Councilman calls for action against fellow councilman for ethics violation

In a two-page letter to the mayor, a Guthrie city council member says a fellow councilman violated at least three ethical violations at a recent city council meeting. Now, the council is expected to discuss and take potential action.

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Vice Mayor Gaylord Z. Thomas says first year Councilman James Long committed multiple ethical violations at the November 5 council meeting, including “dropping of an “F” bomb publicly, verbal attack of a member of one of our committees and participation in deliberations and voting on a topic where a conflict of interest existed and was actually acknowledged to exist by Mr. Long himself.”

“I am bound by my own sense of duty to the Council’s Code of Ethics (Resolution No. 2009-12) to bring this up as cited in Paragraph 18 citing members as having the primary responsibility to assure that ethical standards are met and, importantly, that the public can continue to have full confidence in the integrity of government,” Thomas said in the letter.

Thomas, who was not in attendance at the Nov. 5 meeting, says the “F bomb” is a violation by the conduct of members.

At the meeting, Long questioned the motion of the street projects after it was voted on and approved. Not understanding the motion, Long appeared to have said an expletive. Soon after, Councilman Jeff Taylor could be seen tapping Long on the arm and whispering “shhh shhh.”

The action happened in the 21 minute portion of the conversation.

“I doubt anyone would argue that the use of that language was in any way appropriate,” Thomas said.

Thomas addressed Long making a “verbal attack” against the chairman, who was suggested for reappointment, of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), which is a volunteer committee formed by the City and appointed by the city council.

Long, who was one of the first volunteers to be selected to the CVB board in 2014, shared multiple dislikes about the chairman, including charging services to the 89er Committee, not showing up to their downtown business in their final days of being opened and setting up two gofundme accounts to help begin their business.

“I have a hard time voting for someone that I don’t agree from a business perspective and how {they} conducted themselves in town,” Long said of the applicant.

He continued, “{They’ve} come to city council meetings and makes comments that are so uneducated, in my opinion, that’s not right.”

The comments came in the fifth minute of the conversation.

“We wonder why we have difficulty getting volunteers for these committees,” Thomas stated. “Who would submit themselves to this kind of personal character attack OR attack of the entire committee on which they serve?  This is not positive.”

Thomas says Long should have been recused from voting on the action item of downtown feather flags that allows the public to know that businesses are open.

“The conflict of interest he announced himself (and nobody asked him to recuse…not a single soul intervened) when he stated that he issue of the feather flags directly impacted his wife’s business,” Thomas said. “I do not see any gray area in that, especially in that he announced his interest through his wife.”

Thomas goes on to say that he has learned Long plans to apogolize publicly.

“Now, I’ve heard that Mr. Long has been “scolded” or “mentored” by perhaps multiple Council Members, particularly regarding his attack of that CVB member and by fewer regarding the conflict of interest,” Thomas said in the letter. “I’ve also heard that he plans to apologize publicly for the “F” bomb and the attack on that individual. There is, however, a lot more involved with the total “wrongness” of this situation than those two issues and there can be NO rationalization permitted in such an apology, but if this Council is to accept a truly heartfelt apology for those actions, it must address ALL of the issues involved; otherwise, I believe this council must pursue other remedies as prescribed in our Code of Ethics… or that Code is not worth the paper it was written on.”

Thomas added, “This Council must take action to restore the faith of our constituents following this unfortunate display; whether an apology is sufficient should be decided by the whole of the Council itself which would require a vote of the Council… a vote and deliberation from which Mr. Long should also be expected or required to recuse himself.”

According to the Robert’s Rules of Order, the penalties for the violation, include the council member having to apologize or to censure the member (publicly reprimand) in hopes of reforming him or her so that he or she won’t behave in the same way again.

To envoke a penalty, the council must make a motion, receive a second and a majority vote of the council.

The council will meet Tuesday, November 19 at 7 p.m. inside City Hall, located at 101 N. 2nd Street.

Here is the complete letter from Thomas

Dear Mayor Gentling,       13 Nov 2019

As I’m certain you are acutely and unfortunately aware, our last City Council meeting, which I was unable to attend, was filled with drama and issues.  Those issues were rather immediately brought to my attention by numerous constituents and I’ve, since, had the opportunity to review the video of the meeting to see and hear for myself what the concerns were about.    

Bottom line:  It was, indeed, an embarrassing day for this Council, to say the least.  Easily the most embarrassing day on record since I’ve been with the Council.  

I am bound by my own sense of duty to the Council’s Code of Ethics (Resolution No. 2009-12) to bring this up as cited in Paragraph 18 citing members as having the primary responsibility to assure that ethical standards are met and, importantly, that the public can continue to have full confidence in the integrity of government…this latter part being of ultimate concern to me.  The multiple acts committed at that November 5th Meeting (some which I will not even address in this letter) have apparently done serious damage to that confidence; therefore, if this Council fails to formally address at least the ethically related issues, that damage will continue to grow.  So, it is my responsibility to point those ethical violations out, as I have been advised, “formally” with this letter (where my texts and emails to the Mayor regarding these same issues are apparently insufficient).

Therefore, I am formally, as required, pointing out that there were at least 3 ethical violations (possibly more) that jumped out of the screen at me when I watched the video of this meeting.  Those three issues are as follows, and where all three were committed by the same Council Member, James Long:

1) the dropping of an “F” bomb publicly,
2) the verbal attack of a member of one of our committees, and
3) the participation in deliberations and voting on a topic where a conflict of interest existed and was actually acknowledged to exist by Mr. Long himself (the feather flags issue).

The “F” bomb use is a violation of paragraph #3 (Conduct of Members) as such foul language in a public forum such as this should never be used and is totally unprofessional.  I doubt anyone would argue that the use of that language was in any way appropriate.

The verbal attack he made upon the character of a member of the CVB is also explicitly prescribed as something members are to refrain from doing and is in paragraph #3:  “Members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other members of Council, boards and commissions, the staff or public.”  For that matter, he also verbally attacked the entire Historic Preservation Commission (perhaps a separate violation) with his sweeping statements about what he sees as their collective ignorance regarding their duties with that committee/commission.  

We wonder why we have difficulty getting volunteers for these committees?  Who would submit themselves to this kind of personal character attack OR attack of the entire committee on which they serve?  This is not positive…

Thirdly, the conflict of interest he announced himself (and nobody asked him to recuse…not a single soul intervened) when he stated that he issue of the feather flags directly impacted his wife’s business.  I do not see any gray area in that, especially in that he announced his interest through his wife.  

Now, I’ve heard that Mr. Long has been “scolded” or “mentored” by perhaps multiple Council Members, particularly regarding his attack of that CVB member and by fewer regarding the conflict of interest.  I’ve also heard that he plans to apologize publicly for the “F” bomb and the attack on that individual.  There is, however, a lot more involved with the total “wrongness” of this situation than those two issues and there can be NO rationalization permitted in such an apology, but if this Council is to accept a truly heartfelt apology for those actions, it must address ALL of the issues involved; otherwise, I believe this council must pursue other remedies as prescribed in our Code of Ethics… or that Code is not worth the paper it was written on.  This Council must take action to restore the faith of our constituents following this unfortunate display; whether an apology is sufficient should be decided by the whole of the Council itself which would require a vote of the Council… a vote and deliberation from which Mr. Long should also be expected or required to recuse himself.

I believe that meeting was an anomaly on many levels (I hope that’s the case…), but I also know that Council Members have been reminded of the Code of Ethics in recent past as we have been dangerously walking a tight-rope in regard to these kinds of issues…until this meeting when we fell from that rope, dramatically, without a net to catch us.  It is my hope that by addressing this issue, head on and completely transparently, that a more complete awareness of our Code of Ethics will evolve and be taken more seriously in the future and that THIS Council will emerge from this seriously unfortunate event as a considerably less dysfunctional Council and begin to restore the confidence of the public in the integrity – the wholeness – of this Council which is now, unfortunately, seriously in question because of that one meeting….  We must start to restore that faith by our own self-imposed remedies to the maladies of that meeting in accordance with our own Code of Ethics. 

The “Preamble” of the Code of Ethics details that all of us, as public officials, comply with both the letter and spirit of the laws and policies affecting the operations of government…and that public office be used for the public good, NOT for personal gain, and that our deliberations be conducted in an atmosphere of respect and civility… It’s clear why my constituents have expressed concern.  We have serious work to do to restore the faith of this community in this Council.   

Respectfully and humbly submitted

Gaylord Z. Thomas
Council Member, Ward III
Vice Mayor

1 Comment on "Councilman calls for action against fellow councilman for ethics violation"

  1. I thank Mr. THOMAS GOT DYEOPUNG UP TO THE PLATE ON THE INADEQUACIES OF THE CITY COUNCIL. IN MY PERSPECTIVE NO ONE ON THE CITY COUNCIL CARES ABOUT OUR CITY. THE POLITICS INVOLVED IS AS JUVENILE AS OUR CONGRESS IN WASHINGTON. THEY ONLY ARGUE AND ACCOMPLISH NOTHING. IF ANYONE OF YOU CARE ABOUT OUR CITY, I CHALLENGE YOU TO SURVEY THE CONSTITUENTS ON WHAT WE THINK YOU HAVE DONE FOR THE TAXPAYERS IN THIS COMMUNITY. FIX THE STREETS, WE HAVE PARKS. CARE ABOUT THE TAXPAYERS AS A WHOLE, NOT JUST THE TAXPAYERS ON THE EASTSIDE. I COULD GO ON, BUT I DON’T THINK THAT YOUR TAXPAYERS ARE IMPORTANT TO THIS CITY COUNCIL…

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