May 22, 2022
The Thursday, May 19, 2022, Pocatello City Council meeting abruptly ended when Council members Claudia Ortega and Roger Bray walked out, causing a loss of a quorum (see article, Pocatello City Council Meeting Ends Abruptly as Two Council Members Walk Out | Pocatello-Chubbuck Observer (pocatellochubbuckobserver.com)). Council Member Ortega has issued the following statement on the incident:
For the past 2½ years I have been trying to do the work that the people of Pocatello elected me to do. That work includes questioning how tax money is spent. I have faced one major obstacle with regard to that, that is, Mayor Blad. He resents my asking questions and explanations for the benefit of the public. He, together with Rick Cheatum and Linda Leeuwrik, have worked to obstruct any attempts on my part to bring transparency. One has to ask oneself the obvious question…why?
I have lived in this country for 50 years and am a proud American. In all my life I never felt that I was discounted by the people that I dealt with and worked with, until I joined the Pocatello City Council. I am routinely treated like a third-class citizen during council meetings. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m Hispanic or female or both. I hate to even bring up ethnicity or gender, but I can’t figure out what the motivation is behind the treatment I have received as a councilmember. My ideas have been frequently discounted and dismissed as have my concerns. I have been ridiculed and called unprepared (and essentially stupid) for asking questions, as if I ask them because I don’t understand. In fact, I ask them, on the record, so that the public has the information that they deserve to have.
The city doesn’t have any adopted rules for running meetings, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, even though the city trains and expects our committees to use Robert’s Rules in their meetings. This has been brought up many times by Councilwoman Stevens, but it is dismissed by the Mayor and Council President Cheatum. As a result, the mayor can arbitrarily change things, meeting to meeting, essentially making up the rules as benefits his agenda. The City Attorney supports and defends the mayor at every turn.
This was on display during the May 19 council meeting. The fact that my request to pull items from the consent agenda, as stated in the agenda, was voted down is telling enough. I was made to jump through hoops to have a legitimate and legal request honored. Finally, when my request was granted, I was precluded from asking my questions or making my statement by the grandstanding of Councilman Josh Mansfield. He was allowed by the mayor to pontificate about it being inappropriate to question City department heads about expenses without giving them the specific questions in advance and without forewarning them. He ended his speech with a motion that was quickly seconded by Councilwoman Leeuwrik and immediately voted on. After Roger Bray and I abstained, the mayor declared the motion passed. The City Attorney sustained that assertion in complete contradiction to his pronouncement during a similar situation on April 7, 2022. I was not given the opportunity to voice my concerns or ask my questions. My humiliation was further compounded by having a department head openly laughing at me and my predicament. Having endured this and similar behavior (some of it clearly orchestrated) repeatedly over the past 2.5 years, I felt that I had no alternative but to take a stand and leave the meeting.
I have been a victim of this bullying by Mayor Blad, his allies on the Council, and certain city staff, from the time that I was elected. What they don’t understand is that silencing me is silencing all the people who voted for me and want answers and transparency. I will move on from my humiliation, because that is what one does, but silencing the voices of the people is intentionally circumventing our democratic republic form of government.