By Dan Lawton
DUBLIN -- The City Council on Tuesday summoned Planning Commissioner Arun Goel for a chat about his professionalism and conduct. They leveled no specific allegations, delivered no reprimands and eventually apologized for the hassle.
The action was related to comments that Goel, who is running for City Council, purportedly made on social media. Council members also indicated that Goel may have acted outside his purview as a planning commissioner. But most of the discussion centered not on Goel's conduct, but why he had been called in front of the council in the first place.
The roughly dozen residents who spoke were unanimously in support of the commissioner, many suggesting that the inquiry underscored concerns that the council was trying to silence critics and did not have the public's interest at heart. "It is creating a perception that the public is being excised from the process," said Todd Padnos, who also referenced recent ordinances decreasing time allotted for public speakers and prohibiting letters to be read into the record.
It was Vice Mayor Abe Gupta who moved for the item to be put on the agenda, but Gupta said he did so because of concerns voiced by Councilman Kevin Hart about Goel. "I don't think it was right to have that hanging out there," Gupta said. "I just wanted finality so we can move on." Hart was a supporter of an ordinance first voted on earlier this month and passed Tuesday that allows not just the mayor, but also the council, to remove a member of a city commission.
The ordinance is not effective for 30 days, so no action could have been taken on Tuesday. But Hart objected vigorously to Gupta's suggestion that the inquiry was his doing. "I never mentioned who I was concerned about, and then Mr. Gupta is putting this on me," Hart said. Hart then described how sources had told him that Goel had made "adverse comments" about the City Council on social media and had been "grandstanding" during Planning Commission meetings. That did not seem to be specific enough for Mayor David Haubert.
"What exactly has been done that anybody has a problem with?" the mayor asked. The answer was for the most part elusive, though City Councilman Don Biddle did express some concern that Goel and other Planning Commission members had been citing school overcrowding as a rationale for not supporting development projects, which would violate state law. Goel told the council he was flummoxed by the allegations and frustrated that the issue had not been handled privately. Hart agreed and apologized on behalf of the City Council. "Arun, I think you and I need to have some coffee," he said.