A special Gridley City Council meeting was held Monday night at the request of Gridley City Councilman Dan Boeger, who asked to be able to discuss his removal from all of the committees he represented the City on at the September 21, 2009, council meeting.

A special Gridley City Council meeting was held Monday night at the request of Gridley City Councilman Dan Boeger, who asked to be able to discuss his removal from all of the committees he represented the City on at the September 21, 2009, council meeting.

Mayor Jerry Fichter began the meeting by asking Boeger how he would like the meeting to proceed, with Boeger saying he would like to hear  input from the audience.

Lee Goss asked what the position of the meeting was for the council.

“Since the meeting was called by Mr. Boeger, I was thinking he would address what the meeting was called for,” Goss stated.

Boeger answered, “I apologize that I didn't have my wits about me at the last meeting of charges and concerns of potential conflict of interest. It is certainly not a conflict of interest in my mind. I received a call from past Butte County Supervisor Curt Josiassen,  who said what I was trying to figure out at that meeting.

“He said I didn't have a conflict of interest, because the project is viable for anybody in the county to use,  not only potential lower electric rates for Gridley, but to create jobs at the plant and create jobs throughout the year. I think that's what we are all trying to do. The council now and the council before. We saw it as a major priority to create more jobs and help the economy. Unemployment in Gridley is 28 percent. That bothered me.

“I put this on the agenda because of concerrn at council's last meeting stating that I have a conflict. Council removed me from committee meetings, I'm not happy about that, but happy to have you do them.

“I think it was nasty rumors in town that was the basis of those charges and I would like to suggest, there are those in town who have threatened Fair Political Practices and grand jury. I would be happy to have that happen because I don't think there is a problem.

“I also spoke with Butte County Supervisor Kim Yamacuchi for his input and feelings. His comment was that it is not a conflict of interest. He felt it would be a good thing not only for Gridley, but the county and south county and create renewable energy.

“I would be happy to work it out as I stated in a recent email, that the charges are false and if any of them particularly bothered you, I'd be happy to bring witnesses forward that this is not so. I think we have accusations based on nothing. I think we need to either bring out the charges in the hands of proper authorities and make a legal decision, rather than by the community.”

Mayor Fichter asked for any comments and Goss approached the podium again to state, “I've  heard what has been going on for awhile. I heard it was an email that Councilman Boeger asked Rob (City Administrator Rob Hickey) to send to City Attorney Brant Bordsen asking, “Do I have a conflict of interest?”  Bordsen said yes. Are these the facts that you sent to Mr. Bordsen?”

Boeger answered that he sent the worse case scenario to him and after it was discussed, Boeger decided those needed to be modified some so those are not the case anymore.

Boeger explained that the fact that has changed is that the eneregy plant would be for everybody to use, not just his son.

Boeger continued, “As I recall, at the League of Cities training sessions, unless things have changed since the previous time, it is up to me as a councilperson to make a decision. Council will recall, when a decision on Heron Landing came up, even though I had sold my shares, I excused myself even when I had nothing to do with it. They wanted  a letter stating that all fees had been paid.

“It is my responsibility because I'm the one who goes to jail if they are stated wrong. There are certainly times I would like recommendation and guidance but it's my decision to say with certainty I have a conflict of interest or not so that's what has changed.”

“I was thinking about it wrong, too narrowly when I wrote the letter and it wasn't until following the story that came out in The Gridley Herald. I knew in my mind that I was not doing this to benefit family. New information that I found helpful from Butte County  Supervisors that helped sort it out in my mind.”

“Because of those issues even if there is a conflict of interest, my understanding is that it still doesn't warrant doing what happened at last council  meeting.”

Impassioned opinions followed by Pat Coghlan and Steven Ellis with differing opinions on the issue at hand.

Coghlan stated his own experience and knowledge in energy contract management since working for cannery here, Nestle and Sara Lee. He stated he had  many conversations in the past with Boeger on energy, energy economics and the implementation to the benefit of City of Gridley.

“Dan is very knowledgeable and it would be arrogant and stupid for any councilman to take the position because  you don't have the qualifications of Mr. Boeger.

Ellis countered with his concern about accountability, transparency and the rumors he had heard, where prominent businessmen are making decisions that are really bad, costing the city lots of money. “This gentleman may be knowledgeable, but he is costing the City money. Making economic decisions that hurt me and the rest of the Gridley community.”

He stated he had campaigned for two of the current councilmen  and heard a lot of complaining and a lot of viewpoints that said they did not want back room deals.

“Looks like rice farmers are stealing us blind. I support the board's action. That's why we put these people on council to clean up the image to protect the citizens,” Ellis concluded.

Judith Saunders asked City Attorney Bordsen to give his opinion on Boeger's email asking if he had a conflict of interest and what his findings were.

Bordsen stated he had received an email of Boeger's with respect that his son Steve is farming in Colusa County and there was a potential for him to share in the profits of a rice farm he was managing.

“The email indicated that he could expect to share in these profits and I was asked to render an opinion if there is a conflict for syngas and any operations. There are two ways to look at it.

“Various statutes have certain parameters. If you fall in parameter, you could be taken out of vote for letter of law. The spirit of the law that says you might not fall within a particular statute, but is this the type of statute that would present a conflict because the situation is the spirit of the law.

“Under the Fair Political Practices Commission and there are various economic interests, if you meet the economic interest under that law, you should disqualify yourself from the project. Under Fair Political Practices, the income of an adult emancipated child does not count against you, not income for purposes of disqualification. The income for his son didn't county for Fair Political Fact and we stated that in our opinion.”

“Mr. Boeger is right. It does rest with the member. They can take the chance if they have private counsel, based on email, under common law, it was too close to recommend to go forward.

“What happened was, a different set of facts were presented. Not a percentage of farm income to son, the farm would not sell to any plant if it did come to town. That's a different kettle of fish. Now, if no interest in net profits, no interest for child to  have any money and even if no contract with facility, there is no conflict.”

Karen Duncan thanked the council for making the citizens concerns heard. “I know it's very tough because Dan has a lot of friends in the City, family well known, your first duty is idea of indiscretion to protect us. I think Dan has the city's best interest and knowledge and if he cared about the community he would step down and serve in other capacities.

Cynthia Lewis asked Council Owen Stiles two questions. She asked if it was accurate information that he had missed numerous meetings with REII and if so, how many were missed and why.

“I only remember missing one meeting. I'm sorry it doesn't get recorded in the paper with what I have been working with REII on. That would have solved some questions. I asked for an update at last council meeting. There are no official meetings. As a matter of fact, when I have been at McClellan, I've dropped by REII because I happened to be there. I'm fully qualified to be the commissioner,” Stiles answered.

Lewis continued with her second question. “Earlier this year, at a Sacramento meeting, you spoke with Colusa City Councilwoman Donna Critchfield about the possibility of a bio mass plant and you told her 'we would get a plant over my dead body.'

“Do you still feel that way  and explain how you are an appropriate chair for the city to represent,” Lewis stated.

Stiles answered with, “I think it was stated in the paper, I write things down. I  have stated in the past, I am qualified to drive this ship, whether solar or bio mass, I will work diligently for the City of Gridley. When bio mass becomes available, we are ready to put a plant here. I'm ready to put a plant here and recommended to council and let council decide on the bio mass.”

Lewis held on for an answer, asking, “About your statement to Colusa Councilwoman Donna Critchfield?”

Stiles answered he had no recollection of the statement.

Mayor Fichter asked Boeger if he would like to make another statement and he replied that the product is rice grain, not rice straw.

He stated his son is managing a duck club and they plan on flooding their fields.

“I've been Gridley NCPA commissioner two council terms before this. Just because I'm a businessman does not mean I'm not interested. I'm sitting here to help the City of Gridley,” Boeger stated.

When the audience tried to speak out when Boeger had the floor, Mayor Fichter stated as she hit the gavel, “We are not going to keep having the audience speak. Mr. Boeger has the floor at the moment. I've been patient and given everyone a chance.”

Mayor Fichter made the motion to reinstate Boeger to all of his committees, except anything to do with energy, including the City's loan committee that had not been mentioned at the previous council meeting.

Councilman Dave Garner gave the second stating, “In view of what the people said tonight, the people do have a right to his representation. If we can preserve that, an abundance of caution on our part, this is what they wanted when they voted.”

Before the roll call could be taken, Boeger asked if he would still be able to give his views and ask about the bio mass plant to provide input.

Councilman Bruce Johnson showed concern about Boeger contacting REII stating, “I'm not interested in a bio mass plant, so I'm not going to waste my time,” to which the crowd bristled.

Roll call was taken with a unanimous vote to reinstate Boeger to every committee, except serving as alternate for the energy commissioner.

Mayor Fichter ended the meeting with the following statement, “ Now that we have that last item behind us – again, I feel the  need to state that this item and specifically the fact this item continues to come up time and again, is not serving the citizens or this council very well. It has been a continuing ongoing distraction. We as a council need to understand that once an item has been debated and voted on, a decision has been made and needs to be respected as such. Therefore, I hereby make the following motion:

“A motion to reconsider any action taken by the council may be made only on the day such action was taken. It may be made either immediately during the same session, or at a recessed or adjourned session thereof, such motion may be made only by one of  the council members who voted with the prevailing side. The motion may not be made (nor placed on the agenda for action) at a subsequent meeting of the council for a period of 90 days, unless made by a council member who voted with the prevailing side.”

This motion was unanimously approved by the council.

The next meeting of the Gridley City council will be held Monday, October 7, 2009, at 7 p.m.