Council member’s mother is accused of making a threatening gesture
The already tense relationships between some Brooklyn Park City Council members took another downturn as a council member has accused another council member’s mother of making a threatening gesture during a council meeting.
The move comes after the controversial resignation of former fire chief Ken Prillaman.
Councilmember Mark Mata has alleged that Cathy Gates, mother of Councilmember Rich Gates, made a threatening gesture towards him at some time during the Aug. 14 council meeting.
Mata filed a report with the Brooklyn Park police department, which passed the case onto the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office citing a conflict of interest, according to Deputy Chief of Police Mark Bruley. Hennepin County then passed the case onto the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department, also citing a conflict of interest.
Accounts of the incident vary between the involved parties. The cameras in the council chambers did not capture the alleged incident.
Cathy Gates declined to comment on the incident due to the active nature of the investigation.
“When this is over, we will talk,” she said.
During the meeting, she was texting her son in regards to an issue the council was discussing, according to Councilmember Rich Gates. The council was discussing a proposed amendment to a fire code ordinance, and Mata voiced his disagreement with one aspect of the amendment regarding the painting of curbs in fire lanes.
Mata could not confirm that this was the exact time during the meeting when the incident occurred.
At some point during this meeting, Cathy Gates allegedly made a finger gun gesture with her index finger and thumb and pointed it at her head.
And this is the point where the two parties disagree about the nature of the alleged gesture.
“Whether it happened or not, it was not towards Mark,” Councilmember Gates said. “This is pretty much a baseless claim … she wasn’t looking at him.”
Gates said the gesture was made as a result of the text communication between the two of them, that she was looking at Gates and not Mata, and that the gesture was not at all intended as a threat.
“It was to her own head to say basically, ‘Shoot me, are we done with this yet?’” Gates said. “That’s the facts … to me there’s facts, and then there’s going on about speculations and whatnot.
“I even messaged her back and said, ‘Watch what you do. I’m sure he’s watching you,’” he added. “It’s crazy.”
“It’s just something I saw, I reported,” Mata said. “Another council member has now come forward and said they saw it too, or informed me that they saw that.
“It’s being investigated and how it’s going to go from there, I don’t know,” Mata added.
Mata said he was unaware that the woman he reported as making the gesture was related to a council member. He took a photo of the person with his phone after the incident occurred for future identification, he said.
“All I knew was that a person in the back of the room on my right hand side made the action looking at me, and … my sense of security kind of heightened there, and so I took a picture of her, so that I would know who the person was, and later that night, I found out from some other people that she was, this lady in my picture was with the four of five people who were out there holding signs asking me to resign.
“So now it says, the person in the room who’s making the motion to shoot somebody in the head, whether it’s me or themselves, and they were in a group that was creating a hostile act against me outside 10 minutes earlier or an hour earlier, so my thought process is, well who is this person, is my family … going to be worried about something, what’s going on … so I went to the police department the next day,” Mata added.
Mata said he did not realize the person who made the gesture was Cathy Gates until later on.
“Anybody in my situation would have done the exact same thing not knowing who that was,” he said.
“To make a motion to shoot somebody in the head is not acceptable,” Mata added. “Now knowing it’s a council member’s mom, [it] puts me at awe. I would hope my mom don’t go fight my battles for me that way.”
Both Councilmembers Gates and Mata said they are unaware of the current state of the investigation.
All of this comes after former fire chief Ken Prillaman and the city entered into an amicable separation agreement. Prillaman has said that harassment from Mata was the reason for his resignation. Mata has disagreed with this characterization of his actions. When Prillaman’s separation agreement was approved, Councilmember Gates and Mayor Jeff Lunde called for Mata’s resignation or censure.
The League of Minnesota Cities has since gotten involved in mediation.
The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached for comment by press time.