MABTON - The Mabton City Council heard from citizens at last night's meeting questioning whether the council did all it could to work out a deal with former police chief Robert Perales.
Maria Rose asked the council if it could have done more to keep Perales on staff instead of cutting funding for his position, resulting in the mayor terminating his position, which caused Perales to file an unfair labor complaint against the city.
Councilman Angel Reyna told Rose he felt her question was staged and inappropriate. He went on to tell her that he feels the city did the right thing by cutting expenses from the budget and feels confident the city will prevail in any court case.
Rose then asked Mabton City Attorney Jack Maxwell if he thought the city council acted appropriately.
"I'm not going to answer that," he said. "It wouldn't be appropriate."
Mabton citizen Chico Rodriguez then spoke up, stating he felt the question was fair.
"Why can't he answer?" he asked.
Maxwell explained that legal advice is not public.
This exchange happened in the workshop before the regular meeting. During the actual meeting Rose again asked council if the handling of Perales was the right thing to do.
Reyna cut her off, telling her it was a legal matter now and he couldn't answer questions about it.
This prompted Sam Herrera, brother of Mabton Mayor Velva Herrera, to ask the council what it thought about recent comments printed in the local newspapers.
"Everyone has a right to their opinions," Mabton Councilman Mario Martinez said.
Martinez said the unfair labor practice complaint filed by Perales will have to play out.
"It's a process," he said.
Several more questions were asked by Mabton citizens but council kept mum, citing the case as a legal matter.
Mayor Herrera told the council that the city's union negotiator will not help the city defend itself against the Perales claim. This prompted Reyna to recommend terminating Kevin Wesley's contract if he couldn't represent the city.
Things got a bit heated then.
Herrera told council she thought that was a bad idea, noting Wesley was involved in a couple of different things with the city right now. But Reyna wasn't swayed. He thought the city needed a union negotiator that would work with the city, not just on what cases he feels like.
Herrera said she felt Wesley has done a wonderful job for the city. This prompted both Reyna and Martinez to point out that Wesley failed to notify the city about a 60-day period that they could have appealed when a unionizing effort was being made by city employees.
"That was just one mistake," Herrera said.
"That's a pretty big mistake," Martinez shot back.
The council voted to terminate the contract with Wesley and then Martinez recommended that Reyna head the search for a new union negotiator.
After the meeting the mayor was asked if she was happy with the decision with Reyna heading up the search.
Herrera said she wasn't and that she felt it wasn't his job to do the search. She added that she felt council was trying to take away her power.
When Reyna was asked about that he said he didn't see a need for a rebuttal, pointing out there wasn't any argument from the mayor when he was recommended to head up the search.