By Joshua Sabatini
S.F. Examiner Staff Writer
Ray Hartz frequently gets under the skin of city officials with his challenging comments during meetings, but recently the San Francisco resident might have crossed the line when criticizing the Public Library Commission’s choice last month to keep Jewelle Gomez as president.
“I know 12 people who would f----- bury him if I could walk out of here today,” Gomez said of the gadfly whose public testimony she thought was threatening, according to a city audio recording that picked up her private conversation moments after the Feb. 2 meeting adjourned.
Gomez was reacting to what Hartz said during the meeting: “Maybe what you should do is do what they used to do in the old Roman republic — elect Ms. Gomez to the position of dictator for life and then at least the rest of us would have the hope an assassination might result in a change of leadership.”
Gomez reacted in the public meeting by calling the comment inappropriate and said the audience “might not appreciate that kind of violence.”
Hartz later said he was using a “literary device” and was in no way suggesting an actual assassination.
After the meeting adjourned, Gomez can be heard on the audio recording talking to staffers about her safety, but she also seems to threaten Hartz.
“He doesn’t even know who he is f----- with,” Gomez said. “I speak very nicely now, but I did grow up in the ghetto and I used to carry a straight razor.”
An unidentified voice asks, “Everything is off, right?”
Gomez reported a “suspicious occurrence” to police Feb. 4. On Feb. 6, Hartz said two police inspectors showed up at his home unannounced to ask about the meeting. However, no charges are expected to be filed.
On Tuesday, Gomez said she didn’t remember what she said and wouldn’t address the specifics.
“Those were private comments not meant for the public following a very emotional meeting where I felt like my life had been threatened,” Gomez said. “In a city in which Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated as public officials, I felt threatened. So my anxiety and fear resulted in those comments, which I assumed were off the record because the meeting was over.”
This isn’t the first controversy for Gomez. In 2009, she shouted down a public commentator. The incident prompted the Ethics Commission in 2011 to recommend Mayor Ed Lee remove her from the post. Lee did not take that action.
City Librarian Luis Herrera called the incident “very regrettable,” but said Gomez was “letting off steam after a very challenging meeting. She felt threatened.”
Herrera praised Gomez overall.
“She just has been tremendously supportive of the library and does her work remarkably well,” he said.