Barbara Loczi stood before the Moorpark City Council hoping council members would warmly embrace her organization's well-intentioned plan for a concert in the park that would raise money for a new high school athletic complex.
Instead, the council roundly criticized the proposal and she was subjected to blistering comments from Councilman Scott Montgomery.
"I don't appreciate being scolded," Loczi told the councilman in one exchange.
"Well, you called me a liar, so I'm gonna call you a liar in a couple places, too," Montgomery said.
The councilman's conduct at the meeting last month has been criticized by his colleagues as unprofessional and unbecoming of a city leader. And, the cutting remarks, aimed at a group trying to help the city's school district, has raised fears that Montgomery could revive a conflict between city and school officials.
"He was outrageous, he was absolutely outrageous," Mayor Paul Lawrason said of Montgomery. "We all get emotionally involved in some of these issues, but you can do it in a professional manner without, in essence, dressing someone down."
Montgomery said his comments to Loczi were not personal, just blunt talk during the passion of debate.
None of Montgomery's colleagues on the council favored the idea of staging a concert--with up to 15,000 people--in rural Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park just north of Moorpark. The concert was intended to help pay for construction of the long-awaited Moorpark Athletic Community Complex at Moorpark High School.
Since the council meeting, Montgomery said he has spent many hours trying to find an alternate site for the concert. "As I said that night and since," he said, "the event is great. The location was wrong."
During the April 7 meeting, Montgomery told Loczi he would not support a concert in Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park unless organizers performed an environmental impact report. He demanded to know the type of electrical generators the organizers planned to use and whether the nonprofit group would be willing to reimburse the city for staff time spent researching potential problems the concert might cause.
He noted that Happy Camp Canyon Regional Park is dense with brush and wanted to know what type of lawn mowers the group could use to clear the concert area.
Montgomery's comments left Loczi dejected and near tears. "I'm saddened by this," she told the council.
School officials fear Montgomery's conduct could revive a bitter dispute between the school district and the city that peaked shortly after Montgomery was elected to the council in 1988.
The dispute, over ownership of a former school site, has since quieted and the sides are negotiating.
"I would hate to see Scott and his personality problems start another unproductive war between the school district and the city," said Moorpark school board member Clint Harper, who served on the council with Montgomery from 1988 to 1990.
"We're serving the same constituents and we have to work together on these things. I don't know what his primary purpose for being in public office is. I don't think it's to serve the public."
Montgomery said he was surprised at the reaction to his comments last month, particularly from Harper.
"I don't question his motives, I don't know why he would question mine," Montgomery said. "Neither of us are in public office for the financial rewards. Why else would we be in public office other than to help the public?"
The councilman said: "I like to stick to the issues and remove personalities from it. So, from my end, there's no personality involved."
Harper isn't Montgomery's only critic. In the wake of Loczi's council appearance, other school board members publicly accused the councilman of holding a vendetta against the school district, which Montgomery denies.
At the April 13 meeting, the school board engaged in unusual speculation on the councilman.
Board President Sam Nainoa said he watched the April 7 council meeting on television and found Montgomery's conduct "out of line for a public official."
Harper offered his own perspective. "There's some problem Scott has with the school district," Harper said.
"It may be helpful to have the board president perhaps approach him and say, 'What's the problem here?' He's had it in for the district ever since I was a council member," Harper said.
Nainoa said he plans no such encounter.
"I've known Scott for a long time," Nainoa said. "I think that's his persona and I'm not going to get into a personal one-on-one with him saying, 'Please be a good boy.' I'm not going to waste my time talking to him. He's one of five people up there and he doesn't deserve to get center-stage attention from the president of the board of education."
Montgomery dismisses suggestions that he has it in for the district. "That's a charge just unsupported by the facts. I don't think my history demonstrates a problem with the school district or any kind of vendetta," Montgomery said.
"When I disagree with them, I disagree. As a constituent, I have a right to disagree with them under the Constitution of the United States," he said.
Montgomery disagreed with school officials again at the April 21 council meeting.
He said he was "absolutely appalled and abhorred" a suggestion by school board members Tom Baldwin and Pam Castro that school administrators read students their legal rights before allowing them to be questioned by sheriff's deputies.
He said: "Somebody asked me what world they (Baldwin and Castro) were living in. I can tell you, it doesn't seem to be planet Earth or certainly the United States of America."
Baldwin said he found Montgomery's remarks offensive.
"He's been in politics long enough to know that you don't lay into somebody like that over the microphone, over the television, and have the person say, 'Oh well, that's just Scott Montgomery.' They're going to take offense, and I did. I took offense to what he said."