The four-month ethics code saga between City Council members Julia Gusse and Edward Farrell ended Tuesday.
The City Council voted 6-1 in favor of charging Gusse with violating the Council’s Code of Ethics when she questioned former Councilman Carl Diedrich’s ethics and called him a bully during his May 29 public interview for a city council appointment (see related story and video).
Councilwoman Peg Chapados made the motion of sanctioning Gusse with a warning.
“This has not been an easy process for any of us because of the relationships we have with each other, the city and you, our constituents,” Chapados said. “But being one of the strongest proponents of this ethics code I feel compelled to say something. One thing that sometimes gets lost in the process is that these six people also represent me, I’m also a voter and a resident and have been for many years. I understand that there are passions involved, that there is history involved and strong convictions, but the bottom line is we are here to represent each other and to represent you to the best of our ability.”
Mayor Christian Price added an apology to Diedrich: “The members of city council hereby determine that councilwoman Gusse’s comments violated the code of ethics and hereby issue a warning to councilwoman Gusse as a sanction for this violation. The City Council would also like to apologize to Carl Diedrich for what occurred during the City Council meeting on May 29, 2014.”
Gusse predictably was the only dissenting vote. In defending herself before the vote, she compared her actions to what she charged Farrell with in a separate complaint.
“My comments were the truth as I saw it,” Gusse said. “I addressed this man as ‘sir,’ I didn’t cuss at this man, I didn’t yell or scream at this man, I did not get out of my seat as to confront him, nor for dramatic effects. I never slammed anything on the counter; I only spoke the truth as I saw it.”
She also questioned council for not speaking up at the time:
“Not once did this council interrupt me or state comments to the contrary. This council has never stayed quiet about anything that they disagreed with, even with private personal matters that they themselves have brought up to this council that had nothing to do with the business at hand. I do apologize for not sugarcoating my comments, for striking the wrong tone, and my blunt remarks during the meeting.”
Council also voted 6-1 that Farrell did not violate the city’s code of ethics during a private, June 2 meeting between Price, Gusse and City Attorney Denis Fitzgibbons. The meeting was called to address the May 29 meeting and subsequent accusatory email communication between Gusse and Farrell.
Gusse accused Farrell of using profane language, showing disrespect and lunging out of his chair and threatening her during the meeting.
“City council hereby determines that Vice Mayor Farrell’s use of profane language was made out of emotion and had no intent to violate the code of ethics,” Price said. “The City Cuncil also determines that Vice Mayor Farrell did not threaten Councilwoman Gusse during the executive session meeting, although he did sit up in his chair he did not leave his chair. The City Council hereby determines that Vice Mayor Farrell’s apology issued to those in attendance at the executive session meeting as an acceptable way to resolve the matter.”
Gusse pleaded her case that Farrell had violated the ethics code before a vote was taken, while Farrell apologized for using profanity and defended his stance that no violation had occurred.
“I sat there while the vice mayor yelled at me, cussed at me, got out of his seat for the dramatic effects or whatever reason, and he proceeded to berate me during this meeting,” Gusse said. “I see this as a complete violation of our code of ethics, but once again that is up to our entire council.”
Price suggested Farrell make another public apology.
“I apologized to the mayor, the legal counsel and to the councilwoman when it happened. I apologized again in the meeting two weeks ago, and I am prepared to make any public apology that anybody would like me to make for using the profanity that I used. I am sorry for it. I apologize for it. Anybody that knows me knows that I just don’t use profanity, and that’s just my way of life.”