Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones has apologized to his fellow city councilors for a tense exchange that happened between him and a city board member during a meeting Monday.
“I made a rookie mistake,” Jones said at a work session on Thursday. “I allowed myself to get a little provoked and give a response on the spur of the moment that in hindsight I would have just said, ‘Thank you for your comment and if we want to discuss it further, we probably should set up a meeting with the (human resources) manager, the city manager and the city attorney.’”
Sarah Jane Bardy, who serves on the Design Review Committee, had twice voted against a proposal to build a four-story hotel on the waterfront. On Monday, she said she received a closed-door reprimand from Jones for her comments and conduct at an appeal hearing of the Fairfield Inn and Suites project in front of the City Council in December.
At that hearing, Bardy spoke against the project. She also suggested that the names of the city councilors who voted to move the project forward be put on a bench in front of the future hotel so everyone would know who helped approve the hotel. Jones, City Councilor Tom Brownson and former Mayor Arline La Mear had voted to uphold the hotel developer’s appeal.
“I was scolded for attending, speaking and clapping after public testimony at the Marriott hotel City Council appeal hearing, all of which I believe I have the right to do,” Bardy told the City Council during a public comment period.
It is unusual for city councilors to respond to public comments, but Jones replied at length, defending the discussion he had with Bardy and noting that other city board members and councilors advised him to remove Bardy from the Design Review Committee over concerns that she could not be impartial.
Jones said today that he believes it is the responsibility of a mayor and anyone on the City Council to listen calmly to public testimony and address criticism, like Bardy’s, in a thoughtful way.
“It was a long day, a long night and I let my guard down and allowed myself to be provoked,” Jones said. “The wiser choice would have been simply to address the issue later, not in the heat of having just been attacked with some comments that, in my view, grossly mischaracterized our conversation. … It was not the right time for me to address it.”
Bardy remains on the Design Review Committee. Jones said he has not spoken to her since the Monday meeting.