UPDATED: Tempers flare as Frady tables tax shift plan
UPDATED for print version — When Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown came to Thursday night’s commission meeting, he had planned to ask his fellow commissioners to pursue a referendum that would allow transportation sales tax dollars to be shifted towards either paying off debt or helping the county’s general fund.
Instead, Brown was told his presentation would have to wait two weeks, after Commission Chairman Herb Frady objected to Brown providing a written document about the presentation minutes before, instead of a two weeks-in-advance requirement under county policy.
“I haven’t seen this before, and I don’t know what’s in this, and we don’t really allow that to happen,” Frady said, adding that the matter would be tabled until the commission’s next meeting “so we’ll all have a chance to look at it.”
A frustrated Brown strongly disagreed, contending the papers he provided commissioners were merely “notes” from a PowerPoint presentation he was to make. Brown said he was providing the notes so the commissioners could follow along with the presentation.
A motion that would have allowed Brown to give the presentation failed 3-2, as commissioners Robert Horgan and Lee Hearn voted against along with Chairman Frady. Only commissioner Allen McCarty voted with Brown to allow the presentation to take place.
Both Horgan and Hearn agreed with Frady’s contention, saying they wanted more time to look over Brown’s proposal.
At one point, the crowd of more than 100 became so unruly that Frady threatened to clear the room.
After Frady continued with the rest of the agenda, Brown stood up and began to pack up his laptop and other items as if he was leaving the meeting early. And in a matter of minutes, he took issue with a question that fellow Commissioner Hearn was trying to ask of county staff about House Bill 240, the very topic of which Brown had been prevented from speaking.
The difference is that Hearn was asking the question during the “commissioners reports” section of the agenda, and there is no policy requiring that he provide information in writing in advance.
That didn’t stop Brown from protesting, though.
“If he’s going to ask the question, then I have not been given a copy of that question prior to him asking it,” Brown said in a loud voice as many in the crowd applauded their support. “So I would like to table Mr. Hearn’s commissioner’s report please. According to the rules we were just provided.”
Hearn explained he wanted Bennett to provide the commission information about what it can and can’t do under the legislation.
That sent Brown over the edge.
“Oh, wait a minute now, we’re going to have another discussion? I cannot discuss House Bill 240 and you’re going to have a discussion on HB 240?”
Frady banged his gavel loudly several times in an attempt to restore order.
“Order, Mr. Brown, or you’ll have to leave the room,” Frady said.
“I’ll do it right now, thank you!” Brown replied.
“Good,” Frady interrupted.
“Because that is absolutely freaking ridiculous,” Brown continued. “You’re going to have him do a lecture on House Bill 240 and I can’t speak.”
As Brown picked up his things and began to walk off, Frady asked the county marshal to escort him out.
As Brown left through a side door, he muted his voice significantly and said: “That is a joke.”
With Brown’s exit, a disgusted group of more than 100 citizens left the meeting in protest as well.
“See you in two weeks!” shouted one member of the crowd.
“It’s a dictatorship,” hollered another.
The commission waited several minutes for the room to clear before resuming the final few minutes of the meeting.
Days after the meeting, Brown posted on TheCitizen.com that he submitted the agenda item “with an appropriate explanation of my item.”
Furthermore, Brown contended, his “intentions” regarding the budget were passed along to all commissioners in a May 24 memo from County Manager Jack Krakeel.
“My presentation consisted of newspaper headlines, budget information already presented multiple times, some relevant revenue points and a motion to create a committee that included all Constitutional Officers (including Chairman Frady) to address the HB 240 issue,” Brown said.
EARLIER ONLINE VERSION
After his presentation to his fellow county commissioners was postponed two weeks, an indignant Steve Brown walked out of Thursday night’s commission meeting.
A largely disgusted audience, which became unruly to the point that Chairman Herb Frady threatened to clear the room, left in solidarity with Brown.
It was a theatrical ending to what will surely be remembered as one of the ugliest exchanges in recent Fayette political history.
The fracas began as the commission was to hear Brown extol the virtues of shifting the county’s transportation sales tax funds away from road projects toward the county’s general fund via a public referendum allowed by a new state law.
Before Brown could begin, Commission Chairman Herb Frady announced that since Brown had failed to provide his supporting written documentation two weeks in advance as required by county policy, the matter would be tabled until the next meeting.
“No sir,” Brown exclaimed in reply.
Brown then explained that he had provided the written material to his fellow commissioners as a courtesy, and he insisted that he followed county policy on putting the matter on the agenda.
Frady insisted that Brown was wrong, and noted that he had not had time to read the 20-page document.
“You did not follow procedure and we are not going to hear this tonight,” Frady said.
“This is just not right,” Brown retorted.
Moments later, Brown said: “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“I haven’t either,” Frady replied.
Soon after, Brown authored a motion to override the tabling and authorize his presentation, but it failed 3-2, with commissioners Robert Horgan, Lee Hearn and Frady voting against.
In reply, Brown gasped in exasperation and asked Frady to cite the policy. Frady called upon county staff to read it.
The policy states that for agenda items, commissioners are required to submit documentation pertinent to the request when it is placed on the agenda two weeks in advance. Instead, Brown only shared the information minutes before the meeting, according to Frady, Horgan and Hearn.
The information shared by Brown was not a part of the county commission’s “meeting packet” which is published on its website several days prior to the commission meetings.
County Attorney Scott Bennett said under the policy, it was up to the commission to determine if the information Brown submitted “was pertinent to the request” and when it was received.
After Brown’s motion failed and the meeting moved on, Brown belligerently interrupted Hearn as Hearn attempted to ask a question of county staff during the commissioners reports section of the agenda.
Brown argued that Hearn should not be allowed to speak because Hearn didn’t provide his comments ahead of time.
It devolved to the point where Frady threatened to have Brown escorted away by a county marshal, and Brown replied that he was leaving on his own accord. He left through a side door.
Nearly the entire audience left in unison with Brown, and Frady waited for them to leave so the meeting could continue.
After the meeting, Frady said he had no problem with Brown making his presentation at the next meeting. Hearn concurred, saying he thought it would be fair for the entire commission to have Brown’s information in advance so it can be rebutted if necessary.