Bell council meeting ends when 2 members walk out
A Bell City Council meeting was cut short Monday night after two members who appeared offended by a resident's insult refused to return to the chambers and ordered police to clear the room.
Dozens of spectators had filed into the small room for the monthly meeting, with only a handful having to listen on the loudspeaker outside. At first, the public comment session was relatively calm, with residents even wishing the council a happy holiday.
But many residents questioned an agenda item that proposed hiring an assistant chief administrative officer, saying the timing was wrong. "Please try to make a difference with what little bit of time you have left," urged one man, referring to the recall the majority of the council is facing.
Mayor Oscar Hernandez appeared agitated several times, pounding his gavel whenever the crowd erupted in cheers or protest. It was when Jesus Casas, 36, called the council "shameless thugs" in Spanish that Hernandez asked the police officers present to escort Casas out. When the officers did not move, Hernandez and Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo stood up and marched out.
Council members George Mirabal and Lorenzo Velez stayed seated. The meeting had lasted less than an hour.
"Their arrogance doesn't permit them to face the community," Velez said of Hernandez and Jacobo. "He was just looking for a reason to walk out."
Mirabal got the angry crowd's attention by saying he is trying to make the best of his remaining time in office. "I personally am trying to listen," he said. "Whatever it takes to make things better in the city of Bell, I'll try."
After Jacobo and Hernandez failed to return after about 20 minutes, police began to clear the room. The crowd refused to leave.
"He has a right to say whatever he wants to say," Nora Saenz shouted, defending Casas. "You don't think they heard worse at the county jail?"
Interim City Atty. Jamie Casso informed everyone that the two council members would not return if the room was not cleared, which would mean there was no quorum for a meeting. The crowd again refused to leave and many said they preferred postponing the meeting if it meant delaying the hiring of an assistant chief administrative officer.
Casso later said the meeting would be rescheduled as early as this week. Residents continued to linger outside long after the doors to the council chambers were locked. Casas was among them and said he did not regret his remarks.
"Truth hurts," he said. "I would say it 100 times more."
-- Corina Knoll in Bell