MABTON - In a tense city council meeting last night, Mabton officials voted against a resolution calling for the city of Mabton to pay $500 a month to Granger in exchange for goods and services related to law enforcement equipment used by Interim Mabton Police Chief and Granger Police Chief Robert Perales.
Council member Angel Reyna, who at the previous meeting had been given a time frame of a year for the contract, said, "Our original intent was to have a full time police chief; that's always been our vision," adding that he didn't think having Perales working in Granger full-time and Mabton part-time benefits anybody.
"It's not fair to them, it's not fair to us, it's not fair to our citizens. If we wait one more year, we'll still be in a state of transition. We haven't even begun to open the hiring process," he said.
Mayor Velva Hererra said that she stood by her decision to hire Perales. "I'm happy with the way things are right now. I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't sure of myself...I'm staying with it," she said.
At this point, council member Mario Martinez said, "I'd like to say we're making a big mistake here by going with Granger."
Martinez referred to the meeting minutes from the prior meeting, when Perales told council members the quote he received for a Yakima County Sheriff's Deputy to run the police department would range between $75,000 to $100,000, as opposed to $2,375 per month for Perales.
Martinez said that he was told Perales was never quoted a price and if he had been, the person he talked to wasn't authorized to give a price.
Suddenly, the conversation shifted to the issue regarding the police car that had been surplussed and destriped for sale to Mabton without council knowledge or approval. Reyna and Martinez said that they still didn't know who authorized the purchase but they wanted to know who conducted business on behalf of the city. They'd been told during study session prior to the meeting that it was a personnel matter and the employee who had done it received disciplinary action. Hererra told them it was a personnel matter, "not a council matter."
During regular session, both council members again expressed a desire to know.
"What more do you guys want," said Hererra.
"We want the truth," Martinez said.
"We're arguing like little kids," Reyna said, adding, "That $5,000 (for the car) is not mine. It's the public's money and we're accountable to the public."
Reyna asked City Attorney Jack Maxwell if council could ask for a written report detailing who authorized verbally the transaction and was told they could.
Conversation then returned to the resolution to pay Granger for goods and services that Perales describes as all law enforcement equipment that he might use while conducting business on behalf of Mabton.
Reyna said, "Somebody gave false information here (about the cost to hire a county deputy)."
Perales said he took offense, adding, "Please. I caution you about (making statements) about false (information). Your attack on my integrity I will not put up with."
Council member Vera Zavala then moved to pass the resolution. Oping Hutson seconded. When it came time to vote, Zavala voted yes, Hutson abstained, and Reyna and Martinez voted no.
As recently as the last meeting, an abstention from voting counted as an automatic yes vote. Maxwell asked the council if they had written procedures or a manual regarding council rules. Hererra answered no.
The meeting then recessed after Maxwell said they would have to refer to Robert's Rules of Order to find out if the abstain meant yes or nothing at all.
According to Robert's Rules of Order, an abstain from voting doesn't mean yes or no and the resolution to enter into an agreement with Granger for the use of goods and services for $500 a month failed.