CATHEDRAL CITY — Decorum among some residents has at times been so egregious during City Council meetings that a local business man, who suffered a blistering public attack, considered a slander or defamation lawsuit.
The vile language and vicious attacks most often have occurred during the public comments portion of the meetings. Residents are each given three minutes to address the City Council.
Published on each agenda are the rules for public comment, including, “The Mayor and Council have the authority to rule a person out of order and, if deemed appropriate by the Mayor or Council, ordered to leave the meeting.”
Still, for the past two years, decorum has sometimes run amok as some residents used their time to address the City Council to attack business owners, volunteer commissioners, and more.
Councilmember Mark Carnevale called the public attacks in September “an embarrassment to the city.”
Following that specific incident former Mayor Stan Henry told Uken Report that, “It is a very sad time when anyone uses a public form such as a Council meeting to degrade anyone else, be it another community member, staff, or a Councilmember. As you know, we are always dealing with a person’s First Amendment right to speech versus speech that is harmful to others.”
It is very difficult to know what a person is going to say when he steps up to the podium for his 3 minutes, Henry said. Those who cross the line of good taste and judgment often get the words out before anyone has the ability to stop it.
It appears Mayor Gregory S. Pettis going to try — or at least curb the attacks if they start.
Just two days after being sworn in as mayor, Pettis mandated decorum in the City Council Chambers.
“There are rules of decorum that we expect to be adhered to,” Pettis said prior to public comments on Wednesday. “If I feel that you’ve crossed over that line, I will give you one reminder. After that, I’m going to ask that the police chief escort you out. We’re not going to have what we’ve had the last two years of divisive council meetings over individual personalities.”
Pettis went even further.
“Also, please refrain from actually using any names,” Pettis said as he rolled out his expectation of decorum in the Council Chambers “If you’re going to talk, use titles or something else.”
Pettis added that the latter part of his decorum mandate doesn’t include the five Councilors.
“If you want to attack us … you elected us to have that privilege,” he said.