Paul Vincent Avila, left, and Paul Leon exchange words after Tuesday’s Ontario City Council meeting. (Photo by David Allen)
By David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 06/09/16 – 3:00 PM PDT |
After months of relative calm, an Ontario City Council meeting took a sharp turn this week when Councilman Paul Vincent Avila insulted Mayor Paul Leon’s intelligence, uttered a profanity and briefly blocked the mayor’s exit.
Call it instinct, but after weeks away from Ontario council meetings, I happened to be in the audience, interested in an item on Citizens Business Bank Arena, and stayed to the end.
The fun had started early as the council undertook the consent calendar of routine items. Avila often requests that one or two be pulled for a question. Tuesday, Leon took the initiative by turning to Avila and asking, “Mr. Avila, would you like to pull an item?”
Avila seemed insulted. “I have no problem pulling an item if I want to pull an item,” Avila said testily. “But thanks for the reminder.”
At meeting’s end, during the period for council member comments, Avila was last. Midway through his commentary, he referred to Leon’s question and said he knew what his powers were.
“I don’t need a particular person who lacks the education that I have to remind me,” Avila said. “If you look in my profile compared to that individual, I overshadow his background. And I’ve earned that right. I’ve earned every goddamn — excuse the expression …”
“Please don’t swear, sir. My son is here,” said a mother in the audience with a young boy,
Avila continued speaking about his “great affection” for Ontario and the need for political change on the council.
Council members Jim Bowman, Alan Wapner and Debra Dorst-Porada each rose and left the dais, a practice they’ve followed in the past when Avila got unruly. Leon then said that due to a lack of a quorum, the meeting was adjourned.
It didn’t quite end there. Leon was walking past Avila on the dais when Avila appeared to touch Leon and block his way briefly.
Fingers were pointed and words exchanged. I hustled from the rear of the room to the front. At that point they were still arguing, but not loudly enough that their words carried. Avila turned and Leon left the room.
Folks, I’ve attended probably 2,000 civic meetings in my career, but this was the first time I ever seriously wondered if a punch might be thrown.
Three police officers were watching closely but did not intervene. Later, as I spoke to City Manager Al Boling, Leon emerged from the back offices with his leftover dinner in a plastic bag. Regarding the meeting, he said most people learn as children not to put others down to feel better about themselves and that he’d decided he needed to stand up for himself against Avila’s insults.
Someone asked about his dinner. “It’s a salad,” Leon said. He quipped: “I’ve got to get in fighting shape.”
The next day, Bowman came to our newspaper office to say he’s had enough. In 22 years on the council, in two stints, he said he’s never seen anything to rival Avila’s pattern of behavior. The mayor, Bowman said, was clearly trying to help Avila, who took his aid as a challenge and once again felt the need to boast about himself.
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