A group founded to defend the legacy of former Palm Springs mayor Frank Bogert on Wednesday filed new claims against the city and called for a postponement of an upcoming meeting on the potential removal of Bogert’s statue fromtown hall. The city called the claims “baseless”.
Friends of Frank Bogert was created in August to “communicate the true character of the Frank M. Bogert and Palm Springs story” and respond to “a false, slanderous and overtly political attack on Bogert, including a suggestion that his statue in front of the city hall either destroyed or moved, “according to a statement from the group.
The directors of the group include David Christian, a former member of the city’s architectural review board; former city manager Norm King; and Carrie Allan. Negie Bogert, Bogert’s widow, sits on the advisory committee, along with Doug Evans, a former Palm Springs city planner, and eight other members.
In April, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission passed a resolution recommending the removal of the Bogert Statue from the facade of Palm Springs City Hall, citing Bogert’s involvement in forced evictions from Section 14 during Bogert’s time as mayor. The Commission also published a report on Bogert in May.
The monument is “widely seen as an offensive and painful public reminder of a legacy of urban renewal that has banished the vast majority of people of color from city limits, and the current realities of systemic racism born out of his leadership as mayor of 1958 to 1966. said the commission’s resolution.
Friends of Frank Bogert disputed the findings of this report, and has already published an 85-page rebuttal titled “Restore the Records.” “
Friends of Frank Bogert said on Wednesday that the results of a public registration request she filed with the city “provided important disturbing information about the Human Rights Commission report attacking the deceased. Mayor Frank Bogert “and” revealed a glaring lack of transparency “. The group also alleged that by assisting with the drafting of the report in his liaison role with the Commission on Human Rights, Council member Geoff Kors committed a “probable ethical allegation” and “a possible violation of the law. Brown Law “.
Palm Springs City Council to Hold Joint Meeting with Human Rights Commission to September 29 to discuss the plan to remove the statue and the commission’s recommendation for a section 14 apology.
Friends of Frank Bogert are now calling for this meeting to be postponed “until the public has sufficient time to consider the erroneous conclusions of the Commission”.
“The city council, the HRC and city staff publicly declare that transparency and public participation are the cornerstone of the conduct of municipal affairs. However, it is evident that the preparation of the report and the HRC resolution was done in the dark and attacked a former mayor who devoted himself to the city while in office and out of office during almost 75 years old. The commission says its mission is to “promote and protect” the community and “improve human relations through education and community awareness” – but recent actions show that the commission has clearly violated its own principles, ” the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
Palm Springs officials said the city has no plans to postpone the meeting.
“The City of Palm Springs has been made aware of several allegations made by the Friends of Frank Bogert. We are convinced that there is no legal or public policy reason for the City to accept their requests. The allegations are without merit and should not affect the consideration of the matter by City Council on September 29, ”City Manager Jeff Ballinger said in a written statement.
“It is generally the subject of a public debate …”
While friends of Frank Bogert say part of the Human Rights Commission report is inaccurate, City Manager Justin Clifton said city council likely won’t make a decision based solely on historical documents, as board members will likely hear from members of the public as well. .
“I understand that a number of people probably see historical circumstances differently, especially when it comes to things like motive or intention.… But if city council hears this article, I’m not sure let the historical record be the extent of why council would want to consider this, “said Clifton.” I am sure council has heard from other residents who, regardless of the exact historical circumstances, make them feel good. worth seeing this person commemorated in front of the town hall, given the history. ”
He added: “Under these circumstances, I don’t know if they dispute the historical record, or even make a claim on the historical record. They are just saying that because of the things that happened, not saying that they were. legal or illegal, these were traumatic circumstances for members of their own family or people they knew, and that is why they want the council to consider the removal of the statue, an apology for the activities that took place. took place, or any other action that might seek to remedy this historic circumstance. ”
Clifton added that the next meeting is the type of venue that would allow Friends of Frank Bogert, or others, to voice their opinions on the issues.
“That’s the point of having part of this conversation at this point, is to hear community members who want to challenge the historical record, and to hear community members for who… what ‘they want the council to do has nothing to do with the fine details of the historical record, but the general thing that everyone can agree on, which is that people have been kicked out of this land, ”he said. Clifton said.
“So maybe what has to happen is that people need to be clear about what they consider to be correctness or inaccuracy in the historical record,” he said. “It’s usually the subject of public debate on this stuff.”
Friends of Frank Bogert also complained that the Human Rights Commission report had not been reviewed or verified by city staff. Clifton said this is pretty typical for commissions thattheir reports are not verified by municipal staff. Clifton explained that city council makes final decisions on things that either come from reports from city staff or from commissions.
“The committees are supposed to be composed of ordinary residents, unpaid and trained staff, but people with perspective it’s different. They are just residents of the community, they may have an affinity for the thing they are talking about, they may have technical expertise, but they are not paid employees. And so it’s pretty common for commissioners to come up with their own ideas, ”Clifton said.
He continued, “And it’s quite common that they come up with their own policy initiatives written by their own members. the members and the members of the commissions are there to have their own voice.
The group disputes Kors’ actions; the city manager sees no reason to recuse himself
Regarding the ethics allegations against Kors, Clifton said it is typical for council members to be involved in the policy development and research process while serving as a liaison with city boards.
Friends of Frank Bogert also alleged that Kors violated Brown’s Law in an SMS exchange with Human Rights Commission Chairman Ron deHarte.
Friends of Frank Bogert are also concerned about the implications of an SMS exchange between Mr. deHarte and board member Kors, where Mr. deHarte asks board member Kors whether he should question board members at this subject. Council member Kors did not warn. he does not and, in fact, directs additional communication to his “private email” in what appears to be a controlled plan to hide official communications and coordination in public view. It appears that the five council members may have been involved sequentially through Mr. deHarte coordinating in the discussion regarding the statue of Bogert, “the group said.
Without seeing the text exchange, Clifton said he couldn’t comment on it directly, but said if it was true, it looked like Kors had actually avoided a potential breach by not answering the question on members of the voting council.
Friends of Frank Bogert asked Kors to recuse himself from any vote on Bogert’s statue because “not only was Mr. Kors involved in the production of the report, but he had already made a decision on the matter, this which is a ground for recusal. “
Kors did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.
But Clifton said the group’s allegations fall short of the level of grounds for recusal, which typically involve conflicts of interest such as financial involvement in a decision.
“I have the impression that they are asking someone not to participate because they have a conviction. All the members of our board come with values, principles and political orientations, which is why they are there. Is it a best practice to keep an open mind? Of course, but it is not mandatory to vote. Many people have made up their minds before a vote comes because a particular policy s ‘aligns with their values or principles. And I can’t imagine if the board members had to recuse themselves because they had passion or were interested in an area of politics. … That would create this really weird situation where if you have an interest, and you are engaged, you can’t participate? We want them to participate in things that they are not interested in? It’s just a little absurd, ”said Clifton.
Friends of Frank Bogert also called on deHarte to step down, saying he was “focused on defaming Frank Bogert instead of providing the community with an impartial and comprehensive assessment of Section 14”.
He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
The special Bogert Statue and Section 14 meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on September 29 and will be held via Zoom. The meeting can be viewed online at www.palmspringsca.gov.
Residents wishing to make public comments at the meeting can submit their comments to the City Clerk by 5 p.m. on September 29 by calling 760-323-8204. A staff member will then call these members of the public during the meeting so that they can provide feedback.
Erin Rode covers towns in the west of the Coachella Valley, namely Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. Contact her at [email protected]