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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission chair seeks input on removing disruptive members of audience

Updated: Mar 8

By Charlene Sims, info@linncountyjournal.com


MOUND CITY – After a much heated discussion about County Counselor Gary Thompson at the Linn County Commission meeting on Monday, March 4, Commission Chair Jason Hightower brought up a few “housekeeping” issues he wanted to address. Thompson resigned his post early in the meeting.


The first was a consent agenda. Hightower explained that the consent agenda made for a cleaner meeting with only one motion required to approve the minutes, the claims and the adds and abates. Hightower said that each item could be thoroughly discussed but only one motion was necessary to approve all items.


When asked his opinion, County Clerk David Lamb told the commissioners that most meetings he attends have a consent agenda. 

 

Neither Johnson nor McCullough were in favor of the consent agenda, which is actually how Lamb has the county agenda set up. 


“Okay, it's fine,” said Hightower.


The next item was allowing people in the audience to talk out of turn in the meeting.


“I think we need to be doing a better job of controlling our meeting, not allowing interjections from the crowd when we’re not in public comment,” stated Hightower.


Johnson said “Who’s the chairman?” 


“I am, “ said Hightower. 


“You’ve got the gavel?” Johnson asked.


Hightower asked,  “So you’re saying that I have the authority to remove people from the meeting if necessary?”


Johnson said, “I don’t think you’re going to remove anybody because I don’t think you can. I don’t think you are allowed to.”


According to at least one former commissioner, the commission has asked disruptive members of the audience to leave if they are not following the rules. Law enforcement officers have been used to enforce that request if it goes unheeded.


McCullough suggested stopping the meeting until the audience stopped interjecting comments.


“You can take care of it but I don’t think you can remove them,” said Johnson.


“It’s the commissioner meeting, not the meeting of the commissioners with the public so they are not supposed to be speaking out of turn and talking when they’re 

not having the floor or haven’t been called to the podium, correct?” asked Hightower


“I agree but how are you going to remove them from the meeting,” said McCullough.


Hightower said he was going to ask them to leave. McCullough asked what if they didn’t leave. 


“Just stop the meeting until they leave?” asked McCullough.


Hightower asked the other commissioners if they thought that was appropriate or not appropriate and that’s why he was talking to them.


“I don’t think we’ve had a real issue with it myself,” said Johnson.


“Let me put it this way, Jim, can you control your friends?” asked Hightower referring to the solar opponents in the audience.


“Control my friends?” asked Johnson. “I don’t know who’s my friends, explain who my friends are.”


Hightower pointed out the solar opponents in the audience.


“Can you control your wife and your friends in the other office?” asked Johnson.


Johnson then accused Hightower of knowing what was going on at the meetings before he or McCullough knew.


“I pay attention,” said Hightower.


“Why don’t we move on because I am not in favor of what you are saying,” said Johnson.


Hightower’s last housekeeping item was on agenda items. 


“I think that on agenda items we should have name, who they represent, the topic of conversation, listed out on the agenda before they are put out on the agenda,” said Hightower.


Hightower added that he would also like to say that he is not going to resign.


“Jim, are you going to resign?” asked Hightower.


“I haven’t made up my mind for sure,” said Johnson. He said he had not filled out his paperwork but was probably going to run again.


“What I am asking is can we stop with those charades as far as people coming up and asking us to resign?” asked Hightower. “Do you think that would be a viable option?”


“I can’t control,” said Johnson. 


“They can do it during public comment,” said Hightower.


“This is America, and they’re going to be able to do what they want to do,” said Johnson. 


“Let’s move on,” said Johnson. “Move on!”


“I know there’s a lot of tension between you two, I mean all of us, I guess, but especially you two,” said McCullough. “And I talked to David and Gary about this awhile back, about me maybe taking the chair spot back over, to give you, I feel like you don’t have a voice like you used to just because of the spot you’re in right now. I could be wrong, I don’t know.”


McCullough offered to take over the post of commission chair from Hightower to try to smooth over the conflict and move forward. He said he was just trying to be the middleman by throwing that out for Hightower to think about.


“Do you think that would help, Jim?” asked Hightower. 


“That isn’t the problem, you know what the problem is,” said Johnson. “I think I’ve been pretty open to what the problem is. Long before you even took office I think.”


“I think it’s just elevated clear through the whole process,” said Johnson.


“Have you tried to work with me?” Hightower asked Johnson.


Johnson laughed at the question but did not respond.


“How do you feel about it, Jason?” asked McCullough.


Hightower said he was just trying to run the meeting. Hightower said he appreciated McCullough’s offer but made no further comment.


 

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