In a violation of City Council rules of conduct, Mayor Andy Medellin began yelling Wednesday night at the principal sponsor of the anti-Medellin recall that is underway, and continued his diatribe until City Attorney Brent Richardson told him, in essence, to be quiet.
Medellin opened up on frequent critic Khalid Chaudry as Chaudry rose to approach the lectern at the beginning of the public comment portion of the meeting.
Chaudhry, 56, who has often criticized Medellin and certain Madera City Council decisions during public comment at council meetings, appeared surprised by Medellin’s outburst, as he approached the podium when Medellin said, his voice rising, “Before you do, Mr. Chaudhry, I’d like to say something. I am tired of your rhetoric. I am tired of you coming up to this council meeting and speaking rhetoric. This community is tired of your rhetoric. You grandstand and take the podium with false accusations towards this council and this city staff, and I’m not having it anymore. If you have an issue with city staff you should take it up with the city manager.”
Chaudhry, a commercial and residential property owner in Madera, has appeared many times before the mayor and city council to criticize what he says is wasteful spending by the city. He is a particular critic of what he claims to be unnecessarily high salaries paid to senior staff members of the city.
He was one of the sponsors of the recall effort against Medellin, and has born most of its expenses.
Chaudhry has claimed that Measure K, the sales tax increase approved by voters in 2016 to improve public safety by expanding police and local fire protection, was loosely written and was intentionally designed to “back fill” the multi-million-dollar deficits now looming in the future of Madera’s general operating fund.
As Medellin went on scolding Chaudhry, Chaudhry held up the front page of The Madera Tribune that displayed a recent interview with former finance director Wayne Padilla, pointing to the city’s own multi-million-dollar deficit budget projections and outlining how the deficits have been allowed to happen.
City Attorney Brett Richardson attempted to speak up and advise Mayor Medellin that he should allow Chaudhry to speak at public comment as he wished to, but was ignored.
Chaudhry was finally allowed to speak at the podium, where he gave his name and business complex address, and suggested Mayor Medellin remember the Transparent California website article which first disclosed the salaries that had been approved by the city council in Madera in 2015 and 2016. “You misled. They (Transparent California website) called you a liar, in other words. Why don’t you sue them? Then you lied to the Madera Tribune. Then Mr. (Ron) Manfredi, your guy (consultant) said the same thing. He had some quantitative analyses of what you should be paying (to department heads,). But I am also talking about quality. In normal circumstances, they should get paid $200,000 ... or around what Mr. (Ron) Manfredi mentioned. But here” Chaudhry asked, referencing the wages and benefits of $250,000 to $290,000 still being paid.
Medellin interrupted again and said “I told you you would no longer insult the staff. You are not going to come here and insult the city staff. Yet, you are ...” Medellin argued loudly as Chaudhry continued to try and express his opinions of staff salaries and other spending.
Chaudhry then asked that Medellin release his last five years of tax returns and disclose the amount of money the Medellin businesses do with the city of Madera. “(This city) is your business. That’s how you make money... You also get paid $2,000 a month in (family) health insurance. And then you have the (area) pastors asking for God to help us?” Chaudhry asked incredulously.
Medellin then told Chaudhry his three minutes were up, and that he should leave the podium.
Chaudhry later said he was not deterred by Medellin’s public attack and would continue advocating for a reduction in senior city staff salaries, less deficit spending and more transparency in Madera’s government.
“More residents need to stand up and speak their minds,” he said. “This is outrageous violation of my rights and a conflict of interest. An ill-tempered mayor that is a bully and a tyrant ... that he speaks to residents, the press and business owners like this. He also bullies and attempts to intimidate residents and his fellow council members, and anyone else who disagrees with him. It’s all about him ... and his ego. What a hypocrite, he has no shame,” Chaudhry said.
Rules for public comment
Editor’s Note: This is a strict rule of Madera City Council protocol, and appears near the top of every agenda of the Madera City Council, including the one Wednesday night.
Public Comment: The first fifteen minutes of the meeting are reserved for members of the public to address the Council on items which are within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Council.
Speakers shall be limited to three minutes. Speakers will be asked to identify themselves and state the subject of their comment. If the subject is an item on the Agenda, the Mayor has the option of asking the speaker to hold the comment until that item is called. Comments on items listed as a Public Hearing on the Agenda should be held until the hearing is opened. The Council is prohibited by law from taking any action on matters discussed that are not on the Agenda, and no adverse conclusions should be drawn if the Council does not respond to public comment at this time.