The March 5, 2018, City Council meeting wasn’t expected to be anything exciting. There were no proclamations on the agenda, nor any hot topics that would draw in large crowds to speak their opinion. The highlight of the evening was likely to be Cub Scout Troop 432 articulating their hope for the city to lessen their impact on the environment by increasing their use of renewable energy. That was, until, Ordinance No. 6679 came up for a vote.
The Ordinance That Started It All
Ordinance No. 6679 modifies portions of city code relating to purchasing policy and public contracts. It would increase the Mayor’s purchasing power regarding contracts and real estate. Prior to this ordinance, there were several discrepancies in city code and this would have all limits be the same amount, of $50,000. The update would also mimic other portions of city code, permitting the Mayor to enter into real estate transactions related to budgeted projects, up to $50,000.
At the prior week’s study session, Councilmember Largo Wales expressed her concerns related to the real estate portion of the ordinance. The crux of her issue was that “sometimes the parks department is a runaway entity.” She added “they’re not an absolute. They’re very important to our community, but public works is an absolute must.”
Referencing page two of the ordinance, section 3.10.025, Wales requested clarification on Monday, asking again if this purchasing increase would also apply to the parks department. Ingrid Gaub, Acting Director of Public Works, confirmed that this ordinance is not limited to public works. Wales reaffirmed that she did not hold issue with this increase for public works. She did not, however, wish to give away the Council’s authority to “nay or yay on a parks project.”
After it was explained that these changes were only altering the amount of the purchasing power. Councilmember Holman further confirmed that this ordinance does not authorize expenditures not already approved by the council.
When Wales attempted to again speak, Holman raised a point of order. According to both the Auburn City Council Rules and Procedures, section 7.1, and Robert’s Rules of Order, members are limited to two debates on one motion. This rule was clarified by city attorney Dan Heid, who added that a vote could be held to permit members additional debate time. No motion was made for additional debate time.
Wales levied an insult at Holman, referring to him as a “fucking asshole.”
Seeking further comments once more, Mayor Nancy Backus breached the rules and called on Wales. This was notably ironic as moments earlier Wales was heard quietly commenting to Councilmember Yolanda Trout that Backus “hates calling on me.”
Wales’ additional comments were a tense expression of gratitude to Holman for his further clarification of the ordinance. After completing her comments, Wales levied an insult at Holman, referring to him as a “fucking asshole.” Her body language further belayed her displeasure, as she made a second inaudible comment.
As her microphone remained on, the gaffe was clearly heard. The Cub Scout troop was still present at the time of the remark.
Ordinance 6679 was adopted with a unanimous vote.
“Neither Troubled Nor Deterred”
When asked about the exchange, Holman shared that procedures are clearly outlined in the auburnwacity-council-rules-of-procedureauburnwacity-council-rules-of-procedureAuburn City Council Rules and Procedures. He asserted that Wales should know them as she has been on the Council for over six years and was Deputy Mayor for two. “Rules, laws, procedures, etc. are there to be followed for the benefit of all and apply equally to all.”
Commenting specifically on Wales’ remark, he stated, “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.”
“It is our intent to ensure appropriate and professional behavior and comments as City of Auburn elected officials – especially during public meetings. Our residents should expect and they most definitely deserve that level of decorum from us,” said Mayor Backus, adding that the matter would be addressed by Deputy Mayor Bob Baggett.
Baggett confirmed he discussed the matter with Backus Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday he shared that the matter was still being reviewed, with options for the appropriate next steps being considered.
FCC and government access regulations strictly prohibit this type of language to be broadcast. Dana Hinman, Director of Administration, confirmed that this portion of the meeting will be removed from the broadcast by the city’s videographer before being posted to the city’s TV channel.
Wales did not respond to request for comment at the time of publication.