KINGMAN An unexpected appearance by mayoral candidate Les Byram at Wednesday's Downtown Merchants Association meeting drew an emotional outcry from Mayor Monica Gates, accusing Byram of political grandstanding.
Gates interrupted an unscheduled speech Byram gave to the audience of member merchants and city staff, calling former mayor Byram a "liar" for taking credit for downtown revitalization efforts.
Gates said Byram turned the regular meeting into a political event and the night's agenda made no mention of a forum for election candidates, adding that Byram read about his accomplishments from a prepared script and proceeded to tell the committee about all of his accomplishments during his term as mayor.
"In the year-and-a-half I have attended these meetings, never once have I said anything political," Gates said.
"I lost it," she said, adding that she didn't think Byram had anything to do with the stated accomplishments.
"There was nothing on the agenda about this. I told the merchants, 'If you allow this to become political, this will be your demise.'"
Gates added that she has seen organizational efforts blossom into 50 to 60 members "working together for quality events" in contrast to the five to ten people meeting at Calico's for brief discussions at the beginning of her term.
"You've got to be doing more than fixing broken sidewalks," she said.
"I'm tired of watching him deceive the public."
Byram said that he attended with the invitation of the Merchants Association Vice President Rosalie Hunt.
"She asked me to make some comments," he said.
Byram said he mentioned accomplishments that occurred during his administration and grants earned for projects, naming the Powerhouse restoration, new sidewalks and the "spruce up downtown" campaign, restoring the train depot, in addition to new facilities built downtown.
"These we'd done to help downtown during my term as mayor," he said, adding that he cautioned the merchants on the Mainstreet Program advising that it would require financial and time commitment from the merchants.
"She just went into a rage. Everybody was just stunned," he said.
"I thought it was totally uncalled for."
Gates received a letter signed by nine members of the association apologizing for "the unpleasant way the evening unfolded."
The business owners said they were unaware of Byram attending and that "we had no idea he would make a political speech," although he had the right to be there.
The letter concludes: "The Downtown Business Merchants appreciate the fact that you have not joined the Association to make a political stand but to add strength to our objective, which of course is a new downtown.
"We hope this unfortunate episode does not keep you from joining our meetings in the future."