Scott Matas Comes Unglued After Exposed for Blocking Two Disabled Parking Places
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – A Desert Hot Springs city councilman found himself in an embarrassing moment at last Tuesday’s council meeting when confronted with pictures showing him parking across two handicap parking spaces at Wardman Park next to the baseball field.
The incident occurred over the summer and was captured in photographs taken by an unknown source of the blue Chevrolet pickup owned by Councilman Scott Matas seen parking horizontally across two handicap spaces, blocking handicap access to both parking spaces.
“Obviously people in my community want to embarrass me, and they did,” said Scott Matas, blaming the photographer. “It is true. That is my vehicle.”
Scott Matas was confronted at the council meeting during public comments by Radene Ramos Hires identifying herself as a personal friend of the late Councilman Gary Bosworth who was a strong advocate for handicapped access and was himself handicapped.
Hires brought with her a large picture showing the truck belonging to Scott Matas parked across the two handicapped parking spaces.
During his council comments Scott Matas explained that at the time of the incident it was nearly empty with only three parking spaces occupied in the sixty space parking lot. The councilman said he was only there “for a few minutes unloading equipment.” [He did not say that the nearest vacant parking space was only a few feet away from where he parked.]
Scott Matas did not react well to the situation, although saying he specifically remembered the incident, and that it was a mistake.
“One of my volunteers said you can’t park in the handicap and made a joke about it. Well, its not a joke. You should not park in the handicap,” Matas said.
During his council comments at the end of the meeting Scott Matas addressed the issue with harsh words for Hires.
‘Congratulations for Embarrassing Me’
“Congratulations for embarrassing me,” said Scott Matas. The councilman was caught in a pickle. On the one hand he was admitting his mistake while on the other hand he was not taking responsibility for his actions by blaming others for exposing what happened. Deflection is a toxic conundrum familiar to children and too many politicians these days.
Carrying on and taking credit for his contributions, Scott Matas said his time amounted to “hundreds if not thousands of hours of volunteer time for Little League.”
“I helped find $1.5 million dollars to help renovate that field and the soccer fields.” Scott Matas said, explaining he has been a member of the Little League for 15 years including service as coach, manager, umpire and board member.
Although adjournment of the council meeting turned off the lights of the Carl May ball field, that did not send Matas to the locker room. Late night play of extra innings brought Number One up to bat again.
Who’s to Blame
After the meeting Scott Matas went on a hunt to find out who had taken the picture.
After the council meeting, at 11:00 P.M. that night the hunt began with an email sent out to members of the Little League organization demanding to know who had taken the picture of his truck in the handicapped spaces.
His email ended by notifying Little League members that he was considering resigning over the incident and that he would reach a final decision and let everyone know by the end of the week.
The councilman again blamed his embarrassment on the handicapped activist who confronted him about his violation.
Meeting Started with Disability Proclamation
The meeting started off with the city approving a Disability Awareness Proclamation. Ruthie Goldcorn, a disability rights advocate with California for Disabilities Rights spoke in public comments about the need for better disability access for those with special needs.
City leaders, by and large, have been sensitive to those with disabilities. Councilman Scott Matas was first appointed to serve on the city council to fill the seat of Gary Bosworth, that well-loved council member who was wheelchair bound and who passed during his term.
Former mayor Matt Wyuker suffered a degenerative motor impairment, becoming immobilized while serving in office and requiring a wheelchair as well as assistance in communicating.
The councilman’s comments were at various times apologetic while staunchly justifying that what he did was right because equipment had to be unloaded and no one was there when the violation occurred.
After repeatedly placing the weight of blame upon Mrs. Hires for exposing his violation, instead of paying the fine he declared how he will fix the ticket.
“I will look up what the fee is to receive a ticket for parking in the handicap,” said Matas. “I parked in two of them. …I can’t say how much it is to receive a ticket but it can’t be more than $250. A Little League sponsorship is $500 so then I will personally sponsor a Little League team, and if that is not kosher enough to Mrs. Hires then she can name an organization and if I support it in this community then I will donate that money to it.”
“I think its right to do the bigger thing. I spent hours there that day giving my own time, my own sweat and a volunteer took a picture and it obviously got in the wrong hands. Mrs. Hires, you embarrassed me in front of this city council and in front of the city of Desert Hot Springs. I congratulate you because it is election season and people wanted you to do that. I’m sorry for that. But you did embarrass me. So, thank you.”
With all that being said, Councilman Scott Matas was finished.
V C Section 42001.13
Imposition of Fine Unlawful Parking in Disabled Space
42001.13. (a) A person who commits a violation of Section 22507.8 is subject to either a civil notice of parking violation pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 40200) of Chapter 1 of Division 17 or a criminal notice to appear.
(b) If a notice to appear is issued and upon conviction of an infraction for a violation of Section 22507.8, a person shall be punished as follows:
(1) A fine of not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and not more than five hundred dollars ($500) for the first offense.
(2) A fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) and not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) for the second offense.
(3) A fine of not less than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) and not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) for three or more offenses.
(c) The court may suspend the imposition of the fine if the person convicted possessed at the time of the offense, but failed to display, a valid special identification license plate issued pursuant to Section 5007 or a distinguishing placard issued pursuant to Section 22511.55 or 22511.59.
(d) A fine imposed under this section may be paid in installments if the court determines that the defendant is unable to pay the entire amount in one payment.
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.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.