Liberty official kicked out of meeting (October 27, 2016)

Tony Penna’s comments a ‘threat of physical violence,’ town says

APPLE VALLEY — A top-ranking Liberty Utilities official was kicked out of Council chambers Tuesday night following a verbal outburst directed at Councilman Curt Emick that the town described as a ‘threat of physical violence.’

The comments made by Tony Penna — general manager of Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley — came after his wife, Terri, spoke during public comment and characterized the Council as disingenuous, immoralandungodly.

You better get that smirk off your face or I’ll knock it off,Penna said. You hear me? You know exactly who I’m talking to.

A spokesperson for Liberty Utilities confirmed that Penna’s comments were aimed at Emick.

As he spoke, Penna was approached by Apple Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Lana Tomlin and a deputy. Tomlin told Penna to stop talking.

In fact, when I approached Tony, I asked him not to do that there, Tomlin said on Wednesday. He sat back in his chair at that point and apologized.

Immediately thereafter, Mayor Barb Stanton interjected.

Excuse me, sir. Mr. Penna, Stanton said. We’re not going to put up with that.

Stanton then requested Penna’s removal, adding, He’s not going to threaten anybody on this dais … We are just not going to put up with that. There’s not going to be any threats around here.

Following Stanton’s comments, Tomlin said she asked Penna to leave.

We didn’t physically remove him, Tomlin said. I asked him to step outside and he complied.

I didn’t hear him say anything else. There were no handcuffs, and no arrest made.

In response to the outburst, both Penna and the town issued statements Wednesday. In his, Penna said he attended Tuesday’s Council meeting as a private citizen to support my wife.

(She) wanted to offer personal public comment, Penna said. I regret the situation and I contacted Council member Emick to speak with him personally.

Penna left a voicemail for Emick, who was not available when the call was made, according to a Liberty spokesperson.

Town spokeswoman Kathie Martin, in her response, cited a section of the California Penal Code that lists disruption of a public meeting as a misdemeanor offense that could result in removal or arrest if the disturbance prevents the Town Council from conducting its meeting in an orderly manner.

Mr. Penna’s outburst not only disrupted the conduct of a public meeting, Martin said, but he threatened one of our elected officials with physical harm.

She then thanked Capt. Tomlin for her quick action. Before the outburst, Terri Penna began her address to Council by identifying herself as a Christian and a taxpayer.

She then criticized the Council for what she called misleading the public in the facts on a lot of different things, including Measure W — a ballot measure the town says will pave the way toward community ownership of Liberty’s water system — as well as the purchases of the Apple Valley Golf Course and the Hilltop House, which none of us got a vote on.

We’re to be truthful and not lie … and to honor God, Terri Penna said. I don’t feel you have, and it’s not my place to judge. It’s only going to be God’s. And that’s something I think all of you should think about. You know, you’re politicians, and you claim to be Christians, yet I don’t see you act like Christians.

I see that your behavior is unethical, it’s immoral. You’re not truthful. You have no problem looking at people right in their face and lying to them. And one day you will be judged by the man that you proclaim to believe in.

Emick told the Daily Press that Penna’s outburst was not the Tony I know before taking issue with Terri Penna’s comments.

I just couldn’t believe what she had said, and then I noticed (Penna) staring me, Emick said. I didn’t even know he was in the room yet … I think it was all part of an emotional response. I can’t guess on what she was doing or why she was doing it.

Concerning Tony Penna’s accusation of a smirk, Emick said, I was slightly shaking my head to her comments, but there was no smirking. He then chalked Terri Penna’s comments up to passion for her beliefs.

She’s emotionally vested, and he works for (Liberty), Emick said. What can you say? … It’s out of character for either one of them because I’ve known both of them for a while. There’s a lot of frustration this time of year and its magnified. I don’t take anything personally.

I guess it’s what happens when you’re an elected official and people get emotional. And they should be. All we can do is try to, I guess, give our side of the story and the reasons why we make the decisions we make.

When asked if he agreed with Stanton’s request for Penna’s removal, Emick said anyone in the audience should be removed when they make attacks.

It’s not a public meeting; it’s a meeting held in public, Emick said. We’ve let a few people stay there, but when it comes to yelling and screaming, that’s not right, unfortunately.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press