Dunsmuir City Council meeting becomes heated

Ami Ridling

Chaos erupted at the close of the Dunsmuir City Council meeting Thursday when Mayor Peter Arth refused to allow Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department Detective Darrel Lemos to speak at the podium about the council’s anticipated medical marijuana cultivation ordinance.

Sgt. Karl Houtman was also present at the meeting, as was Dunsmuir city attorney John Kenny.

The cultivation ordinance was briefly touched on at the beginning of the meeting when the council addressed its plan to organize a subcommittee to devise a list of medical marijuana cultivation regulations for council consideration. However, it was not on the agenda for action or discussion.

During the meeting, while the council was addressing a separate agenda item that was related to medical marijuana (during which Arth had recused himself and left council chambers), a number of attendees spoke during the public comment period about the cultivation ordinance.

Council member Mario Rubino reminded attendees that the council was addressing a different issue, and he said that the cultivation topic would be addressed later.

At the end of the meeting, resident Sandy Raine asked why the council did not address the cultivation ordinance that Rubino had stated would be discussed later. She noted that a number of attendees stayed until the close of the meeting for the purpose of hearing more information about the matter.

Council members responded that there had been a misunderstanding, as the cultivation ordinance issue was not on the agenda.

During this time, Lemos began approaching the podium to speak. However, Arth denied Lemos the opportunity to speak on the grounds that the cultivation ordinance topic was not on the agenda, that the public comment period was closed, and that the council had already agreed to organize a subcommittee to devise cultivation regulation recommendations for council consideration.

Arth’s statement aroused uproar from attendees, who wanted Lemos to be permitted to speak.

“Let him speak!” a number of them exclaimed.

“I’m really tired of these hand-selected subcommittees,” said Raine. She noted that representatives from the sheriff’s department, who are knowledgeable about federal and state laws and regulations, should be involved in the cultivation ordinance process. She said a public notice should be published to notify the community about the organization of the subcommittee to allow residents to have a chance to participate rather than have the council hand-pick its members.

Following repeated poundings by Arth’s gavel, Sgt. Karl Houtman asked city attorney Kenny if Arth should recuse himself from this segment of the meeting.

“It’s not on the agenda. They (council members) can’t hear it,” responded Kenny.

Kenny’s comment was met with more grumblings.

Arth told Houtman to direct his questions and comments to him, as he was the one chairing the meeting. “You are supposed to be assisting me, sir,” he said.

More groans from the crowd ensued.

“This whole city council is pathetic,” said Raine.

“I have lived here for forty years, and I have never seen a city council run business like this,” commented  Bunny Steele.

“Everybody, cool your jets,” said Arth. “This will be a subcommittee issue.”

The anticipated medical marijuana cultivation ordinance had been addressed by the Dunsmuir Planning Commission on the previous night.

When the ordinance is drafted, it will go before the planning commission for approval. Once it is passed by the commission, it will go before the city council for adoption.