Guest Commentary: Called Out (Updated with Response from City Hall)

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front

By Kelsey Fortune

During Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, the Council appointed commission members. I was hoping to be one. Instead, after making my apology public, I was called out and shamed in a public forum where I had no option to respond.

I missed my interview. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but we are living through difficult times right now. Staff and I had scheduled a fifteen-minute interview with Dan Carson and Gloria Partida on Monday, November 23rd. Unfortunately, my grandmother, who has been in a nursing home since a stroke in the Spring of 2019, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and my mind was elsewhere. I forgot about my interview completely.

I emailed an apology. The following morning, I realized my mistake. I was extremely disappointed with myself for missing such an important meeting. The whole day was filled with guilt and sadness. I emailed the staff member with whom I had been corresponding about the interview.

“I want to sincerely apologize for missing my interview yesterday. My grandma has been diagnosed with COVID, and I am completely consumed with this news. I’m sorry that I wasted Dan and Gloria’s time. I hope that I can still be considered to serve on a commission.”

I received a compassionate response from staff on Monday, November 30th. I understood this to mean that my application had been forwarded along with this information.

“I am truly sorry to hear about your grandma’s diagnoses, and wish her a speedy recovery!! Your application has been forwarded to the entire City Council for their consideration. Appointments will occur tomorrow at their Council meeting.”

I called in to apologize during public comment. Instead of responding with compassion, Council responded by called me out in their discussion. It was stated that this was the first they were hearing from me. From my perspective, that is not true. I reached out the day following the missed interview. Regardless, speaking this way about a private citizen in a public forum where they cannot respond is inappropriate, unprofessional, and humiliating.

Please consider what you expect from our elected officials.

Kelsey Fortune is a Graduate Student at UC Davis and ran for City Council

Response from City Manager Mike Webb:

Dear Ms. Fortune,

I offer to you, and the City Council, my sincere apology for this unfortunate communication oversight.  I take full responsibility for your message not being forwarded to the Council Subcommittee and ultimately the full City Council.

The City Council was inadvertently informed that we had not had contact with you about the missed interview.  Clearly we did have communication from you where you explained your circumstances.  I am truly sorry for this communication error and that it led to misinformation that was embarrassing to you and in the public realm.  To that end I am copying Anne Ternus- Bellamy from the Davis Enterprise so that she has the correct information.  I know this does not undo what has been done but I commit to you that this will be a learning opportunity so that we can avoid it happening again.

Of course, we will be happy to accommodate a rescheduled interview with the Council Subcommittee and will be in contact with you to schedule it.

I am very sorry to hear about your family and truly wish you all the very best of health.


Mike Webb

City Manager

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About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Ron Oertel

    Instead, after making my apology public, I was called out and shamed in a public forum where I had no option to respond.

    How so?  (I didn’t watch the meeting.)

      1. Ron Oertel

        Thanks – I gathered that there was an error by staff, but I was wondering if there was something more to this (in terms of the response by the council).  I’m not seeing it, here.

        In the long run, I suspect that Ms. Fortune might have a future in local politics (if she chooses to pursue it), regardless. My impression is that she’s concerned about the environment, but is not necessarily anti-development.

  2. Todd Edelman

     I had no option to respond

    Mistakes happen; what’s important is that the base or inherent structure is bullet-proof / very resilient. This applies to everything from cycling infrastructure to communications systems. In the latter case, many will recall the first Council meeting after the pandemic required meetings to go remote. For the subsequent meetings the public comments went from live to recorded after some people made rude and even sexual remarks. This ensured that such blatant style of comments could not be made.

    Kelsey’s issue is obviously common to ALL City Council and Commission meetings after the public comment period is over, and definitely it’s more difficult with remote meetings — in a live and in=person meeting, the Chair of the meeting has the ability to notice if someone is particularly agitated and make an exception and allow them to speak.

    As a citizen, it’s frustrating to present in public comments something which is then obviously misunderstood or intentionally contradicted in Council or Commission discussion… without the opportunity for any rebuttal. It’s important to note that public comments come after the presentation, with the possibility of not knowing a thing about Council opinion on the matter.

    What can be done to make this more bullet-proof? Voter’s guides contain statements for and against propositions and measures with rebuttals to yes and no statements. Four statements possible. But this is written… and allowing a rebuttal in a Council or Commission meeting would obviously potentially exceed the total time of the initial public comment.

    My only suggestion for now is that every speaker should be given the chance to speak only once, either at initial public comments, or rebuttal public comments. This seems like it could work; we should at least try it out to see what happens in practice just as we did with the first live, Zoom’d Council meeting. I am sure there are more things that can be done, and also good examples from other places.

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