Nerves fray toward end of long meeting

Some City Council members, mayor exhibit short tempers during a lengthy meeting Tuesday night.

July 22, 2011|By Joseph Serna,

COSTA MESA — After hours of discussion on outsourcing the city's Fire Department and with Tuesday's City Council meeting crawling into its fifth hour, the long night began to wear on council members.

It started when Mayor Gary Monahan interrupted Councilwoman Wendy Leece's request that Chief Executive Tom Hatch list the scope of his job duties because Leece called Hatch the "city manager."

"Member Leece, I hate to be petty, but his title is the CEO, not the city manager," Monahan said.

"Actually, [when] we passed it, his title says CEO/City Manager; it's both," Leece retorted. "Anybody can pick or choose."

Leece continued, asking for Hatch to give a list or scope of his work, only to be interrupted again, this time by Councilman Steve Mensinger.


"Mr. Mayor, can we make a note to…" Mensinger began to ask.

"Excuse me, point of order, I am talking," Leece snapped back, quickly cutting off Mensinger. "I have the floor, Mr. Mensinger!"

Leaning in close to his microphone and raising his voice enough to echo in Council Chambers, Monahan quickly played referee.

"I have not given someone else the floor — go ahead," Monahan said to Leece.

The antics didn't end there. Earlier in the meeting, the mayor informed the audience it would have about a 20-minute window for public comments before the council moved onto the night's agenda at 7 p.m. He told audience members the rest of the people who wanted to speak would have to wait until the end of the meeting.

That opportunity came about five hours later, near midnight. A few residents hung around to speak, or in resident Terrell Koken's case, sing.

A frequent visitor to council meetings, Koken has become known for expressing his criticisms of the council through song during public comments.

Though Koken was the last speaker of the night with only a handful of people still in attendance, Monahan apparently wasn't in the mood to hear any songs.

As Koken began belting out his first lines, "Our city feels the terror of the City Council's pinch," Monahan repeatedly tried to cut him off and summoned a police officer to possibly remove the crooner.

Meanwhile, Mensinger could be seen shaking his head "no" toward the officer approaching Koken, and City Attorney Tom Duarte was trying to get Monahan's attention to stop him as well.

"We are not going to have a show here," Monahan cautioned Koken, who eventually stopped singing. "We are not auditioning for some reality show. This is not show and tell … If you start singing again you will be out of order and finished and the officer will have to escort you out."

Koken started reading his lyrics instead, building it up into an almost musical cadence, which antagonized the mayor a second time. Monahan tried to cut him off before Duarte jumped in, "Mayor, let him speak."

Monahan leaned back in his chair, and Koken finished his speech.

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