CATHEDRAL CITY — A local gadfly, Dale Jag, who stopped just short of calling a local businessman a pedophile, has been characterized by city government leaders as an embarrassment to the city and his blistering rhetoric sad.
His venomous rhetoric was so alarming and distasteful that the businessman initially considered a slander or defamation suit. He has since reconsidered.
It all started with an email on Aug. 29 to three of five City Councilmembers – Mayor Stan Henry and Councilmembers Mark Carnevale and John Aguilar. Dale Jag, who has described himself as a government watchdog, included in the email numerous Facebook posts from Simeon Den, who owns Simeon Den Gallery on Perez Road in Cathedral City. He also is a founder of the Agnes Pelton Society, a nonprofit organization designed to promote the life, art, and legacy of Agnes Pelton.
The nonprofit was on Aug. 29 requesting a city sponsorship, but Jag was hoping to pre-empt any financial aid it might get.
“The Agnes Pelton Society is run by Simeon Den and I will be addressing my concerns about him working with children and the city putting their name on his event,” Jag wrote in the email.
View the entire contents of the email here.
Jag’s bullying and shaming did not stop there.
During public comments, Jag said, in part, “Unfortunately, Simeon has a severe misconduct on social media and I proved that to you. I can’t understand how you wouldn’t possibly see that. He should not be in front of children. … He should not be around people. He should not be around children at all. Children are able to see Facebook. Don’t let it happen here. Don’t give him this. He doesn’t need that. Agnes Pelton was not this type of person and she probably would be rolling in her grave if she saw what was going on. …”
Watch his monologue here.
Mayor Stan Henry told Uken Report that, “It is a very sad time when anyone uses a public form such as a Council meeting to degrade anyone else, be it another community member, staff, or a Councilmember. As you know, we are always dealing with a person’s First Amendment right to speech versus speech that is harmful to others.”
It is very difficult to know what a person is going to say when he steps up to the podium for his 3 minutes, Henry said. Those who cross the line of good taste and judgment often get the words out before anyone has the ability to stop it.
“I would like to see that the mayor have the ability to turn off the mic when he/she feels the speech is unjustified or when someone goes over the limit,” Henry said. “But I’m sure you could find issues with that power.
Asked if it was OK for Jag to speak in this manner, Henry responded emphatically.
“NO, it is never OK! How do we stop it? I would hope everyone who speaks at a Council meeting would use some civility in their choice of speech.”
The Mayor went on to say that he does not believe Den is a danger to anyone.
Councilmember Mark Carnevale delivered an unbridled rebuke of Jag.
“Quite honestly, I feel Dale’s words are an embarrassment to our city,” Carnevale told Uken Report. “… Dale’s actions have escalated to all-time low.”
Carnevale likened it to the disturbance in the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the nation’s capital this week.
“Where has the respect for individuals gone?” Carnevale said. “This is madness. Actions like that have filtered down to our level of government.”
As for Den, Carnevale said, “He is a good man with a loving partner, Peter. Both of these guys would give you the shirt off their backs. I have seen Simeon work and behave around children and he is terrific and by no means would ever harm a child. Great people both of them. Enough said.”
Carnevale added that he would like to think Jag has learned from this, but fears he has not.
“This will continue,” Carnevale said.
Den said he was shocked that, Jag, a neighbor, would “publicly slander” him personally and, by association, smear the Agnes Pelton Society with lies and innuendo.
“Our arts programs have been annually funded by the city and have been recognized for almost 10 years for successfully advocating for the arts by commissioning local artists and providing arts education opportunities from children and adults,” Den told Uken Report. “To smear me, Dale Jag referenced old Facebook posts to accuse me of misogyny and of being a danger to children.”
Den said he is an artist and performer and utilizes Facebook as a platform to entertain his followers. By training, he is an inter-disciplinary artist, educator, and writer. His Facebook friends are predominantly artists, writers, academics and friends with intellect, people who joyfully appreciate the literary techniques of metaphor, irony, sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek, and love nothing more than a witty “turn of the phrase,” Den said.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Jag only comprehends the literal,” Den said. “He and his cohorts are unable to appreciate the nuances of language. He took my posts out of context and only understood them as salacious affronts to women and children.”
Den told Uken Report that he comes from a family of corporate attorneys. Initially, Den said he was angry and disappointed in Jag’s attack.
“I thought to sue him for defamation,” Den said. “It would be no monetary cost to me, but after giving it some thought I decided that I would not file a suit. Doing so would only validate him and his haters by acknowledging his vicious unfounded attack.”
Den said he is proud to say he has a stellar reputation of more than 50 years as a social and political activist, who champions women and has a proven track record of working with and teaching children. It speaks for itself.
“If you consider Mr. Jag’s reputation as a gossip monger who constantly badgers our city staff with Freedom of Information requests and with a sketchy past, I stand secure in my own community accomplishments,” Den said. “My friends and I will not be deterred. We are, rather, re-energized to continue to build community through and with the arts.”
In response to Jag’s condemnation of Den, the City Council voted to approve two requests:
- $2,800 for the Annual Agnes Pelton Society’s House Museum Block Party and Art Fest .The previous two years, the city sponsored it at $4,000.
- The second item was the monthly Children’s Art Party that is available for children, their parents, and elders. They requested $100 per month, $1,200 a year.
The Museum Block Party and Art Fest were approved 4 to 1. Henry voted “No” because he wanted them to go through the Public Art Commission for approval and funds instead of using General Fund Revenue.
The Children’s Monthly Art Party was approved 5 to 0.
Jag did not return requests for comment.