Lincoln City: Hard feelings and fireworks create hostile atmosphere at city council meeting – Mayor Williams threatens jail time for misbehavior
In what can only be described as a surreal atmosphere during Monday night’s meeting of the Lincoln City City Council, a visibly exasperated Mayor Don Williams at one point threatened to jail anyone who persistently disrupts the meeting.
Tempers were right at the edge of flaring as frequent city council critic Jim Hoover questioned whether certain city officials are properly participating in brokering a deal that could allow the former Elks Lodge to be converted to a community events center while another well known critic, David Elton, chastised City Attorney Richard Appicello for his involvement in the creation of the so-called Poppe Report – a report from an private investigative attorney hired by the city council to investigate Mayor Williams. Mayor Williams a few weeks ago apologized to the council for possibly having broken some city rules or policies as Mayor…allegations that triggered the investigation.
Councilor Chester Noreikis indicated that he was very upset that although Mayor Williams had apologized to the council, Mayor Williams told a local newspaper reporter that quote “Although I cannot comment on the report based on my agreement with the council, I can tell you there’s nothing there.” With that, Councilor Noreikis accused Mayor Williams of betraying his promise that if he apologized to the council for his behavior the council would not release the investigative results of the Poppe Report. Councilor Noreikis the proceeded to make a motion to release the report to the public. Mayor Williams immediately gaveled Noreikis “out of order” thereby killing Noreikis’ motion. At one point City Attorney Richard Appicello advised the council that he was declaring that despite the back and forth he could not advise the city council on the matter nor could he defend his motivations on his involvement with launching the Poppe Report. “Because the Poppe Report remains sealed I cannot legally comment or defend myself on this issue because to comment would mean I would have to divulge confidential information.” His plea was obviously aimed at Mayor Williams who had allowed remarks by citizen David Elton that characterized Mr. Appicello as a “bully” in his role in coordinating the city council’s order that an investigation be launched. Elton also announced to the room that the city charter should be changed to eliminate the city manager’s position in favor of a “strong man” city government. The mayor gaveled him silent before he could elaborate.
Then Councilor Kip Ward chimed in on another issue – referring to the way top city staff were trying to negotiate parking for a revitalized Elks Lodge through a lot line adjustment and a parking agreement with the city. Ward observed that a particular candidate for city council was unjustifiably dragged into the controversy. Ward complained that the candidate, Riley Hoagland, who voted with the rest of his fellow city planning commissioners to grant the old lodge a zone change, to allow it to become an event center, was accused of helping to gift city Public Works Director Lila Bradley and her contractor husband a $400,000 boost to the value of their recently purchased property. City planning staff had earlier recommended the zone change saying the building was always used as an Elks Lodge event center and that a commercial use of the property was in keeping with the historical use of the property.
By now an increasingly frustrated Mayor Williams gaveled Councilor Ward quiet saying Ward’s comments on the election races were not appropriate under “council comments.” Mayor Williams then announced that in light of the tense comments that had been flowing back and forth between himself, the council and citizens, that he would have nothing more of it. He reminded everyone that he, as Mayor, can order the police to arrest and jail anyone who is disruptive to the council meeting.
Earlier in the evening the council approved two local road projects to improve NW 50th between Logan Road and NW Jetty, and NW Harbor from NW 18th and NW 21st.