CEDAR CITY – Tempers flared at Wednesday night’s explosive Cedar City Council meeting after Cedar Knolls area residents accused council and administrators of telling “fish stories” to deliberately deceive the public.
City officials were admonished by residents Robin Haight and Wade Grimm, who claimed the city has, to the detriment of constituents, withheld important information and overlooked codes and ordinances to meet the needs of the Windmill Plaza Subdivision, where a new hotel is planned to be built – something the council and administration members said never happened.
Pulling a giant stuffed fish out from under the table and placing it in a large pan on the table, Haight shared photos and examples of “fish stories” with the council to further illustrate his contention with the panel before him.
Since the inception of the Windmill Plaza Subdivision was made known to area residents, Haight said, he and Grimm have been treated like second-class citizens.
“We have tried real hard to get into the parts of the preliminary plat and the staff review, but it’s been a little bit frustrating because it’s hard to get the discussions we feel like we’ve needed to really answer the questions,” Haight said. “And the topic (is) ethics and government (because) we believe that a lot of inaccurate information has been presented in a biased manner and has not allowed the council to vote with well-informed open-mindedness.”
In an effort to protect residents in the Cedar Knolls area, Haight said, it is essential that the whole truth comes to light, without discrepancies.
“Not half-truths, not fish stories, not exaggerations of the stories,” he said. “But we would like to see the whole truth. Just like liars in court, yet they still do that Bible thing … where they put their hand on the Bible and promise to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Pulling up a video clip of Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips that was captured from the city’s website of a previous City Council meeting on May 20, Grimm focused his part of the discussion on the cul-de-sac roadway that will require a second exit point to accommodate fire codes in case of evacuation.
Grimm passed a paper packet of the 2012 International Fire Code Appendix D to each person on the panel, which he said proved beyond any doubt that the information presented by Phillips that night was inaccurate.
With only part of the entire fire code being presented to council and staff, Phillips quickly left the room in an attempt to find a full copy of the code. It was impossible to glean the entire picture of Appendix D without first understanding some of the preceding information in the code, he said.
As Haight and Grimm pressed on, Mayor Maile Wilson asked the men to please wait until Phillips had reentered the council chambers so that he could be present as a discussion that required his response was taking place.
While waiting, she reminded them that civil discourse is a process that requires a sense of civility and that attacking staff and council with such bold accusations may not be the best approach to finding a sympathetic ear.
“There’s a few different ways to do this,” Wilson said. “Coming in and calling them, and different staff members, and essentially saying that they lied is not the best way to cooperatively work together.”
Unable to find a copy of the fire code on site, Phillips said, he felt as though a resolution was not imminent and the best course of action would be to wait for further discussion until after an independent review is performed at the cost of the residents.
The fire code plainly states that when a code official’s statement is brought into question, it is the right of the complainant to have an independent review done, Phillips said. No matter the result of that review, both parties agree that the outcome will be the final word on the issue and no more discussion will take place.
At any time when there is a discrepancy with the information being presented, Wilson said, Haight and Grimm are welcome to meet with staff members to discuss the nature of their discovery in a civil way.
The men were previously invited to a staff meeting where, Haight said, they believed people from the city administration would be present who could “make a difference.”
The whole meeting was “nothing but a beat-up session” on Grimm and him, Haight said, where no meaningful discussion took place.
At another meeting with the planning commission, Haight said, half of their presentation was cut off, and important staff members, like City Engineer Kit Wareham, were absent from the forum.
As the discussion continued, Wilson made it clear to Grimm and Haight that accusations and connotations of deception, wrongdoing and clandestine meetings would not continue to be a part of any discussion that would be meaningful and cooperative.
She asked both parties to gather all their information and prepare an agenda or proposal of some kind that would be made available to staff members prior to a private meeting with them, to be held before next week’s City Council meeting.
“If you can write out something on these different issues …,” Wilson said, “then we can have things there to go along with our conversation so (it) can be meaningful, and we can have (all of) the information.”
Grimm and Haight agreed to meet with city officials and prepare something in advance so they can present all the facts they say prove that dirty deeds are afoot.
A Thursday morning request for media to be present in the room at the time of the meeting was declined by Cedar City Attorney Paul Bittmenn, who said there was nothing in the books that required such a meeting to be open to the public or the media.
Bittmenn referred St. George News to the mayor, who was in a staff meeting at the time and unavailable to address the request as this report is published.
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