Chairman threatens to have county marshal remove Commissioner Brown from meeting
Free speech clashed with parliamentary procedure at last week’s Fayette County Commission. Procedure — augmented by the chairman’s gavel — won.
At Thursday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Herb Frady threatened to have rookie Commissioner Steve Brown removed from the meeting after Brown raised his voice to complain of censorship since he was not allowed to speak about the West Fayetteville Bypass, which was not listed as a separate item on the agenda.
Brown had hoped to discuss the bypass during the meeting under what he called a “commissioner’s report.” Frady explained that Brown’s information was not a report but instead was “rebuttal” about the bypass project, so it would not be addressed during the meeting.
“It is not a proper item to discuss under reports,” Frady said, adding that it could be added to the commission’s agenda at a future meeting.
Brown, who has pledged to defeat the bypass, said the project is a legitimate item to be addressed under the “reports” section of the agenda.
“If you want to put it on another agenda, that’s fine, but ... it’s not an appropriate item under reports,” Frady said.
After a Brown motion failed to add the bypass to the reports section of the agenda, Frady announced the commission would proceed with the agenda “as printed.”
That led to several voices of complaint grumbled by several citizens, prompting a warning from the deputy county marshal. Brown muttered in a hushed tone: “That’s ridiculous.”
Brown then raised his voice over Frady’s gavel: “Anybody who wants to hear what I had to say in the report, just stay after the meeting and I’ll be glad to show it to you.”
Frady continued to bang his gavel and then interjected: “Steve, you’re out of order. If you want to remain in this room, you’ll stay (in) order because you are interrupting a meeting that is taking care of the business of the citizens of this county. It will not be interrupted.”
On Friday, Brown said that prior to the meeting, he was led to believe that Frady would allow him to address the bypass in the reports section listed at the end of the agenda. Brown claims that 15 minutes before the meeting, Frady told him he would not be allowed to speak about the bypass under the reports section.
Since the matter was not on the agenda, that left the possibility the bypass wouldn’t be addressed until at least the commission’s next regular meeting Feb. 10.
As a result, Brown made the motion to add the bypass to the agenda as a “commissioner report.” The maneuver failed on a 2-2 tie as Brown and Commissioner Allen McCarty were in favor, and Frady joined Commissioner Robert Horgan voting against; Commissioner Lee Hearn was absent.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, citizen Denise Ognio addressed the commission about the dispute over the bypass being on the agenda.
Ognio said she expects all five commissioners to work together.
“Mr. Frady, if Steve Brown properly followed procedure and if in fact the item he brought up should be on the agenda, I am asking for your apology,” Ognio said. “Steve, if in fact he is right and you are wrong, I expect the same from you. You guys have to work together.”
In an email Monday, Brown said he wants a portion of the commission’s upcoming retreat to address “what recourse commissioners have when the chairman is out of order during the administration of a meeting.”
In an email copied to The Citizen and his fellow commissioners, Brown claims the county should not “suffer under the arbitrary judgment dictated by a presiding officer functioning outside the parameters of his position.”
McCarty, who campaigned with Brown, indicated in a subsequent email that he agreed with Brown’s request.
Friday afternoon, Brown contended that he is unable to address matters not on the commission’s agenda because of the recent elimination of a section at the end of the agenda for “commissioner reports.”
The end of the agenda has been changed since the beginning of January, with Thursday night’s agenda listing a section for “reports” at the end.
Prior to the beginning of Frady’s tenure as chairman in January, the reports section at the end of the agenda was broken down to include reports from the county administrator, county attorney, staff reports and also “commissioner reports.”
Brown claims the elimination of the detail for commissioner reports is an attempt to silence him.
Following the meeting, Brown told reporters that he wanted to tell the audience — which consisted largely of bypass opponents — that the previous commission had never voted to shift money from the East Fayetteville Bypass to the West Fayetteville Bypass, which is why county staff is not to blame for what some have perceived as a “mishandling” of open records requests on the matter.
Brown added that he wanted to ask county staff to investigate reports he has received of an agent for the county using “intimidating and rude language” with some of the property owners along the West Fayetteville Bypass.
Brown also said he wanted to address critics who have accused him of supporting the West Fayetteville Bypass years ago with evidence that he has never supported the project.