A mistake bad lawyers make is asking a question that don’t already know the answer to or making a statement that is easily proven false. And Tustin council member Jerry Amante got a lesson delivered first hand at last night’s council meeting by former Fullerton Council member Pam Keller.
Now we’ve love to show you video of the exchange, but oddly enough..it’s not updated on the city’s website where uploading council meeting videos from the previous night’s meeting is usually done by now (I have a bet with Our Town Tustin blogger Jeff Gallagher that a, a-hem, “technical error” will emerge and that video never sees the light of day). Of course, that oversight may be fixed by the time you read this.
It all started a month ago when Tustin council member Deborah Gavello had had enough of Amante’s abusive and bullying behavior and called him out on it and offered a high road both could take. We wrote about it here and Gallagher has a post on this here as well.
After Gavello called out Amante for being a bully, she offered to mend fences to work together on behalf of the residents of Tustin and offered him pie, her treat, to put politics aside and do what both were elected to do — public service. And Amante’s could not hold back the arrogance and when it was his turn to speak, he issued this challenge–twice:
“I’m not going to quit calling out your failings Councilwoman Gavello. I don’t meet with you because I don’t find you serious about public policy, not because I have personal animosity towards you. And if you can produce a person who says I made some threat to you, produce them and have them come and say so publicly. Because I don’t recall any such threats made by me to anyone so if in fact someone can tell me that I said something like that about you, you produce them and you have them come here to that podium and let them call it out publicly and we’ll deal with it there. In the interim, if you fail to serve the public in a manner that I think is appropriate for a council person, I will make comments. Thank you.”
OK, so Amante passed up free pie and chose the low road.
Former Fullerton council woman Pam Keller watched the video of the meeting and Amante’s comments made her blood boil. She sent a statement to TheLiberalOC and we ran it. A family commitment kept Keller from the podium for public comments at the May 1 council meeting, but she showed up last night and I’m sure Amante forgot all about what he had said a month ago. She tells us her statement last night was pretty much the same as the one she issued two weeks ago. There was a smattering of applause from those assembled at certain points during Keller’s time on the podium, which was quickly shut down (but never is when the applause is *for* Amante).
Keller’s statement is something like this:
“To Council Member Amante, Remember me? I’m former Fullerton Council Member and a League of California Cities-OC Division Board Member Colleague of yours, Pam Keller.
Council Member Amante, I reviewed the streaming video from the April 17th Tustin City Council Meeting and see there was a discussion on the dais between you and Councilwoman Gavello. You challenged her publicly to produce the elected official who had a conversation about her with you. You asked that the person come to the dais to discuss the matter.
Here I am.
Councilmember Amante, you know that I always stand up for what I believe in and that I am a straight shooter when I speak. I believe you have always been respectful of my opinion, whether you agree with it or not. We have always had a civil, professional relationship despite our political differences.
I am here because I am that person that spoke to you about Councilwoman Gavello and I would like to share the story with the public just as you requested. I will admit it feels awkward to talk politics across the dais. Generally, I believe the dais is best used to conduct city business. However, since I was invited to speak on the subject, I will gladly oblige.
Let’s go back to the elections of 2008. Deborah Gavello, then private citizen, contacted me and asked for advice on campaigning, city policy and other pertinent issues, as is often done during elections. I shared information with her and chatted a few times by telephone and started to get to know her. We became friends. At the same time. I was on the Board of the League of Cities (LOC) with you, Councilmember Amante.
At one point during the election campaign, I saw some nasty hit pieces came out against Deborah. I remember commenting to you in a half joking manner to “leave my girl alone.” You responded by saying, “Oh, Pam, it’s just politics.” All true—and I lived it myself during my election so I understood.
Obviously, Ms. Gavello won that election. A few days later I invited her to the LOC Dinner Meeting so she could start to meet other elected officials around the county. I saw you across the room and thought that this would be a good time to put those election politics aside and bring two new council colleagues together. I pride myself on working to bridge gaps and bring people together, and thought I could be successful helping you two get off on the right foot. After all, I was a kindergarten teacher for years and have handled bigger spats than this one!
I approached you, and please forgive me for paraphrasing these words since this was four years ago and I didn’t have a tape recorder handy, but my memory of this day is clear as crystal: I said,“OK, now that the election is over, it is time to stop the politics and learn to work with your newest councilmember. Go out for coffee and get to know each other a little better.” Your answer was a loud “NO.” Not one to be discouraged, I added that you owed it to your citizens to try and work with other council members. City business cannot get done well if the council members won’t even try to work together. At that point you became very angry and started on a tirade. Basically you said that you would not work with her. That you would put her in a corner on the dais and she can sit there for four years getting 4-1’d and do nothing the entire time she was on the council. It was a much longer tirade but I cannot remember all the words. I was literally shaking when you were finished—and you know I don’t scare easily, Councilman Amante. You have never spoken to me in that manner before or after and frankly I would not like to have that sort of interaction again.
I returned to my table where Councilmember–elect Gavello and former Mayor of Huntington Beach, Debbie Cook, were sitting and I told them both, “that didn’t work out very well.” I turned to Ms. Gavello and said, “He hates you and you might as well try working with your other colleagues because he isn’t budging.” I know Ms. Gavello was disappointed. The joy of winning an election and the ability to serve the public was very fresh.
I frankly was disappointed too—because I thought you were a better man than that. You see, your comments I watched on the video from April 17, 2012 over three years after this encounter speaking as to how you won’t meet with her because you do not think she has served the public well and you don’t think she is serious about public policy ring very false to my ears.
Councilman Amante, you won’t meet with her because of some political transgression you feel she made while campaigning. And even though what happens during the campaign is “just politics” to you, you couldn’t or wouldn’t ever get beyond that to even try to understand why Ms. Gavello is here and learn what she has to offer. You never, ever gave her a chance. I have watched several of your interactions over the four years and I will agree, that you Mr. Amante, have been a bully. Since I know you as a colleague who has passion, good work ethic and the knowledge to work on public policy across the state, I am severely disappointed that you would let down the citizens of Tustin by being a “school yard bully” instead of the grown up, professional man you should be.
Thank you for your invitation this evening Councilmember Amante. I hope I have refreshed your memory and answered all of your questions.”
I’m told Amante gave Pam a weak wave goodbye as she left the meeting. Must be tough when an outsider comes to your house and tell you you’re a jerk to your face. And since there’s no video, I have no idea if Amante and the council “dealt with it there” as Amante promised. We have a request in with Tustin’s PIO to ask if a public apology is forthcoming and how the city council will move forward now that Keller’s statement is in the public record.
We’re proud of what Pam Keller did last night and her actions shows she has a bigger set of cojones than Amante could ever hope to have. For Tustin residents, six more months of Jerry unless one of his puppets on the Tustin city council appoints him to a commission.