President Ronald Reagan once said, "We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right."
Sunnyside Councilwoman Theresa Hancock understands clearly what President Reagan meant in this quote. She lived it, when she did what was morally right and courageously spoke out against what she felt was wrong and unlawful (see Daily Sun News article -March 2, 2012).
She has done the city of Sunnyside a great service in sharing with the public the actions of some of our city representatives and informing the voting public about what goes on behind closed doors. She knew there would possibly be a price to pay, but she was willing to pay that price to do what was morally right.
Congratulations Theresa! I am proud to call you my representative on the council.
I want to remind the public that I was once in her shoes as the only woman on City Council not so long ago, and had a lot of uncomfortable situations come up with several City Council members. In particular I recall Mr. Don Vlieger who verbally threatened me on several occasions, which I reported to city hall. This malicious and arrogant person seemed to know no bounds as he verbally threatened me again while a City Council meeting was still in session and open to the public.
Hard to believe? Mr. Vlieger is so confident in his ability to escape the consequences of his actions, that he let his guard down that night and forgot we were still in session. I tried to press charges, but unfortunately I had not let Don finish threatening me. When a public official, who was voted into office, sits next to you as a fellow council member and openly displays anger and contempt towards you during a public meeting, I did what I think anyone would do or certainly should do - I stood up for myself. By this time I was tired of the repeated threats, tired of being pushed around, and tired of feeling unsafe around this "representative" or in my opinion an arrogant bully, so I cut him off before he finished his statement.
According to the City Attorney I did not have enough information to press charges. I asked the mayor for a reassignment of seats so I would not have to sit next to Mr. Vlieger through the rest of my term, and he granted my request. For your information the incident was in the paper and is part of the City Council minutes archives, since I made sure to add it to the public record that night. I have to admit that it took some courage to stand up and be heard that night.
Like Theresa, I was willing to let the chips fall where they may and I did what was morally right. I have to admit that I was greatly disturbed when Mr. Vlieger ran for office again and was voted in by the public after his previous performance as city council representative. I would not be surprised to hear of others in our community who have had similar experiences with Mr. Vlieger.
You have to ask yourself why our lead people at city hall are either resigning or retiring? There is a Code of Conduct for all city council members and I commend Councilman Nick Paulakis for reminding council the other night how important it is to follow it; but unfortunately only some follow it. Jason Raines made that clear when he declined to vote for respect and integrity amongst the council that night. His actions speak volumes.
I am a Christian woman, so I am praying for Don and Jason, hoping that they see the face of Christ in others and change the way they conduct themselves.
/s/ Bengie Aguilar, Sunnyside