Commissioner takes issue with colleague speaking at meeting

Published 8:10 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Carter County Commission Logoi
Tempers flared Tuesday night during the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting when one member of the Carter County Commission took issue with one of his colleagues attending a Watauga City Council meeting and speaking about the Commission’s recently approved measure to start a new joint economic development board through an inter-local agreement.
At the beginning of the Rules and Bylaws meeting, Commissioner Robert Carroll, who is not a member of the committee, asked to be allowed to speak. Carroll brought up the inter-local agreement for a joint economic and community development board which was approved by the full Commission during it’s January meeting by a margin of 13-9, with 13 being the minimum number of votes needed for the measure to pass.
Under the terms of the ILA, Carter County would partner with the cities of Elizabethton, Watauga and Johnson City in the joint economic and community development venture, but in order for that new board to be created, all three of the cities would have to vote to join into the ILA.
“When the Watauga meeting was held, two of our colleagues, to my understanding, went to that meeting and attempted to derail what the Commission had voted on,” Carroll said.
Carroll then asked if the committee could consider instituting a rule or policy that would prohibit members of the Commission from attending other government agency meetings and speaking against things which had been approved by the majority of the Commission.
Some members of the committee took exception to Carroll’s comments and his request.
“If you remember, we are also citizens of Carter County and we have a right to speak,” Commissioner Danny Ward said. “You can’t tell someone they don’t have a right to speak.”
Another committee member, Commissioner Brad Johnson, said he was one of the two commissioners who spoke at the Watauga City Council meeting. Johnson represents the 3rd District of Carter County, which includes the City of Watauga.
“Mr. Carroll, I direct you to get your d— facts straight,” Johnson said. “You weren’t even at that meeting.”
Johnson said when he spoke to the Watauga City Council he did not attack the ILA passed by the county.
“Get your facts straight before you run your flap,” Johnson said to Carroll.
“Now listen here…” Carroll said in response before being cut off by Johnson.
“I’m not listening to you, you idiot,” Johnson said. “You’re just a puppet. This is not any of your business. You can’t even hand your own business.”
Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey, who was in attendance at the committee meeting and a proponent of the ILA agreement to create a new economic development board to replace Carter County Tomorrow, questioned the ethics of a commissioner who attended another government meeting to speak against something the Commission had passed.
“Do you think it’s right for you to go to another legislative body and try to undermine what the Commission has done in its supreme authority? I don’t think it’s right,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey added the commissioners had their opportunity to speak either for or against the agreement when it came to a vote by the Commission.
“I did not undermine it,” Johnson said. “I told them that I personally did not support it as their representative but I told them I would support whatever decision they made.”
County Attorney Josh Hardin said he would not recommend the committee pursue any policy regarding limiting a commissioner’s ability to speak at a another government entity’s meeting.
“You’re getting on real shaky ground if you are trying to prohibit someone from speaking at a public meeting,” Hardin said.
Chairman Randall Jenkins called the meeting back into order and asked everyone to conduct themselves in a professional manner and refrain from personal attacks.
The committee took no action on Carroll’s inquiry.
During the remainder of the meeting, the committee worked to hash out suggested revisions to a updated policy and procedures manual for the Commission. The committee presented the rule book during the Commission’s meeting in January but the full panel kicked it back to the committee for changes.

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