On Aug. 28 at the special city council meeting at City Hall, Kathleen Amos took a photo of a resident speaking to council on finance matters. The speaker, Chris Brossman, had a “wardrobe malfunction”, which was shown in the photo. Amos posted it to her Facebook page. On Sept. 3 at the regular city council meeting, Interim City Manager Tom Haglund included a recommendation on the agenda that Amos be removed from the Measure R Oversight Committee.
“Council, committee and commission meetings should be considered a safe space, which individuals can participate in the local democratic process without fear that a city representative will post derogatory pictures of them on social media via the Internet,” Haglund said. “The item before you is to consider whether such actions on the part of a city representative are consistent with that individual’s service on a city-appointed committee.”
Amos responded at the Sept. 3 meeting by defending her actions.
“I got four phone calls from people concerned that you were planning to violate Measure R,” Amos said. “I came to understand what was going on. Unfortunately, I may be an attorney, but I’m also a woman and a senior citizen, and I saw myself confronted with a very uncomfortable situation. I handled it as delicately as I could.”
Amos went on to say that Brossman’s face was not in the photo and she didn’t post his name.
“It was a factual comment,” said Amos of the post. “This guy isn’t wearing a belt. It was about my shock, my feelings at the moment as a woman and as a human being. It’s a crime to expose yourself in public, and that’s what I saw happening.”
Amos went on to challenge whether council could remove a committee member from Measure R.
“You cannot remove me from the Measure R Committee at this time,” she said. “They are termed. It was designed that, if someone was opposed to the City Council, the City Council couldn’t remove me just because you didn’t like something that I did. And, in regards to what I did, I did contact an Internet attorney. I was told I was simply exercising my First Amendment rights … When you enter a public forum, you make yourself available to have your photo taken and it can be published, and you can’t complain the way the picture looks.”
Amos also stated that she didn’t know Brossman, that what she did was not cyber-bullying and that her Facebook page was set to “private” so only friends could see it.
“As soon as I received a call from the city manager, less than 48 hours later, I took it down and I believe that should have been the end of it,” Amos said.
She advised council to get a written legal opinion from the city attorney in order to have any legal basis to vote on removing her.
“You’ve opened me up to cyber-bullying, and my car has been vandalized twice in the last week,” Amos said.
After Amos spoke, Sherry Daley took the podium and stated council could not remove a committee member.
“That’s a guarantee we gave to the citizens to get it (Measure R) to pass,” Daley said. “You can only remove for malfeasance with intention to harm, dishonesty and potentially illegal behavior. The vice mayor has an appointee who has posted defamatory comments that I have forwarded to all of you that were pretty out there.”
Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer spoke to the issue and Amos’ comments.
“What bothered me was there was no acknowledgement from Ms. Amos when she met with the city manager,” Farmer said. “At the podium tonight, instead of offering Mr. Brossman an ‘I’m sorry’, instead she spun it around … It was all about deflection – ‘I’m the victim here.’”
Mayor Paige Lampson also commented.
“This was a wardrobe malfunction,” Lampson said. “I’m sorry, Mr. Brossman, that this happened to you. This was at a public forum in our sacred council chambers, where you’re supposed to be safe.”
Council member Curt Campion asked City Attorney Kimberly Hood how legally a committee member could be removed.
“An inability or unwillingness to fulfill the duties of a committee member, repeated failure to attend meetings or failure to meet qualifications and malfeasance,” Hood said.
“What was the purpose of taking the photo and posting it,” Campion asked Amos.
“I was just in shock that someone would behave like that in a council meeting,” Amos said.
After nearly 30 minutes of exchange and Amos defending her actions, Rich Lozano spoke up.
“I’m ready to make a motion to remove her,” Lozano said.
Council voted unanimously 5-0 to remove Amos.
The Galt Herald asked Hood to expand on the legality of removing Amos.
“The Galt Municipal Code does not spell out a specific procedure for removal so the Council has the discretion to determine based upon the facts surrounding the posting and the public comment it received at the meeting to determine whether the posting by Ms. Amos and her response to the posting satisfied one or more of these conditions in GMC 3.40.150(F),” Hood wrote. “This section does not require illegal conduct to be removed from the committee. While Ms. Amos may have the right to take the photo and post it, such protection does not mean the Council cannot decide that such action is improper conduct for a Council-appointee serving on a committee where the Council wants to encourage public participation. The Council has the discretion to determine under GMC 3.40.150 that Ms. Amos’s conduct was contrary to such efforts to encourage public participation and compromised the public trust.”