Commissioners take step to control business meetings

Published 9:38 am Monday, December 1, 2008

Marengo County Commissioners took a step at their postponed session Wednesday to prevent any citizen from monopolizing public meetings by bringing the same issues before the formal body over and over again.

The commissioners revisited their procedure policy under Roberts Rules of Order, to spell out how and when those on the agenda may address the commissioners and who may be allowed to be on the agenda and for which purposes.

This measure has apparently stemmed from several encounters with a local citizen, Deke Glass, who stands before the commission with various charges and concerns, whether he is on the agenda or not; commissioners agree he has become a disruptive factor, preventing them from conducting their open meeting business in a timely fashion.

According to the rules that govern the commissioners, “No person shall, by speech or otherwise, delay or interrupt the proceedings or the peace of the commission, or disturb any person having the floor…. Any person making irrelevant, impertinent, or slanderous remarks or who becomes boisterous while addressing the commission shall not be considered orderly or decorous…. Any person failing to comply as cautioned shall be barred from making any additional comments during the meeting by the chair, unless permission to continue or again address the commission is granted by the majority of the commission members present.”

Commissioner Jerry Lofton said the commission has repeatedly had problems with a particular citizen at its meetings. “We hope this eliminates problems of citizens who would tie up the commission during our meetings,” he said. “We have to take back control of the meetings.” Lofton said on occasion the commission has literally been “harassed” by certain citizens, and on at least one occasion, the commission has had to ask a deputy to forcibly remove a citizen from commissioners’ chambers so the meeting could continue in orderly fashion.

Commissioner Ken Tucker said citizens who would continue to raise the same issues “over and over,” because they don’t like the answers to questions they may have, cannot be allowed to disrupt and prolong business meetings. “We must limit our exposure in these cases, so that we can take the time to hear those citizens who have legitimate issues to bring to the table,” he said.

The only other business the commissioners had Wednesday was several appointments to boards. Appointments to the History and Archives Board are Betty Owensby, Mary Ann Gibbs and Selma Coats. Randy Ford will replace Steve Walter on the E-911 Board. The appointing commissioner, Tucker, said Walters resigned after having back surgery that will require several months of rehabilitation.

After nearly two hours in executive session, the commissioners opened their doors to approve the sheriff taking bids for repair and renovation at the detention center. A motion from Commissioner Freddie Armstead to allow the Community Action Agency to hire a current senior aide worker, on a part time basis for minimum wages, died for lack of a second.