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LETTER: No kudos to mayor, commission

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In regard to complaints made by the public about not being provided inside accommodations during executive sessions of the City of Taylorsville’s public meetings, there were several statements made by Mayor Don Pay, City Clerk Steve Biven and City Attorney Dudley Dale that were far from the truth.
In the Feb. 13 Magnet article “AG says local government shouldn’t kick public to the curb,” Pay stated, “In eight years of being mayor, this has never come up.”
Biven stated, “The public has been comfortable with the current arrangement, which had apparently accommodated their need to smoke, speak loudly, drive around in their cars, leave or remain outside ,,, with this being the norm and there not being any requirements to provide waiting space, the city commission has remained at their bench during this session. This practice has been followed without complaint and has only been a matter of concern since being brought forth during recent training session by the [Attorney General’s] office on December 3.”
For the record, my opening words during my public comments on Oct. 2, 2012, were as follows: “People have asked the commission to hold executive sessions in the mayor’s office to allow public to remain indoors through the entire meeting.”
I emailed Biven on Nov. 26 requesting to speak at the Dec. 3 meeting. On Dec. 3, I emailed Steve for a copy of the agenda, to no avail. I called the city office in the afternoon to obtain a copy of the agenda and was directed to Steve’s voicemail three times so I could request a copy of the agenda, again to no avail. Guess what, fellow citizens? Public comments was omitted from the Dec. 3 agenda.
The second sentence of my prepared public comment for Dec. 3, 2013, reads: “I am requesting that the public be allowed to remain indoors tonight and here ever after during the executive sessions of the regular and special city meetings.”
As the commission was breaking for executive session, I immediately approached Mayor Pay at the bench, with complete visibility of the commissioners, Clerk Biven and Attorney Dale and, speaking in a voice with an audible level that could not be escaped by those respective ears, pleaded to the mayor to provide inside accommodations for the public, as we had severely inclement weather.
He acknowledged my request by directly denying inside accommodations. I explained that the commission could easily go to the City Hall conference room across the parking lot, negating the need for us to be supervised in the city hall annex. I chose this approach because, when I previously discussed this issue with Mayor Pay, I asked if we, the public, could go to city hall to wait during executive session. He told me previously that he could not make that arrangement because there was no one available for supervision of the public in the city hall during executive session in the city hall annex.
By the way, I am counting, and this makes at least three times that I discussed inside accommodations with Mayor Pay, with the fourth request coming up.
He was so clear on the evening of Dec. 3 that I was requesting inside accommodations as executive session was about to start, that he told me that I could wait in my personal car to stay warm until executive session was over. I asked him if the city would reimburse me for my fuel. He chastised me for my persistence and kicked all of us out in the cold, treating us worse than he treats his own cats.
After about an hour, we were allowed back in the public-owned City Hall Annex. As the meeting was nearing the end, I raised my hand to address the commission. I was ignored. I stood up and raised my hand to address the commission, as I had already fulfilled my request to speak prior to noon on the previous Friday. In the past, other citizens had been given the floor, some just by speaking out, and some with the same gesture of merely raising a hand. The commissioners, Clerk Biven, Attorney Dale and others in the room witnessed this. Mayor Pay adjourned the meeting in a hostile nature. I immediately approached him so that there would be no mistake for those present, including commissioners, Biven and Dale, that the public needs to have inside accommodations during the executive sessions.
He continuously refused, chastised me again for my persistence, then abruptly left. This was on Dec. 3 that the public was kicked to the curb again. On Jan. 23 the public was kicked to the curb again.
It’s as though on Feb. 6, Mayor Pay, the commissioners, Clerk Biven and Dudley Dale were trapped in a snake pit, and their only way out was to provide inside accommodations for the public during executive session.
No kudos to the mayor and commissioners. Kudos go to Lawrence Trageser, the real hero in this story, for he responsibly and accurately reported our dire circumstances to the Office of the Attorney General. He wrote: “the City of Taylorsville Commissioners have and continue to engage in the premeditated action of requiring citizens to leave the building before an Executive Session Meeting with the ultimate purpose in mind of provoking citizens to leave prematurely from the meetings’ conclusions, so as to reduce, prevent or actively obstruct citizens their right to attend and their reasonable expectations to be informed about what action will be taken ... without undue exposure to weather and or seating conditions or requirements.”
Thank you, Mr. Trageser.
Attorney Dale stated, “The attorney general is the 800-pound gorilla. Their opinions are opinions, not law.” By the way, Mr. Dale, if the city does not appeal Attorney Jack Conway’s opinion by Feb. 23, 2014, his opinion becomes law.
Another note worthy of mentioning: The City’s website states: “If you would like to be placed on the agenda to speak to the Commission, please contact the City Clerk at (502) 477-3235 ext. 106, prior to noon on the Friday before the meeting.”
I was denied on Dec. 3.
I just called that number and left a message letting them know I would like to speak at the March 4 regular meeting, stating that I would follow up my request with an email, and asked for confirmation by email.
I invite you to do the same. I’m sharing this with you, my fellow Spencer County citizens, because the monthly agenda item “Public Comment” was omitted for the regular meetings, not only in December 2013, but also in January 2014 and February 2014.
We’ve been gagged.
Evy McKemie
Bowman Lane