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Aguilar, Vlieger exchange sharp words at meeting

Mayor Ed Prilucik put a stern halt this past Monday night to a war of words that seemed to be getting out of hand between Juan Aguilar and Councilman Don Vlieger.

Aguilar, brother-in-law of Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar, by the time it was all said and done, ended up being escorted from Council chambers by Police Captain Phil Schenck.

The fuse was lit for Aguilar perhaps early in the evening.

Aguilar stepped to the podium to offer comments on a proposal of censure for Council members, which was proposed by Vlieger. But before Aguilar could offer his comments on the matter, Vlieger called for the Council to close public input and put the matter, which in this case was the censure resolution, to a vote. Despite trying to offer his comments, Mayor Ed Prilucik would not hear from Aguilar, telling him to have a seat because he was out of order.

But Aguilar didn't go away. He reappeared during the unscheduled appearances by citizens portion of the agenda.

Aguilar's comments started off innocently enough, as he asked for the Council to consider a resolution that would provide city staff with a paid holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Aguilar said he felt the city should recognize the day, honoring the efforts of King.

Aguilar then turned his attention to the motion of censure, narrowly passed by the Council earlier in the meeting.

"The amendment that was approved tonight was mean spirited," said Aguilar.

Aguilar voiced his objections to not being allowed to be heard earlier by the Council on the matter. Aguilar questioned the ideals of the Council in calling for the question on a resolution when not all of the public had been allowed to provide input.

Aguilar then turned his scrutiny to Vlieger. Aguilar questioned the reason why Vlieger proposed the resolution of censure and then left town for two weeks, not being able to meet with any constituents until yesterday. Aguilar accused Vlieger of running away from the situation.

Vlieger countered by saying he has never run away from anything in his life. Aguilar jabbed back, saying Vlieger was run out of California, where Vlieger used to be a sheriff.

The mayor then demanded Aguilar sit down after his comments. But Vlieger interjected and pointed directly at Aguilar in a heated exchange, saying he wasn't going to accept anyone questioning his integrity. Aguilar rose up out of his seat and exchanged some words with Vlieger again, at which point the mayor had Schenck escort Aguilar out of chambers. Before he left, Aguilar apologized to the Council for being out of order.

Sunnyside resident Maria Partida expressed her disappointment with what she saw take place in Council chambers.

"You were voted to be the public. You were voted to be the best person," Partida told the Council. "I did not see that here tonight. I am embarrassed not only for myself, but for you."

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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