It was perhaps the most awkward exchange between elected officials at a Kingman City council session in years. Their discomfort was clear as five city council members looked down or away, fidgeted and said absolutely nothing while Mayor Monica Gates and council member Travis Lingenfelter had a multiple minute back and forth during the May 2 council meeting.
The discussion was to have taken place in private but Lingenfelter insisted upon public discourse since he was the focus of the last item on the council agenda. The matter involved whether the council wanted to do anything about undisclosed conduct and behavior of an unidentified council member.
Lingenfelter said he was willing to have the council discuss his behavior in public.
“I am very passionate about the community. My policy positions have not changed since the election. I certainly haven’t meant to offend anyone but I have nothing to hide,” Lingenfelter said. “And I think, as a leader, I just want to make myself vulnerable and have this discussion in public and not in executive session.”
“I do have a serious concern,” Gates said. I have had seven members of the business community—seven members—have addressed me over the past couple of weeks, feeling that they were not being appropriately respected by one member of the council. They also felt that the language bordered on pejorative or maligning or, once again, disrespect.”
Gates said Kingman is a great town because of the contributions of those in the business community.
“These pillars of the community have done so much for us,” Gates continued. “And as elected officials and public servants it’s I believe completely inappropriate that we treat anyone with any kind of disrespect.”
“May I ask for specifics because it seems to me that we’re just speaking in generalities here,” Lingenfelter said. “If I hurt anybody’s feelings I’m certainly sorry that I did that, but I think the subject here is the comments that I’ve made trying to educate the public on the Kingman Airport Authority. My position on that policy issue has not changed.”
While accepting that he may have offended some parties, Lingenfelter countered that he also enjoys a broad base of support in the commerce community.
“I can tell you that all of the businesses at the Kingman Airport Users Association support what I’m doing. A majority of the businesses in the merchant’s association downtown support what I’m doing. They’ve reached out to me. A lot of the physicians have reached out to me and they appreciate what I’m doing,” Lingenfelter said. “I want to get all of this toxicity out and dealt with and get focused back on public business because that’s what we’re elected to do.”
“I think what you just said means you’re willing to move forward and I hope I won’t continue to see any more negative posts on Facebook,“Gates told Lingenfelter. “I think to move this community forward we need to stay positive. We need to, as I’ve told you before, represent the city with pride and professionalism.”
“And I just said there’s many people that are thankful for the way I’m representing them,” Lingenfelter responded.
Lingenfelter asked Gates to identify those he offended so he could contact them to “try to build a bridge”. Gates declined to do so and the meeting ended abruptly.
City attorney Carl Cooper previously advised council members they have little authority over one another and that elected officials are more accountable to voters. He noted that censure, public rebuke and use of an outside investigator were options but there was no motion to consider any action regarding Gate’s concern regarding Lingenfelter’s conduct.