Daily Egyptian

HRC Commissioner responds to allegations of disruptive, confrontational behavior at City Hall

By Rana Schenke, Staff Reporter

At the monthly Carbondale Human Relations Commission at City Hall on Monday, Ted Gutierrez, commissioner, said there were allegations made against him by city officials about his conduct at City Hall prior to the roundtable on Sept. 13.

According to Gutierrez, the commission had submitted a press release to the city Aug. 22 and again on Sept. 6. The statement still had not been sent out by Sept. 7, so commission chair Jerrold Hennrich asked Gutierrez to stop by city hall and ask about it.

“Upon Jerrold’s asking me to come by city hall, I spoke with [HR assistant] Courtney Beverly and he indicated the press release did in fact go out that morning,” Gutierrez said.

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Gutierrez said the press release sent out that morning was not the same one voted on and approved by the Human Relations Commission, so he contacted Amy Fox, Carbondale public relations officer.

“She met with me [at] the Human Relations Office […] with Courtney […] and I asked her why the HRC press release was not released,” Gutierrez said. “Only the first paragraph of the press release issued by the HRC was released.”

Gutierrez said Fox told him she did not know why only the first paragraph was released. She agreed to release a corrected version later that day.

Gutierrez said on Wednesday, Sept. 12, Hennrich informed him that city councilman Navreet Kang explained to Hennrich he was told Ted Gutierrez was at City Hall being disruptive, confrontational, and belligerent with City of Carbondale staff on Friday.

Fox said in a statement provided to the Daily Egyptian, the City of Carbondale is aware of the conversation with Mr. Gutierrez and the Human Relations Commission.

City administration was under the impression that this issue was resolved weeks ago and at this time have no further comment,” Fox said.

Gutierrez said he visited Kang’s business on Sept. 14 to ask about the comments. Kang told him the council members were told about the alleged behavior, and did not say who made the allegations.

Gutierrez said he then met with Beverly, who had been at the meeting.

“I asked him in his opinion if I was disruptive, confrontational, belligerent, or anything else towards him and Amy,” Gutierrez said. “He shrugged his shoulders and said no.”

Gutierrez then attempted to contact Fox, but was unable to reach her and left her a message.

Gutierrez said city manager Gary Williams told him he did not specifically write a memo about Gutierrez and his behavior.

The Daily Egyptian contacted Williams for comment by phone and email and received no response from him at time of publication on Oct. 3.

Gutierrez said Williams told him he was only protecting his employees, and he shouldn’t have used the word belligerent when he explained the situation to city council.

“I explained to Gary that I work very hard to be clear and level-headed whenever I’m dealing with anybody in the public, unlike our mayor, who twice publicly berated HRC commissioner Dr. Joseph Brown,” Gutierrez said. “Gary’s reply was that was the Irish in him.”

Gutierrez said he told Williams this was not acceptable behavior, and he was not sure why there is such animosity between the mayor toward the Human Relations Commission, and he does not take part in this.

“I make it a point to remain objective at all times despite my personal beliefs or views,” Gutierrez said. “I reminded Gary that I consciously make the effort to be pro-Carbondale.”

Gutierrez said he told Williams he might appear at the council meeting to rebuke the claims made against him, and Williams told him not to worry because people have short memories.

“I disagree with him because it is my reputation at stake, and he would do the same thing if it were him,” Gutierrez said. “And people around here don’t have short memories. Things like this will follow people around.”

Gutierrez said he presented because it gave attendees and commissioners perspective of some of the obstacles that were leading up to the forum.

“[Gutierrez’s interaction] is a gauge of the human relations in this community and how the leaders at city government respond, not only to the commissioners […] but also the citizens they’re supposed to serve,” Hennrich said.

Hennrich also experienced issues with city government officials regarding the forum, including being told by the mayor that he was being essentially fired and should not come to the next meeting.

(See more: Carbondale mayor threatens firing of Human Relations Commission chair over community roundtable)

According to Commissioner Dora Weaver, members of the public have been concerned about the commission since the mayor’s announcement.

“People have been calling me asking what can they do to make sure […] we don’t lose our chair,” Weaver said. “I’ve just been directing their phone calls to [commission chair Hennrich].”

Hennrich said the best option for citizens to do is to contact mayor Henry, since he has the ability to reappoint.

Staff reporter Rana Schenke can be reached at rschenke@dailyegyptian.com.

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