Photo courtesy of the city of Banning

Councilman Don Peterson

After two-and-a-half hours of diatribe back and forth regarding findings of a grand jury report earlier this summer, no eligible council member was willing to bring forth a motion to censure Councilman Don Peterson.

Councilwoman Colleen Wallace initially brought forth charges of censure towards Peterson for her belief that Peterson circumvents the city manager when conducting city business; her observations that she believed Peterson has acted unprofessionally and bullies others; and accuses him of creating a toxic culture within city government.

Several community members came up to the lectern to defend Peterson and praise what they feel are his contributions to the city, and for steadfastly representing his District 2.

Peterson acknowledged that the politics had become exceptionally divisive in the city, instigating court intervention and possible district attorney investigations, explaining, “It’s all in the game.”

Peterson had questioned the legality of the censure proceedings, since he believed someone accused of behavior that calls for censure should be given ample time to correct the alleged behavior.

City Attorney Kevin Ennis indicated that the city code allows for the council to move forward on such proceedings if they believed that actions had already taken place and were incapable of being corrected.

Councilman David Happe was visibly torn in his testimony that he had been interviewed by the grand jury regarding Peterson’s behavior, noting that he seemed to be second-guessing his “inner voice of reason” in determining how he wanted to proceed.

He warned community members that continued unethical behavior and support for a toxic environment within the city would ultimately cost the city’s tax payers in the end.

The accuser and the accused could not vote on the matter, which left Mayor Art Welch to call for a motion from either Happe or Councilwoman Daniela Andrade.

Welch expressed that he was going to vote against the censure in the name of the city’s morale.

The other two councilmembers were not interested in making a motion either, and the censure proposition died.

After the council unanimously voted to extend the meeting by an hour 10 minutes before 11 p.m. (and they voted again an hour later to extend it by another hour) Peterson then withdrew a retaliatory subsequent motion to censure Welch based on findings of a grand jury report involving Welch from a year ago.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at .

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.


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