I have been regularly attending [Fayette County] Commission meetings for over two years now. There were easily 200-plus people in attendance at [Thursday] night’s meeting, and [the] display was one of the most disrespectful I’ve ever witnessed.
Unfortunately, the citizens who attend these meetings have become accustomed to routinely being derided and mocked and having their rights trampled upon, but Chairman Frady’s behavior last night was reprehensible. He’s the one who’s supposed to set the standard, and he failed miserably.
As I recall, there were 16 citizens who spoke during the public comment period. Many of the speakers focused on our First Amendment right to free speech, as this has come under fire recently by the commission threatening to move the public comments to the end of the meeting, as well as imposing other restrictions.
But at least 10 people spoke in favor of a bill (HB240) recently signed by Governor Deal on May 11, 2011, enabling the County Commission to approve a voter referendum that would allow, if approved by the citizens, the county to apply unspent SPLOST funds to existing debt, or other, more critical issues; i.e., property tax reduction.
All of the speakers were respectful of where they were and to whom they were speaking. They spoke with passion and conviction. Of course, the commissioners are not allowed to respond, so there was no dialogue.
The bombshell occurred when Commissioner Brown attempted to make comments (Agenda Item #21) at the end of the meeting regarding HB240. Although the entire agenda had been approved as the very first order of business, Chairman Frady said he had only just received Commissioner Brown’s handout and had not had time to review it, and wanted to table the item until the June 23 commission meeting (the handout was only a list of bullet points Commissioner Brown was using).
A fairly lengthy discussion ensued between Chairman Frady, Commissioner Brown, County Attorney Bennett, and County Administrator Krakeel regarding the rules for submitting items to be included on the agenda. The bottom line was, Chairman Frady refused to let Commissioner Brown deliver his comments, even though the room full of people were voicing their desire to hear his comments.
Since Fayette County is presenting an $88,585,436 budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and HB240 was signed over five weeks ago, you would think they would’ve had ample time to review the provisions.
I know from commissioners’ comments and articles in the newspaper that we’re facing some very difficult circumstances regarding the budget, and suddenly having a safety net would be a huge plus in the equation.
The entire time Commissioner Brown was trying to explain and defend his position on the issue, Chairman Frady kept trying to gavel him down and talk over him. Things escalated and Chairman Frady said something to the effect, “I think you just probably need to leave,” and Commissioner Brown stood up and responded, “I’d be happy to,” and he got up and left the chambers.
At that point someone in the audience said, “I think we all ought to leave,” and the vast majority of attendees did just that.
It was very unprofessional and appalling to witness something like this in a public forum. Have these elected officials forgotten that “we the people” elected them and they are responsible to us? Apparently so.
It appears they’re going ahead with their agenda and the taxpayers be damned. If ever there were grounds for a recall, I believe this is the time.