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Human Rights controversy won’t go away

Weaver to Bookmeyer: “I’m calling you a liar.”

MASON CITY – The Mason City Human Rights Department has been under a microscope at City Hall over the past year, and the scrutiny doesn’t seem to be going away. A memo, released Wednesday by Mayor Eric Bookmeyer, claims a message left by Max Weaver to be the “genesis” of discussions about cuts to the department’s budget. Bookmeyer’s claim prompted a heated explanation from Max Weaver at a Human Rights Commission meeting Thursday. Weaver denies starting the talk about cutting the budget, and further claims that it was actually the Mayor who launched scrutiny of the department and its budget.

Bookmeyer’s memo has a copy of a message left by Weaver at City Hall that says “$50,000 should be cut” from the department’s budget. Weaver claims this was a political move to see which Council members would back the cuts. Later, when the budget cuts reached the Council for a vote, Scott Tornquist, Travis Hickey and Janet Solberg voted to go ahead with cutting the budget. Weaver, Jeff Marsters, and Don Nelson voted against the budget cuts.

NorthIowaToday.com contacted City Councilman Travis Hickey, for an explanation on who actually approached him first about cutting the Human Rights Department’s budget.

“It was the Mayor,” Hickey said. “He showed me facts and figures that showed Mason City spends much more on its Human Rights Department than other cities of comparable size.” He says the Mayor discussed this with him in early January 2010. Weaver says his message left at City Hall regarding OK’ing the budget cuts was left in the 3rd week of February 2010. NorthIowaToday.com did speak with Brent Trout about the Weaver’s message, and he could only say that it was left at his office sometime during the budget cycle. No date was written on the message.

The budget cuts are important because cutting the budget would put the Human Rights Department in peril, according to Lionel Foster, Director of the Human Rights Department. “Those types of cuts could shut us down,” he told NorthIowaToday.com. Trout also verified that a cut of that size “would definitely cause issues” for the department.

NorthIowaToday.com attended a Mason City Human Rights Commission meeting Thursday, February 3, at noon, to get a better understanding of how the Commission works and what it does, how it operates.

As the meeting unfolded, Bookmeyer and Weaver both entered the room, and Weaver asked if he could address the Commission. Holding a 40-plus page memo compiled by Bookmeyer that outlined his concern over the controversy, Weaver explained to the Commission that he was not the “genesis” of any talk about cutting funds to the Human Rights Department. Weaver pointed to Bookmeyer, now seated in the room and listening, and said “I’m calling you a liar to your face about this.” The commission sat quietly and listened to Weaver as they ate a lunch of sandwiches, Ruffles potato chips and cupcakes.

Mayor Bookmeyer had no reaction during or after Weaver’s presentation, and did not address the commission about Weaver’s remarks.

Asked for any further comments on the issue, Max Weaver said “Some council members are still learning about this guy as we speak. His pride and ability to lie is scary. He has 3 or 4 good candidates in front of him. It’s about control for him. Appointing his people. Which I don’t think there 3 or 4 like him in Mason City. I hope not anyway.”

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