CALEXICO — Personal insults, speaking out of turn, profane language and calls for point of order have punctuated various City Council meetings here in the past few months.
Council members said they believe a harder hand needs to be taken by the mayor to address the issue.
City Council meeting staple Oscar Gonzales has been the main offender and was nearly escorted out of last week’s regular meeting and Tuesday’s special council meeting for using profane language and for personal insults toward council members during public comment and under his breath while sitting in the audience.
Mayor Luis Castro said after Tuesday’s meeting that Gonzales is a friend of his.
Council members have repeatedly asked Gonzales to abide by meeting rules in a respectful manner.
Calexico Police Chief Jim Neujahr said that, by law, a person will be escorted out of the meeting only if directed by the mayor or someone sitting in for the mayor.
Castro said after Tuesday night’s meeting that he does need to better control the meetings and to make sure everyone respects one another.
“I’m against any violations. I’m against if someone uses profane language and need to work and start doing something effective, because I don’t want trouble around the chamber,” he said. “We need to respect our public.”
Councilman Bill Hodge said he believes a meeting decorum workshop is necessary and will be seeking to have one in the near future.
“In the meantime, we’ve got to get better control. It’s a sort of a sensitive situation. … We need to know what their (the public’s) rights are and firmly what the boundaries are so we can enforce them. At this point in time, because of some individuals and the way they are, it’s got out of hand.”
In reference to Gonzales, Hodge said that “if he can’t speak within his rights, then he needs to be barred from the meeting, because then he is obstructing the democratic process. Anyone that becomes such a disruption to the democratic process needs to be stopped.”
Gonzales has fired personal accusations at various council members over the past few months. At one point, he apologized for his behavior at meetings after his family spoke to him but then returned with insulting profane language to the past couple of meetings.
“He’s stepped over the line now and that’s wrong. He has a right to speak about public issues but not to mix it within the same sentences or discourse with making personal attacks. That’s what’s happened and we need to make it clear and firm to him that he can’t do that,” Hodge said. “We need to put our foot down. I’m frustrated, because we’re not acting on it.”
Councilman John Moreno agreed that there’s definitely an issue.
“It’s taking longer to take care of business, and I believe the mayor should address this at the next meeting. … The mayor should emphasize that he stick with the issues and not with personal attacks.”
Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Romero said it’s “an ongoing issue, and the mayor has not put a stop to it. We’re waiting for the mayor to take control of it.
“There are people in the public that are causing continual disruption, and it’s not permitting the items on the agenda to be sufficiently reviewed,” he said. “The mayor or chairperson should always conduct the meetings to attend to all agendized items in a professional, respectable, efficient and as expeditiously as possible.”
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org