Tempers flare during ethics talk

Accusations fly in Reno…again

BY CHRISTINA DERR
christina@azlenews.net

A long-awaited discussion by the Reno city council temporarily devolved into the type of behavior that the body was most trying to prevent.
Prior to a July 31 budget workshop, the Reno city council undertook an ethics discussion.
A code of ethics was first proposed by former council member Ken Parnell last October.
At that meeting, the council voted unanimously to hold an ethics workshop.
Just over nine months later, it was underway.
The conversation began with Council member Larry Trammel suggesting the adoption of Robert’s Rules of Order to help create “discipline” in the meetings.
“Sometimes meetings get totally out of hand,” he said.
Mayor Eric Hunter clarified with a former council member – Billie Steele – who was in the audience that the council had indeed already adopted the code in years past.
Council member Harry Harris said it was important to adopt something that regulated behavior, “to get things under control” as “a matter of personal etiquette.”
“We may be a small city, but we can still treat one another with respect,” he said.
That is when an audience member well-known to anyone who has attended a recent Reno city council meeting spoke up.
Zach Stokes, husband of former Mayor Lynda Stokes, asked Hunter if the council would be considering anything related to honesty in its discussions on ethics.
“When y’all sit up there and tell us something, you need to tell us the truth,” Stokes began.
Hunter replied that he didn’t feel council had “an issue with that.”
“I believe you do, but I am not going to argue with you,” Stokes said.
“Give me an example,’ Hunter retorted.
Stokes responded that he didn’t come to the meeting to argue, but that he felt the council often lies to the citizens from the dais.
Hunter again pressed for an example.
Finally, Stokes relented and accused Hunter of lying at the July 16 meeting of the council.
At that meeting, Stokes took issue with a post on the city’s website that said prices for waste disposal service were subject to change.
“You denied that you said the prices were temporary,” Stokes said.
Hunter said the city did not intend to say that the prices weren’t set, and that clause was placed on the post because the posted prices didn’t include taxes.
After further heated back-and-forth discussion between the two over the post in question, Stokes decided he’d had enough and said “End of argument.”
Hunter replied, “So, you got caught in your little lie.”
“End of argument, sir. You’re wanting to call me a liar when you lie – you’re a professional,” Stokes said.
Hunter responded that yes, he was a professional.
“Yeah, a professional liar,” Stokes responded.
Hunter denied that accusation.
‘This is not what I came here for. I didn’t come here to fight with you,” Stokes claimed.
The argument came to a temporary halt when a member of audience pointed out the irony of the situation: “Aren’t we discussing ‘Let’s treat each other like we would like to be treated.’?”
Hunter responded they indeed were, but “we come in here and call each other liars.”
Stokes took issue with the accusation claiming he was simply asking a question.
“I asked you for an example and you couldn’t give me an example. Don’t tell me it’s the end of the argument. I will tell you when I am done with the discussion,” Hunter said.
“Fine. Discuss. Make a further whatever out of yourself,” Stokes shot back.
That is when Harris interjected: “There’s a problem I see every time you (Stokes) come to the meeting – every time your agenda is to stir up trouble.
“No, sir, it is not,” Stokes said
“There is no other citizen who stirs up trouble like you,” Harris said.
Harris’ comments prompted several in the audience to agree with the accusation.
“I give you my word my intention was not to stir up trouble. He needed proof. He asked for an example and I gave him one,” Stokes said.
“I trust you, sir,” Stokes said continuing to address Harris.
“You and the gentleman next to you (Council member Joe Patterson) and the lady who isn’t here (Council member Kerry Jenkins). I respect you.”
“And I respect the fact that no other citizen stirs up trouble like you do. Not one,” Harris responded.
“That was not my intention,” Stokes said to end the discussion.
The council asked for the item to be listed on an agenda for a regular meeting so they can formally act on it.