Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Personal attacks and a violation of decorum prompted the Missoula City Council to recess for a short minute on Monday night after an attendee shouted at officials.

Travis Mateer, a former employee of the Poverello Center, began to criticized the homeless shelter during public comment, suggesting that “as long you keep your mouth shut” about murders and sexual assaults, anyone could “ascend” to the role of executive director.

The comments prompted Mayor Jordan Hess to ask Mateer “to stop making personal attacks” about shelter employees. Mateer continued to shout, forcing Hess to recess the meeting for a short time.

Mateer left the meeting voluntarily and disputed the allegation that he shouted.

“I am very much in support of civil discourse and I'm very much in support of dialogue,” Hess said later in the meeting. “I want to convey to members of the public that this is a safe space to come down and comment, and we'll do our best to maintain that safe space.”

Mateer is one of roughly three individuals who comment at nearly every meeting and sometimes several times during a meeting. Their comments are often sarcastic and aggressive, and they often set a bad tone for the meeting to come.

They may also prevent others from attending council meetings, which have become increasingly toxic in recent years. Council meetings now have police officers present at the door.

“When someone starts yelling or screaming in here it's inappropriate, it's unprofessional and it's threatening to others,” said Council President Gwen Jones. “Everyone should feel comfortable in this chamber, and shouting does not do that.”

Travis Mateer addresses the Missoula City Council on Monday night.
Travis Mateer addresses the Missoula City Council on Monday night.

City Council rules on decorum note that attendees “shall strive to be professional in tone and conduct” and that comments “shall be truthful and based in fact.”

The rules also state that personal attacks or impugning the motives of others won't be tolerated, nor will “loud, threatening, abusive, indecent, or profane language.”

“We know sometimes there are difficult and contentious issues, but those sitting in the audience should not be subject to that,” Jones added. “At times people are very emotional and they can convey that. But they don't need to yell and scream. They can be professional in their decorum.”