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Three Portola city leaders resign in one day

Carolyn Carter
Staff Writer

Portola saw the departure of three city leaders on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

First, at a special meeting that afternoon, the City Council accepted the resignation of Volunteer Fire Chief Travis Schiavone.

Then, during public comment at the City Council meeting that evening, City Planning Commissioner Mike Matus submitted his letter of resignation.

Finally, to the surprise of City Council members and the members of the public, Council Member Juliana Mark stepped down, also during public comment.


Fire chief resigns

According to City Council Member Michelle Gault, Schiavone’s letter informed the council that because of conflict with his full-time job, it was growing too difficult to lead the Portola Fire Department and tend to his business.

All the council members were at the special meeting at 3 p.m., and accepted Schiavone’s resignation. During the meeting, fire department member Tom Tobener recommended — on behalf of the rest of the department — that Portola resident and longtime volunteer firefighter Henry Johnson be appointed as the new fire chief.

The council members all agreed with and voted to take the fire department’s recommendation to appoint Johnson.


Resignation from upset city leaders

A couple of hours later, at the City Council meeting, the reasons for resignation from the other two parties were not as congenial.

Matus addressed the council saying he was a loyal citizen of Portola, but he holds more esteem for the Constitution of the United States. He said he felt the conduct of the city in the past few months has not upheld the Constitution, and he wants no association with an unconstitutional organization.

He said he officially resigned as city planning commissioner as of that night, and submitted his letters to the council thereafter.

The public comment period continued, and just when it seemed like the meeting would move to the agenda items, Council Member Mark asked to speak.

She began by referencing the situation with former City Manager Ian Kaiser, who resigned after being disciplined due to a list of allegations against him from the city staff.

“There is something underlying this situation with Ian Kaiser. … Mr. Kaiser is a good man and he doesn’t deserve the treatment he has received,” she said. “Something is not right and the community knows it.”

She began to list off situations in which she said she felt certain council members were excluded from the Kaiser debacle. For example, she said, three council members knew about the allegations before she did. Also, three members where emailed or hand-delivered his resignation letter, and “two of us received it in our box like it was a Western City magazine.”

She then directed her statement to the individual City Council members.

She expressed her support to Phil Oels, and told Michelle Gault to remember she is a part of the community too. She implored John Larrieu and Pat Morton to “break the old cycle” and make positive changes for the city.

“I feel my hands are tied by sitting on the City Council. I can’t accomplish the things that I set out to do. … Tonight will be my last City Council meeting. I am stepping down,” she said.

With that, she left her chair at the panel with tears in her eyes, and walked into an applauding crowd who were all on their feet. The rest of the meeting continued with only four council members.

“I was shocked,” said Morton in an interview the next day. “I had no idea she felt that way. We needed her. We need diversity on the City Council.”

“I feel like the council has lost 60 percent of its compassion,” said Oels. “I’m absolutely heartbroken about it.”

The council could not address Mark’s resignation at that meeting. However, Mayor Larrieu said it would be on the next meeting’s agenda.


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