Irritation escalates among city councilors

By Robert Plain
Ashland Daily Tidings
Ashland city councilors will have the first of several therapy sessions on Oct. 6. The need for the sessions was highlighted once again Monday night as councilors lost their cool during a meeting.

Councilor David Chapman told Councilor Eric Navickas to “shut your f—– mouth” during a conversation about council rules.

“I just lost my temper,” Chapman said this morning. “He’s lost his temper with me before. We kind of take turns.”

Chapman said he had the floor and Navickas was muttering comments to him.

Navickas “does it all the time,” Chapman said. “He makes snide little remarks under his breath. Eric does his own little needling and I just got irritated. I’m not very happy about it. It’s not the way I prefer to act. I don’t know if I’m embarrassed, but I wish I didn’t say that.”

Chapman said he was frustrated with how the council rules session was progressing. He said the issue has taken them more than a year to debate with little progress.

Chapman has walked out on two council meetings, one time yelling as he left. Both times he said he was frustrated with the way council operates.

Chapman and Navickas have had bad blood since Chapman passed a motion that directed city staff to discuss transferring to the Mt. Ashland Association the Forest Service permit to operate a ski area on Mount Ashland.

“Eric has decided we should not get along anymore because of Mounr Ashland,” Chapman said. “It’s too bad because we got along fairly well before that.”

Navickas called the incident “very disturbing. I countered one of his points in a very civil tone. The forum was fairly open and the conversation was free-flowing. But he cut me off by saying…”

Navickas said he has lost his temper at public meetings as well, but added, “I can’t think of a time in a public meeting where I’ve used that strong of language towards another councilor. There is definitely emotional attachment for certain issues, for instance Mt. Ashland, but throwing profanities out during a public meeting is not acceptable behavior especially when conversation is entirely civil.”

Councilor Russ Silbiger, who ran Monday’s meeting because Mayor John Morrison was absent, said Chapman’s language was inappropriate, but added that Navickas has been guilty of similar acts of socially unacceptable behavior.

“Eric has a habit of speaking out of turn and he’s said things too,” Silbiger said. “He hasn’t sworn, but he does tend to push buttons. He’s made some fairly dismissive comments about others before. He once called [former Ashland Mayor] Cathy Shaw a Nazi.”

Silbiger said he hopes next Saturday’s counseling session will help council members better get along.

“Could it be any worse,” he asked rhetorically. “Anyone watching any meeting can see the divisions.”

City Administrator Martha Bennett said it is important for the community that the council work together.

“It’s definitely bigger than what happened last night,” she said. “That was symptom.”

She added, “They don’t have to like each other. But they need to figure out how to work together when they disagree. They are supposed to disagree. There is a reason there are seven of them. It’s good for Ashland that they disagree. It’s not about trying to get people to like each other, but they have to work together.”

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