Could a book be placed where it didn’t belong? Yes.”

Debate over book appeal process

One issue raised during Tuesday’s meeting by resident Gloria Yerger, wife of former Ward 4 Council Member Brad Yerger, was whether or not the review and decision from the Keene Memorial Library Advisory Board was indeed final. Yerger alleged city municipal code gives the final authority over library matters to the city council.

Jensen admitted that if the library board is contested by Murray or others, the issue could land before the city council if a member of the eight-person body places the issue on a meeting agenda.

“It will not even come before the council until after the appeal review, which I think is Feb. 20, which is the next library board meeting. As she already intimated, she thinks her appeal will be denied. I would expect that also,” Jensen said. “For it to come to the council, somebody is going to have to want to put it on agenda. Personally, I don’t (want the issue on a council agenda). I have full confidence in our library board as far as the materials that are down there. I trust the board and Laura (England-Biggs) on these matters.”

On Thursday, Murray said she believes based on her conversations with an unnamed member of the Fremont City Council as well as Mayor Joey Spellerberg that if her appeal is denied by the library board, a third appeal will come before the full council.

“I’m sure (my appeal) is going to be denied. If it does get denied, I feel confident it will then come before the council,” Murray added. “I’ve talked to a councilman and the mayor about this. It is city law. (The council) is the library’s boss.”

The public debate over the book and other controversial books in general went for almost an hour on Tuesday, Jan. 31, as speaker after speaker approached the lectern and expressed their opinions on the issue of the presence of “Sex is a Funny Word” in the city library. Many commenters favored keeping the book, while others opposed the book, with Gloria Yerger calling its presence a, “stain on the community.”

Jensen said any allusions or efforts to stymying fundraising for the library’s expansion project by Murray or others in the community who support banning the books in question are disappointing.

“It is poor timing. We started this project and we are over 80% funded on this project, part of the grants is having public (financial) support. There were more people (at the meeting) speaking for the book than against it,” he added. “I do think this is a spectacle. The loud minority is not representative of how I feel most of Fremont feels (about the books).”











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