PACIFIC JUNCTION - By a slim 3-2 margin, the Pacific Junction City Council passed a controversial resolution at last Monday’s regular meeting aimed at condemning derogatory remarks by elected city officials.
Resolution 2010-17, dubbed “Resolution on Equality and Conduct,” was drafted following comments made by council member Rodney Bents at an Aug. 16 meeting that Mayor Jim Lovely and city attorney T.J. Patterman felt disparaged Mexicans.
In a tape recorded discussion at the Aug. 16 meeting, Bents can be heard saying, “Well, then don’t be getting hit by a Mexican up in Omaha.”
Bents’ comments related to a discussion on insurance liability on a city owned building.
After reviewing the tape with Lovely, Patterman drafted the resolution condemning Bents’ remarks.
The resolution states, in part, “It is the official policy of the city council of the City of Pacific Junction that derogatory remarks based upon stereotypes, particularly those concerning race, creed, religion and national origin.....have no place in city business, whether it be official or otherwise, and that any such remarks do not reflect the values of our community and any such comments are strongly condemned.”
The resolution was first brought before the council at the Sept. 7 meeting as an addendum to that night’s meeting. But that meeting ended abruptly when the council voted 4-1 against approving the agenda and the meeting was subsequently adjourned. Iowa Code requires a local board or council, acting as a government body, to approve that meeting’s agenda before considering new business.
With Resolution 2010-17 on last Monday’s agenda, councilman Andy Young, Richard Kerres and Bents voted for the resolution. Council members Earl Smith and Patricia Hatcher voted no.
Bents declined comment after the meeting but during a discussion on the resolution, the councilman and Lovely exchanged heated words.
“Does this (the resolution) pertain to everyone at this table?” said Bents, directing his comments to Lovely.
“Yes. That’s for the city of Pacific Junction, no one individual, as a collective,” Lovely replied.
Bents: “Even when you sat there and called councilmen hypocrites and stuff, too?”
Lovely: “Yes and I’ll stand by what I said.”
Lovely: “That’s not being derogatory toward anybody. That’s telling the truth.”
Bents: “That ain’t what I was told about two weeks ago by a guy.”
Lovely: “I’ll stand by it, you guys are hypocrites. And I’ll say it again. And I’ll tell you exactly why I said it and how I said and what the content was for. If you want me to rehash it, I’ll rehash it.”
Bents: “You don’t have to rehash it. But if it pertains to calling your councilmen (hypocrites) and everything else, it’s fine with me.”
Lovely: “You’re an elected public official. You’re not a private citizen. If I’ve offended anybody by calling them a hypocrite, then I’ll apologize for it.”
In an interview following the meeting, Lovely said he wasn’t surprised the resolution passed – he was surprised it didn’t pass unanimously.
“The resolution speaks for itself,” he said. “It wasn’t directed toward any one person. It was a resolution reaffirming the quality of life we expect here in Pacific Junction. I’m very surprised it wasn’t unanimous.”
Hatcher said after the meeting the controversy surrounding Bents’ comments and the resolution in response to them “blew the whole thing out of proportion.”
“The way I feel is if anyone had a beef with it, why didn’t they bring it up that night at the meeting?” said Hatcher. “But they didn’t. They waited until the next day.”
Smith declined to comment on the resolution or his vote.
“That’s my business,” said Smith. “That’s my personal feelings (how I voted).”
Young declined to comment on his vote but did say, the resolution “needed to (be) put in. It was basically an apology to those people we would have offended.”
Lovely said he, like the other public officials and members of the council, can’t pick and choose who to treat equally.
“As a public official, you have to treat every individual with the same amount of respect as the next person that comes through that door,” said Lovely. “This came about as a result of a comment on a particular race. Next time it may be about gender or a age discrimination. We as public officials can’t pick and choose. We have to treat everyone the same.”
Lovely hopes the passage of the resolution closes the book on a controversial few weeks on the council.
“I am sorry it came down to a resolution,” said Lovely. “But basically it was the right thing to do. I don’t understand how somebody could possibly justify not doing the right thing and not justify passing the resolution for what it is, because what the resolution does is not only addresses the comments of this particular council, and this city, it also addresses any future conduct by any council persons or city officials who might come into office in the future.”