I was done writing about the election and the leadership of Lexington Mayor Steve MacDougall, but, as Michael Corleone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” And besides, the Mayor just keeps on giving and giving….
It used to be that the public could speak at Lexington Town Council public meetings. Before the meeting started, a citizen wanting to speak would “sign in” on a sheet and, at the end of the programmed agenda, the floor was opened for comments, questions or statements. Not any more. Not under Mayor Steve MacDougall.
I’ve just come back from the November 5th meeting of the Lexington Town Council. Haven spoken before Council before, I noticed there was no pad or sheet of paper for sign up even though I had no intention to say anything. I thought nothing of it until the Mayor adjourned the meeting after the printed agenda had been fulfilled.
There were looks among the public audience, especially as a lady stood and approached the lectern. Mrs. Elizabeth Monts Rauch, with prepared statement in hand, stood ready to express her “displeasure” at the Town’s attempt to acquire family property via eminent domain. (More on that in another post)
But MacDougall would not let her speak. The meeting had been adjourned and what she wanted to discuss was not on the agenda – the list of things MacDougall chooses can be talked about.-
(UPDATE: In a comment, Ms. Rauch states: “I was up before the gavel fell and was adjourned. I was told that I was on the agenda but that was false too. Citizens have always had the right to speak. Must be a new ruling against Roberts Rules if Order.”)
Understand… This is NOT about the Town Council, it is, by rule, the privilege of The Chair, that is, the Mayor.
ANY PERSON WHO IS NOT A MEMBER OF THE COUNCIL MAY SPEAK to the Council with permission of the Chair and shall address the Chair; each person, after stating his/her name and address, may make comments which are relevant to the subject matter at hand and which are limited to three (3) minutes, unless additional time is granted in advance by the Chair. [emphasis per original]
Now, maybe, the Mayor was taking refugee (hiding behind) the phrase “relevant to the subject matter at hand,” but that was not the procedure before, either in MacDougall’s administrator or that of his predecessor. Even so, why must citizens be restricted to talking about only what Steve MacDougall wants to talk about?
Who besides Mrs. Rauch did MacDougall see or expect to see among the citizen audience that he wanted silenced? What did he NOT want Lexington to hear? Does tomorrow’s election have anything to do with his dictatorial silencing of the populace?
The primary issue here is not elections or eminent domain, it’s “should citizens be allowed to speak at public Town Council meetings?“