But if Wiggins is serious about gaining a second term, she must at some point face the questions swirling about her health, McCuan said. Instead, there appears to be an effort in the opposite direction.

Cal-Channel — a public access station that airs Capitol events — no longer televises hearings of the Senate's Local Government Committee, which Wiggins heads, out of concern she will have another embarrassing outburst, according to a source with knowledge of the arrangement.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, determines what gets aired on the station. His spokeswoman, Alicia Trost, said there is "absolutely no order that would prevent Local Government from being aired."

McCuan, however, said "the circumstances and timing reek of politics and protection, and not the public interest, and give rise to rumors and innuendo while doing nothing to end the controversy here."

Said Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown: "When you decide to be a public servant, your life is no longer cloistered. I don't know what the reasons are for people's speculation, but I think she needs to answer those questions."

You can reach Staff Writer Derek J. Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com.