GALT — A member of Galt’s Measure R Oversight Committee said she should not be removed from her position over a photo she posted to her private social media page last week and subsequently removed.
The Galt City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved removing Kathleen Amos from the oversight committee, sighting her actions were inappropriate as a member of a city-appointed panel.
Galt City Manager Thomas Haglund told the council that Amos took an “unflattering” photo of a man addressing the council during the Aug. 27 special meeting discussing the city’s financial instability.
Amos later posted the photo to her personal Facebook page, he said.
“Council, commission and committee meetings should be considered a safe space in which individuals can participate in the local democratic process without fear that city representatives will post derogatory pictures of them on social media or the internet,” Haglund said.
Amos told the council she found herself confronted with an uncomfortable situation, stating the resident in question was exposing his rear during the meeting and as he addressed city leaders last week.
She said she was in shock, but handled the situation as delicately as she could. When she posted the photo, she said she did not show the man’s face, did not reveal his name or include a derogatory comment. Rather, the comment associated with the post was factual, she said, stating he wasn’t wearing a belt.
Amos claimed she was being removed because she has been at odds with council members over the handling of Measure R funds.
The Measure R ordinance, she said, has specific grounds for removal which do not include posting something on social media that someone does not like.
“I did not have the intention to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Amos argued. “As I said, I found myself in a shocking situation. I wasn’t cyber-bullying. I don’t even know him. My Facebook is set to private, and it only shares with my friends, not friends of friends or anything else.”
Amos said she removed the photo within 48 hours of receiving a phone call from Haglund, and added that the incident should have ended there. However, she said she has become the target of cyber-bullying and harassment since removing the image.
She added that she contacted an attorney with expertise in cyberbullying and the Internet, who claimed Amos had done nothing legally wrong.
In addition, she said she was willing to speak with the man and his wife, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, and apologize.
Sherry Daley, a founding member of the Measure R committee who helped draft the bylaws and regulations for it, said one can only be removed for incidents of malfeasance.
Daley said malfeasance is legally defined as something intentional, dishonest and potentially illegal behavior, all of which was not meant in Amos’ post.
“I know there was hurt that happened, I’m not saying it didn’t happen,” she said. “I’m saying you’d have to have proof she had the intention to harm, that the post was dishonest and borderline illegal to merit malfeasance.”
According to Cornell Law School, malfeasance is defined as “intentional conduct that is wrongful or unlawful, especially by public officials or employees.”
Fran Brossman told the council it was her husband who was the subject of the photo in question, and said they didn’t know a photo had been taken until their daughter found it on social media.
Brossman said she could not express how angry she was about the incident and said those attending city council meetings are not high school students, but adults.
“If I was offended, I would have left the room,” she said. “I wouldn’t have taken a picture and put it on Facebook for my friends to see that I am shocked and appalled. Obviously it’s a private page, but the Internet is a public forum. It doesn’t matter that she took it down. She should have taken it down immediately, not 24 hours later.”
Brossman said she was not asking the council to remove Amos from the oversight committee, but urged them not to reappoint her when her current term expired.
Approved in 2008, Measure R increased city sales tax by one half of one percent, with funds allocated directly to police services.
An independent oversight committee was established in 2009 to monitor Measure R expenditures and report to the community. Committee members are appointed and serve four-year terms.
A family law attorney and mediator, Amos was appointed to the committee in 2018. Her term was set to expire in 2021. She was treasurer of the original Measure R political action committee and canvassed neighborhoods to get it approved.
City officials have proposed expenditure reductions in order to balance the general fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Haglund said the decision to ask for Amos’ removal had nothing to do with her opinions about a recent proposal to reduce Measure R expenditures.
Councilman Rich Lozano added her removal had nothing to do with city leaders wanting to police social media, and that it was his understanding a committee member could be removed for the conduct described in the complaint.
“I do find her conduct shocking, quite frankly,” Lozano said. “I would expect it to be from someone with a lot less standing (in the community), and that’s surprising to me. The problem I have is this was a committee member who did this conduct at a public meeting that is supposed to be a safe place for people to go.”
Mayor Paige Lampson apologized to Brossman for what she and her husband have gone through during the last week, adding that people need to think about what they post on social media sites.
“This was a wardrobe malfunction, plain and simple,” she said. “This was not a kid sagging his pants. It was an adult, and this was a public forum in our sacred council chambers. It was where people are already nervous to come speak to us. We’re getting so much more interaction on councils than we have in the past, and we don’t want people to be dissuaded from that.”
The city will post an opening on the Measure R Oversight Committee and begin accepting applications in the coming days.