New Commission ‘Civility’ Resolution Sparks Acrimony
A Natrona County Commission resolution to encourage civility during public comments prompted acrimonious retorts immediately after its approval Tuesday.
"Again, I feel like this is to shut up activists and people who get up here and speak for others, because they're afraid of retaliation," Judy Jones said
The resolution gives guidelines for respectful greetings to the commissioners, a three-minute limit, and one opportunity for a person to speak.
But Jones, who with her husband Dana, successfully sued the county over land use issues with their vast vehicle collection west of Casper, said she and her husband had been vilified verbally by commissioners during the dispute dating to 2010.
Dana Jones said the commissioners wanted the new public comment rules because his attorney Harry Bondi spoke for 30 minutes at an Aug. 5 meeting denouncing a proposal to eliminate the "natural expansion" doctrine from the county's zoning regulations. The commission killed the proposal.
"I know you're sore about that," Dana Jones said.
He singled out commissioner Bill McDowell who, early in his tenure, called Jones "'a sore thumb for the commission because of the way I trashed my agricultural land.'"
McDowell apologized for the comment and Jones accepted it.
Others attacked the guidelines, especially the preface: "These rules shall be applicable at all regularly scheduled BOCC (Board of County Commission) meetings to be applied at the sole discretion of the Chairman. An exception for one speaker will not entitle another to the same exception."
Before commissioners approved the resolution Terry Wingerter asked Chairman Forrest Chadwick if that means a chairman can cut off someone at three minutes or if a person can speak for a second time.
Chadwick responded that such a decision was solely at the chairman's discretion.
Which did not go over well with Paul Paad, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in the Aug. 19 primary.
The guidelines are inherently unfair, Paad said.
"You can tell one person 10 minutes, one person three minutes," he said. "It's not going to be a general rule for everybody that's making comment or that's making a request or anything."
That could have a negative bearing on discussions about commission actions on conditional use permits, Paad said.
At that point, Chadwick told Paad his three minutes were up.
Paad responded that the resolution had not been signed so it was not in effect, that he didn't know he was on the clock, and Chadwick should have shown him the courtesy to grant him more time.
"Your time is up," Chadwick said.
Paad said this violated the Constitution.
"This is the point I'm making, when you don't like somebody's comments you tell them to shut the hell up and sit down," Paad said.
"Please sit down," Chadwick said.