VICTORVILLE • An ugly verbal feud erupted from the ongoing saga of distrust between Councilwoman Angela Valles and the rest of the City Council and management during Tuesday’s public meeting.
“All you care about is destroying this city,” Mayor Ryan McEachron told Valles, whose campaign he supported in 2010. “It’s obvious that is your agenda. It’s been your agenda since you’ve come on. I actually thought you’d be good for this city. That’s why I talked to you originally. Boy did I make a mistake. I made the biggest mistake for this city and I apologize to the citizens of this city for doing that.”
Tensions rose when Valles posted a Facebook comment Friday on a Daily Press online article about the Planning Commission approving a tax-sharing agreement with the Mall of Victor Valley. She accused City Manager Doug Robertson and Assistant City Manager Keith Metzler of hiding terms of the deal from the council during their negotiation with the mall developer.
“A council is meant to guide the city’s management, but in this case they are simply making deals and asking us to rubber-stamp them after the fact,” Valles wrote in her post. “The council never agreed to this deal and didn’t even hear of it until July 3rd after construction started. Doug and Keith expect the council to clean up their mess and ratify their backroom deal.”
Valles had her supporters in the audience Tuesday, as they clapped and cheered when she spoke.
Metzler and the other City Council members denied Valles’ claim and said she had given her approval to the deal during closed session meetings.
“It is Ms. Valles that is lying,” Metzler said during the meeting, reading a prepared statement. “She is a liar and she is abusing her authority as a council person to inflame the public.”
Councilman Jim Kennedy made a motion to disclose recordings and transcript of the closed session meetings, and the council approved it.
“I want to know if we can have some type of system where they can’t edit the closed session meetings,” Valles said. “Because to be honest with you, I don’t trust you guys. I don’t trust you.”
“You know what Angela, we don’t trust you either,” Mayor Pro Tem Rudy Cabriales responded.
“Good, good, you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t trust me because I’m always gonna do the right thing,” Valles said.
The city posted the recordings and the transcript on its website Wednesday evening.
Metzler brought up the sales tax sharing idea during closed session in February 2011. However, even Metzler recommended against the deal because the mall wanted the city to keep only up to $400,000 in sales tax each year, with the mall collecting the rest as an incentive to renovate and lure businesses such as Macy’s. The council told him to keep negotiating with the mall to get a better deal, according to the transcript.
In June 2011, Metzler brought a more favorable proposal back to the council during a closed session meeting. This time, Metzler said the agreement was worth pursuing. Valles expressed concern about the potential cost to the city, according to the audio recording. However, the council voted 4-0 (with Cabriales absent) to keep negotiating the sales tax sharing terms.
The city didn’t disclose the voting to the public at the time.
When the final deal came back to the City Council during closed session July 3, Valles said she wasn’t in favor of giving up any sales tax and thought the rest of the council agreed. Kennedy clarified that he wasn’t in favor of the city getting less sales tax revenue than it gets now, which is around $1 million annually. Since the new deal lets Victorville keep that base amount, he and the rest of the council didn’t object.
During Tuesday’s public meeting, Valles accused Robertson and Metzler of destroying the city.
“You make the staff recommendations for this ignorant council to approve,” she said. “This is a lay council. They don’t have any expertise in anything.”
Robertson also read a prepared statement.
“Private Angela asks me for advice, then public Angela calls me incompetent,” he said. “Private Angela passes me silly notes while speakers are talking, thankfully she didn’t do it tonight, only to have public Angela put on a show asking us a series of tough questions later in the meeting, many of which I already answered for private Angela earlier in the day.”
McEachron criticized that Valles have never tried to work with the city staff and disparaged them.
“Unfortunately what happened tonight is unhealthy for this city. And it’s a sad day,” McEachron said. “But at the end of the day, this election will prove what the people of Victorville want.”
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