Despite being elected to represent his constituents and act as a balance to mayoral power, one local council member was thrown out of a budget meeting for doing just that.

Pasadena City Council Member Sammy Casados was ruled out of order and escorted out of a budget meeting by city police after Mayor Jeff Wagner grew frustrated with him for questioning the proposed budget and tax increase.

Wagner is proposing to increase the city’s tax rate by four cents, from 57.5 cents to 61.5 cents per $100 valuation, despite the city expecting to receive an additional $2.8 million from increased appraisals alone. Wagner and allies on council say the increase is needed to continue to fund city services, but when Casados questioned the transparency of the proposed budget, the mayor had him removed by city police.

“One of the main things that I’m really concerned with,” Casados began, “is we’ve had numerous things increased on us this past year; we’ve had our garbage rates go up, we had our water rate go up, we’re now talking about an increase of 10.6 percent.”

He went on to cite other reasons why the mayor should not seek a tax increase, including the $2.8 million in additional revenue being received this year, the fact that the budget doesn’t call for new employees, and that they have enough in the general fund to give existing city employees a three percent cost-of-living increase.

Wagner responded saying that Casados’ comments, as well as other council comments, should be reserved for the public hearing, ending by saying there was nothing hidden in the budget. Casados and Wagner verbally sparred for a moment before Wagner called for an officer to have him removed.

Fellow Council Member Don Harrison pushed back saying that according to Robert’s Rules of Order it takes a vote of council, five in favor, to remove a council member. The mayor allowed Casados to stay for the roll call vote on scheduling the public hearings, but then required him to leave immediately after the vote.

“This was two weeks after he gave major corporations a 30 percent break in taxes,” Casados said in a local television interview. “And so, at that particular point after talking about budgets and taxes, I had to speak up. As a council member, my constituents are hardworking blue collar workers.”

In a different segment, Wagner said “Sammy knows the rules, he was out of order, I warned him, Sammy himself removed himself by breaking the rules.” However, it doesn’t seem that Wagner followed the rules by unilaterally deciding that a duly elected official couldn’t partake in the rest of the council meeting.

Casados’ concerns shouldn’t be ignored.

When the mayor’s budget is receiving six percent more property tax revenue than the year prior, it should be incumbent upon him to explain why he needs a tax increase and where it will be spent.

The first public hearing on the proposed tax increase is at 6:00 p.m. on September 18, and the second is at 10:00 a.m. on October 2. Both are at Pasadena City Hall. The city council plans to vote on the final budget at its regularly scheduled council meeting on September 18.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.