Reportedly contrived by County Administrator, John Barkley—himself in hot water over loan and document coverup scandals—the new rules would give nearly complete discretion to Chairman Cox over what public comments are heard and not heard at Greene County Board meetings.
Emphatically condemned by Megan Rhyne of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, and the Opinion Editor of the Daily Progress, Cox’s speech squash has maintained the support of his Board, with the exception of Supervisor Eddie Deane, who cast the only opposing vote and has continued to speak publicly against the constitutionally challenged restrictions.
As a service to Greene County voters, who will elect new supervisors in November, the Schilling Show solicited comment on the draconian changes from Candidates Michelle Flynn (supports), Bob Young (opposes) and Dale Herring (did not respond to multiple inquiries). Received responses follow:
Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville District):
I have reviewed the Greene County Board of Supervisors Rules for Public Comment Period. Overall these guidelines are not out of line with those in neighboring counties and jurisdictions. As you are aware from your time as an elected official there are multiple avenues for the public to submit their thoughts on issues. A public comment agenda item at board meetings is not required, though it is typical. It is also typical to have a time limit for each speaker and a total time limit that can be determined by the chairman. Also common are guidelines to address comments to the board, that the board will not engage in dialogue, and to refrain from obscenities/name calling/etc. These guidelines do not take away someone’s right to free speech, and they do allow citizens to engage in civil discourse.
I do not believe anyone- elected or employed, voter or nonvoter- is required to be subjected to disrespectful behavior or verbal abuse. I also do not believe anyone has the right to yell over, interrupt or berate another speaker. That is rude and bullying. I further assert that intimidating behavior toward other citizens stifles their right to free speech and dissuades those with a different point of view from speaking in public. I would be hard-pressed to tolerate that sort of behavior from anyone, toward anyone.
We will know more clearly how the Rules for Public Comment Period will be implemented as we move forward. Should the rules be used to unfairly restrict citizens’ rights to express their concerns to their Supervisors I will lead the conversation to have the rules changed.
Bob Young (At-large Representative):
I have an issue with limits being placed on the subject matter being addressed by any Citizen during these meetings. The right to petition government for redress of grievances is the right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, one’s government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.
The BOS’ first responsibility is to uphold thier oath to the US Constitution. Seems to me that limiting the topics of that speech during Matters from the Public violates that oath and the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.
The current members of the board of supervisors have touted much concerned about citizen engagement throughout the county. This new policy stifles engagement and allows a runaway government to occur.
This policy is arrogant at least and tyrannical at most. It reveals the hearts of several leaders that we have. Needless to say I would have also been in the minority to have voted no on the amendment to restrict speech during public session.
Dale Herring (At-large Representative):
No response received by publication time.
Greene County voters would do well to review the candidate comments and stated positions (or lack thereof) on Cox’s rules in consideration of their own votes, to be cast on November 3.