State

Riverbank's mayor calls for civility

RIVERBANK -- No more bad words and no more insults.

Mayor Virginia Madueño wants to put the brakes on boorish behavior at council meetings.

Tonight, she will ask council members to look at hiring a facilitator to help council members treat each other with respect.

"We don't have to agree," she said. "But can we conduct our business in a more diplomatic way? I think so."

The council often is divided on issues with Madueño, Vice Mayor Sandy Benitez and Councilman Danny Fielder on one side and Councilman Dave White and his grandson and fellow council member Jesse James White on the other.

Bad behavior and bad feelings have been part of recent meetings.

At the April 26 meeting, Dave White accused City Manager Rich Holmer of repeatedly whispering to him that he was a "f-ing liar."

Holmer's response was "of which you are."

White called for Madueño to remove Holmer from the meeting. Holmer stayed, but Madueño -- who said she did not hear the alleged comments -- admonished Holmer and the council.

Holmer later apologized, saying "I do apologize to Councilman White for anything I said that wasn't true." White accepted the apology.

White's accusation came after he and his grandson blocked an agenda item that would have increased Hol-mer's annual vacation from four to five weeks.

Holmer asked for the extra week during his recent annual review. He said city employees receive five weeks after 15 years with the city. Holmer will have 15 years in September.

After the Whites blocked that, Holmer leaned over to White and whispered to him as the two sat side by side at the dais.

Madueño's attempt at harmony could be tested tonight. The meeting's agenda includes an item from Holmer that would end the policy of letting one council member place an item on the agenda of a future meeting. Under the revision, a council member could not place an item on an agenda unless a majority of council members agree.

Jesse James White said at the April 26 meeting that the proposed change should be called the "Jesse James ordinance" because it was an attempt to stop him from putting items on agendas.

In an interview, Holmer said the change is "minor streamlining." He said if a majority of the council doesn't want further discussion on an item, they can decide when the request is made.

He said that saves the time it takes to put the item on a later agenda, do a brief staff report on the item, make photocopies and have an unnecessary discussion. Holmer added that council members still can have an item placed on a meeting agenda by talking with him before a meeting.

Madueño said she would like to hold workshops with the facilitator if the council agrees. She's also considering asking council members if they want to review the council's code of conduct at a future meeting.

She said the council may want to consider adding more teeth to the code to discipline council members, staff and audience members who don't behave during meetings. She said one remedy could involve having the person leave the meeting until he or she cools down.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 6707 Third St.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or 578-2316.

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