A Tehachapi man who lost his bid for a City Council seat in November was arrested by the police chief at Monday night's council meeting after he refused to take a seat when his allotted three minutes of public comment time were up.
Police Chief Kent Kroeger arrested Clint Davies on suspicion of disrupting a public meeting and being publicly intoxicated. Davies was escorted out in handcuffs.
The dramatic incident happened at a contentious meeting during which litigation against the city was threatened and community members alleged they had been harassed by city staff.
Here's what led to the arrest:
Davies approached the the podium and said he had previously been arrested and charged with a felony count of eavesdropping in recording a conversation he had with Kroeger. He said the recording occurred in Kroeger's office on June 3 when Davies went to report a crime that happened to him. He claimed he was within his rights to record a video.
Davies' three minutes for comment ended and Davies said he wanted to continue speaking.
Mayor Susan Wiggins said, “You’re out of time. I need you to take your seat, please.”
Davies said, “I’m not going to take my seat.”
Wiggins retorted, “Then I will have to have you escorted to your seat.”
City attorney Tom Schroeter said to Davies, “You’re done.”
Councilman Kenneth R. Hetge then said, “Mr. Schroeter, I don’t believe you as the city attorney should be saying anything regarding this. This should be coming through the chair — that’s point of order.”
Kroeger approached Davies and asked him take a seat in the audience. Davies refused.
“Take me to jail. I’ve already been to jail,” Davies said.
As Davies was being handcuffed, he said, “I’m going to ask this council for a motion to ask the Department of Justice to investigate this department. I was told to stay away from City Council meetings by your lieutenant — that it was not helpful.”
Before Davies was removed, Micheal Biglay, representing the group Transparency and Accountability in Government, threatened a lawsuit against the city.
“My group is going to start raising money for legal defense fund to come after the city of Tehachapi for a couple issues,” Biglay said.
Biglay requested an investigation into the conduct of city staff members, and voiced concerns about an Environmental Impact Report for Sage Ranch, a planned housing development. He questioned whether water allotment to the Mountain Meadows community could be affected by the development.
Cliff Suazo, owner of Dog House Saloon and Bar, shared Biglay's sentiment of city staff not remaining professional.
Suazo accused city staff of speaking negatively toward his wife and said code enforcement officers harassed him various times for alleged violations of city codes at his business.
After Biglay and Suazo spoke, Wiggins said, “We are done with public comments.”
Hetge then left the room.
Later in the meeting, Jay Schlosser, development services director for the city, addressed the council and said, “My office endeavors in all situations to be professional in the execution of our duties. Our do...duties sometimes lead us to difficult moments where we are requiring folks who have not complied with the law to comply with the law. The accusation against me tonight is unfortunate...I would be happy to let you know the sequence of events that led to this moment.”
This comment was in reference to times during the meeting when city staff were accused of not being professional.
Wiggins has firmly enforced a three-minute time limit during public comment at recent council meetings, whereas in the past, a time limit hasn't been strictly enforced.
In an interview with Tehachapi News after the meeting, Wiggins said, “I have not seen the three minutes rule to be a problem. School boards and other boards do it.”
She added, “Many people come up to council and give a comment and most of what they have to say can be said within three minutes. Staff will answer it if they can or they can say to call them, or schedule a meeting.”