By Ralph Echtinaw
Tempers flared at Tuesday’s city council meeting regarding the organization and execution of the city’s Independence Day celebration on July 16.
The craft show, motorcycle ride-in, dunk tank and performance by Miranda and the M80s that day were more or less spearheaded by Councilwoman Liz Upton and her husband Adam.
Some things didn’t go as well as hoped, leading the Uptons to criticize Downtown Development Authority Director Phil Hanson at the July 19 city council meeting.
Follow THIS LINK to see that story. (And scroll to the bottom.)
Wake up call
Tuesday’s meeting was a snooze fest until the second public comments time when Hansen took the microphone. He said he met with Adam Upton along with City Manager Kurt Giles, culminating in Upon apologizing to both. He then had a sit-down with Liz Upton.
“We have a situation where we have council people evaluating, criticizing, writing emails and making statements in public,” Hansen said. “Look at your city charter and tell me something hadn’t been violated. I’m absolutely disgusted at this point. We left the meeting last night with the understanding that did not happen. I’m going to take a look at what I’m going to do next, but you better be prepared.”
Mayor Tom Reed jumped in at that point and read a prepared statement: “I failed to stop disparaging words directed toward a city employee who was not present (at the July 19 meeting). This is unacceptable. In my eight plus years of being on council I never experienced this type of behavior from the audience or from council members. I will say this, this lack of respect and decorum will never happen again. To allow the disrespect of an employee of the city is inappropriate and uncalled for.”
Hansen resumed his comments, saying Leonard asked him on July 19 to make a list of what events he has promoted in the city. Hanson did so and gave a copy to all council members.
“I requested a reply from Mr. Leonard,” Hansen said. “His was: ‘Good morning, Phil. Thanks for the rapid response. I appreciate it. I was waiting to reply until I read Ralph’s news report. Your info was pretty much what I had anticipated.’
“And I wasn’t sure how to take that,” Hansen continued. “I asked Bill with a replied email, ‘Does that mean it was well done or lacking in some way?’ No answer. I went over all this stuff at a department head meeting two days after that city council meeting. Every single department head knows what went on. They were not happy either. They were supportive of me when when I read this to them. It’s apparent from everyone I talked to at that meeting that Bill Leonard that night acted like I did not do a good job. His tone of voice. Everything. ‘You did not do the job, Phil. You better show me what you did.’ That was the attitude he had. (Raises voice.) So I want to know. You tell me. Did I do a good job or not. Because this is very disingenuous.”
Leonard responded: “When your voice gets to the level of mine this conversation will continue.”
Hansen: “There it is. My voice is now at the level of yours. I need to hear from you in order for me to understand. Were you telling a lie? I don’t understand.”
Leonard: “Well apparently not, but you have my response. I think the job you did was exactly what I expected.
Hansen: “But you are not able to say if that was a good job or not?”
Leonard: “At this point, no.”
Hansen: “This is incredible Do you believe what’s going on here? All right, I’ll proceed in my own way.”
Giles chimed in at that point: “This is counterproductive. For events that are supposed to be fun. It takes away from what we’re trying to do; what the core business of the city is. There are always improvements that can be made to our processes but we shouldn’t break them down rather than make improvements. Relationships are important. That’s what our successes depended on in the past. And I was hopeful we’d be able to continue in a positive way”
Hansen: “What’s happened tonight, Kurt, that surprises you.”
Giles: “I did expect that Council Person Upton would deliver a different message tonight.”
Hansen: “As was I.”
Though Upton had declined comment to that point, she now jumped in: “The conversation last night was not left in a pleasant manner,” she said. “I never walked in this room at any point to say anything malicious about anybody. I got questions about an event, stated that I didn’t not have answers to those questions because I didn’t receive email responses. That was all that was ever said. And somehow that’s me doing a bunch of other things. So whatever happens from this point on is up to everybody else, I suppose.”
Reed had the final word on the matter: “The business if the city council is to conduct the business of the city. That is our function. I think we’re doing that. This other stuff is not conducive to good relationships. Stop and remember why we’re here.”