And other city council business…
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – The Desert Hot Springs city council was on good behavior for a second meeting in a row but the meeting did not go without a fracas. Mixing it up this time was not the city council or members of the public. Getting into the pissing match that has marked council dysfunction this time were members of the public and Councilman Scott Matas.
Early in the meeting Scott Matas was the recipient of critical comments by public speakers during the public comment section of the meeting. At the end of the meeting when Matas had his chance to respond during his council member comments is when the Matas mess began.
“I get a little worked up sometimes when people come to the podium and attack me directly,” said Scott Matas. “When people come to the podium and they say things as they do and they just want to speak out of turn and lie, then you as a public obviously have to take that into a position.”
That set off members of the public who did not take kindly to being accused by Scott Matas of telling lies. One resident took vocal offense.
“He can’t call me a liar,” said Daryl Propst from the audience.
During public comments Propst along with other speakers had challenged Scott Matas on his assertion at last weeks candidate’s forum that 15 new development projects would solve the city’s budget woes. Propst called them “15 phantom projects.”
As Scott Matas continued with his lecture, Propst continued to take more and more offense and asked Mayor Yvonne Parks to make Matas take back his comment and apologize.
Pulling Rank Over the Public
Instead, Scot Matas continued by lecturing Propst that he had had “his three minutes and now it is time for me to take a few minutes.”
The exchange between Matas and Propst went on for a few minutes before Mayor Yvonne Parks banged the gavel and called a recess to get things calmed down.
When the council returned from recess, Scott Matas apologized. And he acknowledged that the public speakers had been correct, that he had said at the forum that 15 new projects would solve the city’s budget problem. He explained that what he should have said at the forum was the projects he mentioned will help solve the city’s budget problem.
If Propst was looking for an apology he did not stick around to the end of the recess to receive it. By the time the council came back from recess Propst had left the meeting.
This is not the first time Scott Matas tangled himself with the public. Earlier this year Matas insulted members of the Latino community over shared used of city soccer fields.
In other council business:
– The council approved a shift in city staff positions recommended by new Interim City Manager Bob Adams. Adams sought council approval to replace to contract employee positions with a new hire, a move that is projected to save the city $48,000 a year.
– The council also approved a final payment on a contract with a human resources consultant that had exceeded a prior council spending authorization. Former City Manager Rick Daniels had provided a verbal OK to the consultant to keep working even though the amount the council had authorized had been exceeded by Daniels.
– While no formal council approval was provided Tuesday for a 2013 Christmas Parade, Police Chief Kate Singer indicated her department was ready to support this year’s parade. Singer was responding to an inquiry by Councilman Adam Sanchez who pressed during his council member comments to get the parade permit issued so the parade could go on.
Finance Committee Meets with City Council
The next meeting of the city council will be a joint meeting with a citizen’s finance sub committee to discuss city finances. The finance committee has been meeting for ten months and will make recommendations to the council on how to cure the city’s budget deficit. One of the more controversial recommendations of the committee is expected to be a recommendation for 10% across the board salary reductions for all city employees.
It is unclear if those salary reduction recommendations include employees of the city’s police department. Police department employees have been working without a contract since June.
Former City Manager Daniels had worked out a contract with the police officers that included a $545,000 increase in costs to the city over two years. That contract was never finalized and in light of the city’s severe budget problems the deal was pulled back by members of the city council who are trying to balance the budget.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.