Some things a public official just doesn’t do in a public meeting.
Like refer to a fellow council member in derogatory or obscene terms.
But at the regular March 5 council meeting, former deputy mayor and recent mayoral candidate Largo Wales did just that. And it’s on video.
Now, she may be in hot water for it. Just how hot is as yet unknown, but a “complaint lodged against a public official” and what to do about it was the subject of a 20-minute-long, closed-door session at the conclusion of Monday’s council study session.
Council cannot take official action at a study session, and the issue remained unresolved at the conclusion of the closed-door session, so, whether discipline or none is to follow is likely to be the subject of further discussion. Disciplinary action is the responsibility of the deputy mayor, Bob Baggett.
The event occurred at the March 5 council meeting and may be seen and heard in context from beginning to end, from the time span of 30:07 to 32.37 in the video of the meeting on the City’s webpage, auburnwa.gov.
Wales had been about to make her third comment on a budget item when Councilman John Holman brought up a point of order.
“Our rules clearly state that on the subject matter that’s on motion, one individual has two debates at it. Council member Wales has already had two comments on this item,” Holman said.
Mayor Nancy Backus then turned to City Attorney Dan Heid to ask for his legal opinion.
“I believe the rules do provide a limitation on how many times a council member may speak to a specific item,” Heid responded, “and in that regard, it’s so all council members may have an opportunity. Beyond the initial two times, council may have to voice approval for additional comments, which could be done by a motion, that’s the typical way.”
Wales responded as follows.
“I just wanted to say thank you, John, because maybe that’s what this one section means at 113 item B. I wanted to thank you for the clarification on items budgeted and not budgeted, and you provided me with great clarification.”
Wales then turns to council member Yolanda Trout-Manuel and, under her voice, clearly refers to Holman using an obscene phrase.
After the meeting, Holman said the council had discussed the matter of spending limits at length during the study session on Feb 26, and that the part about the mayor not being able to spend any amount of money that was not already in the budget and approved by the council was covered in depth.
“Roberts Rules of Order and Auburn City Council Rules and Procedures clearly state that when a motion is on the floor, each member may speak twice to the subject,” Holman said. “From memory, it is chapter 7.1 of Council Rules. Rules, laws, procedures are there to be followed for the benefit of all, and apply equally to all.
“I am sorry my colleague was upset. However, she has been on council for over six years and was deputy mayor for two. She knows the rules as well as I do. She chooses to bend the rules and got called for it. I am neither troubled nor deterred by any comment my esteemed colleague might make in a moment of embarrassment or miscalculation. I imagine we will continue to work collegially,” Holman said.
“Truth is, as a cop, it didn’t take long before I learned not to react to verbal provocation. Nothing good comes from it. As far as taunts go, it was pretty school yard and no offense was taken,” Holman said.
“The alleged complaint is still being processed, but it appears there is a communication and leadership problem that needs to be addressed,” Wales wrote in response to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.