Report and photos by Logan Hall
Ojai’s mayor has allegedly ruffled the feathers of some local citizens. Chet Hilgers, local contractor and president of Skate Ojai, claims Mayor Carol Smith deliberately harassed Hilgers, his family and his friend, fellow Skate Ojai advocate Mike Lopez, on Sunday.
Hilgers, along with his mother, Wendy, and Lopez, stood in front of the Ojai City Council on Tuesday night and gave council members a detailed account of their encounter with Smith.
“This person pulled up to the Skate Park and began honking at us,” said Hilgers, who was at the Ojai Skate Park with his friends and family at the time of the incident. “She began harassing us about the kids on bikes in the Skate Park. She was very rude and her behavior was uncalled for. That person was our Mayor Carol Smith. It was very bizarre.”
After Hilgers addressed the council, Lopez took to the lectern to give a similar account of the run-in with Smith. “We were minding our own business,” said Lopez, “when Carol Smith pulled up and double-parked her car. I was so flabbergasted and disturbed by what she said. She was shoving her finger in our face. I found her behavior to be totally disturbing and bizarre.”
Hilgers’ mother also spoke briefly to the council, stating her dissatisfaction in Smith’s behavior. “It was so shocking to me. I just hope it never happens again,” she said.
Smith and her fellow council members refrained from commenting during the meeting, but Smith later claimed the whole thing was blown out of proportion. “I wasn’t yelling or getting in anyone’s face,” said Smith after the council meeting adjourned. “There were 8-year-old kids in there on bikes with no helmets.”
Smith points the finger back at Hilgers and his crew saying that she was mistreated. “They were screaming at me,” said an emotional Smith. “I was so shocked. Obviously they are just trying to cover their asses.”
When asked about the incident, Ojai city manager Rob Clark declined to comment, simply saying, “I wasn’t there.”
Lopez, who addressed the council with fervor, expressed his desire to inform the city what had happened. “I want the incident to go down in public record,” he said. “Carol, you are a bully. You represent the city. You’re here to serve Ojai. We’re not here to serve you.”