Amante’s Emergency Measure Fails; School Board Member Escorted from Meeting

Tustin Mayor Jerry Amante’s emergency meeting on amending grading and excavation codes needed a super majority of the Tustin City Council last night and he didn’t get it — Council members Deborah Gavello and Becky Gomez voted no to kill the amended ordinance. But the real fireworks happened during public comments.

Here’s a link to the video; scroll ahead to the 1:50 mark and wait for it.

The Register has a run down of the story here, but the gist of it is when TUSD school board member James Laird sought to address the council, Amante said he had done so when Laird briefly addressed the council for the need of students to speak first. When Laird attempted to speak again, Amante ordered the microphones shut off. Laird spoke anyway.  The fireworks really start at the 2:23 mark.

From the story: “According to Amante, the school district is the only public agency that has tried to use the code exemption since 2002, when the Regional Water Quality Management board began asking cities to ensure compliance with federal storm water and run-off standards. The emergency ordinance was an attempt to clarify the law to prevent runoff pollution, which the city believes is an immediate threat to public safety, health, and peace.

“We’re trying to get them to obey the law,” said Amante. He fears the city will be responsible for non-compliance fees, which begin at $10,000 a day.

Tustin High School contractors have received a notice of impending violation from the regional water quality board, but the site’s project manager, John Squillace, said the issues were resolved shortly thereafter.

District president Lynn Davis said that the city is being too aggressive in pursuing compliance. He believes the council called the meeting to repeal the grading exemption before the trial, thereby strengthening the city’s legal position.

“If they really cared about the water quality problem, they’d call us to try to fix it, not the water management board,” said Davis.

Davis also said that the district is already responsible for meeting state water quality standards, and does not carry out any construction unless a state water official is present.

“It really boils down to this: we have a vindictive mayor,” said Davis.

Matt Fletcher, attorney for Tustin Unified School District, said that the city was unsatisfied even when the school district offered to seek a legal status with the regional water board which would make the district culpable for any environmental non-compliance fees.

“You have fabricated and trumped up your findings,” said Ed Connor, counsel for the School Board. “The only emergency that exists is (the upcoming trial).”

Relations between the School Board and council reached a low point when Mayor Amante called for a recess just as School Board member and county district attorney James H. Laird was attempting to speak.

Laird spoke for a half hour anyway, at some points shouting into his unpowered microphone, as Amante left the dais and walked around the room. Laird was later escorted out by police for his interruption. He was quickly followed by about half of the capacity audience.”

Amante continues to insist he supports Tustin schools; he has a funny way of showing it. 

Amante Recall Update: The grassroots Tustin Recall committee reports that the Tustin City Clerk rejected the petition signed by 30 residents due to some formatting and information issue. The group has 10 days to correct the petition and can resubmit it to the clerk.