By Robert Haugh
On May 23, indicted Councilmember Anthony Becker led the effort to remove Burt Field from the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Becker singled out Field from the list of nine commission appointments that night. These re-appointments happen routinely.
After the eight other commissioners were reappointed, Becker made a motion to reject Field’s appointment. When Mayor Lisa Gillmor asked him why he opposed Field, Becker repeatedly shook his head and wouldn’t speak.
On Tuesday night, over a dozen people asked the City Council to reconsider their earlier decision.
Again, Becker was silent.
The speakers touted Field for his service to the community and commission.
Some accused the 49er Five of acting out of political vengeance and trying to suppress Field’s right to free speech.
Field started a recall effort against Becker, and Councilmembers Suds Jain and Kevin Park last year and has been outspoken about his opposition to the 49er Five.
At this Tuesday’s Council meeting, Councilmember Karen Hardy responded to the accusations of political vengeance with a confusing answer. She said she studied the Commission agendas and noted that Field recused himself from a few votes.
Gillmor and Councilmember Kathy Watanabe pointed out that Field’s recusals are a sign of his integrity and desire to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.
Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chair Dana Caldwell suggested that the Council was punishing Field for his outspokenness.
“Everyone talks about the importance of free speech,” said Caldwell. “It is very easy to tell us how you support free speech until someone says something you don’t agree with. Your reaction to hearing someone say something you don’t agree with speaks volumes to your ethical and moral compass.”
But the vote was unchanged from last month.
Councilmember Raj Chahal abstained again and did not say why. In the past, when Chahal has abstained on issues, he has publicly stated his reasons.
According to a former City employee, the Council was likely told by city attorneys that they could face a strong freedom-of-speech lawsuit and any comments they make now will hurt them.