Bob Kellar: ‘I'm Not A Racist.' Everyone Else: ‘We Know'
Santa Clarita City Councilman's words scrutinized in multi-hour public participation period.
Whoever said words are powerful things was absolutely right. A few words landed our City Councilman Bob Kellar smack in the middle of public affairs blitz which the Council was forced to face down at Tuesday night's meeting amid local and Los Angeles market media outlets.
Speaking at an anti illegal immigration rally January 16th, Kellar lamented the financial and public safety burdens he believed to be a result of rampant illegal immigration. Kellar reminisced to the crowd about a time when he quoted Teddy Roosevelt before a Council meeting some years ago. Afterwards, Kellar said that he was approached by a few people who said "Bob, you sound like a racist." Kellar's reply was "That's good. If that's what you think I am because I happen to believe in America, I'm a proud racist, you're darn right I am." For more on Kellar's original comments, click here.
The crowd before Kellar on that day cheered. Little did he know at the time, his comments would quickly gain a head of steam among media outlets in and outside of the Santa Clarita Valley. "Proud racist" flashed in newspaper headlines, angry emails were sent to the City and residents came together in outrage or support.
The action culminated Tuesday night during the City Council's public participation period. 41 people addressed the Council and seven others submitted written comments. Of those, 38 offered explicit support for either Kellar's character or his views on illegal immigration. Eight admonished Kellar's choice of words, of which a handful requested that he be censured or punished for ethical violations. Two offered insight on immigration or racism separate from Kellar's comments. Not one comment accused Bob Kellar of being a racist.
Even those who spoke out against his choice of words expressed disbelief that he was, in fact, a racist. The consensus among the public speakers and Kellar's four fellow Council members was that he chose his word's poorly.
That left one issue resolved, and the numerous Los Angeles television stations slowly disassembled their cameras and retreated to the parking lot. However, another issue remained; did Councilman Kellar violate the City's code of ethics?
The Code of Ethics was a series of rules passed by the Council meant to govern their behavior and that of City staff. One such rule reads "When presenting their individual opinions and positions, covered persons shall explicitly state they do not represent their body or the City of Santa Clarita, nor will they allow the inference that they do." Full Code of Ethics.
At the January 16 rally, Kellar was introduced as a Councilman, although the man who introduced him testified to the Council that he was not instructed to do so. During his speech, Kellar did not specifically announce that he was not speaking on behalf of the City. On the other hand, he didn't suggest that he was speaking on the City's behalf either. However, some of the speakers at Tuesday's meeting asked for the Council to censure Kellar for violating the Code.
There are no specific punishments for violating the code of Ethics. The language was adopted not long ago and it doesn't include penalties.
The Council did seek the advice of City Attorney Carl Newton, who stated that he interpreted Kellar's comments to be "irrefutably" his own personal views.
The Council did not take any action against Kellar.
The lack of action proved to be the end of a four-hour Council meeting, in which the topic of illegal immigration took center stage. After requests from multiple speakers for each Council member to announce their position on the topic, all five reported that they were against any kind of illicit activity, including illegal immigration.
The debate over where to have discussions such as these may be next. Kellar stated that the discussion should be held at all levels of government. City Attorney Carl Newton reported that the City's hands were tied in handling some potential evidence of illegal immigrants within the City because the federal government has preempted immigration enforcement.
The turnout for the meeting was high, with many left standing in the back. Security was increased in Council Chambers, however aside from some applause and one expletive, the crowd was respectful of the rules.