Mixed feelings on Kings County councillor’s use of public comment period

Kirk Starratt
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By Kirk Starratt

kstarratt@kingscountynews.ca

KingsCountyNews.ca

Coun. Patricia Bishop issued a written statement late last week to explain her unusual decision to move to the public gallery Feb. 4 during a county council meeting.

The District 10 representative waited for the Warden to call for comments from the public gallery. At that point, she stood and expressed her concerns.

“Did I do this out of disrespect? No,” Bishop said. “I did this because as a councillor my opportunity to express my concerns had been interrupted and taken from me.”

Bishop said her goal was to make a constructive contribution to the topic. She wasn’t trying to make a point, Bishop said, but was trying to complete her train of thought on the matter “because I could not finish a sentence without being interrupted or my mic shut off.

“I’ve been told that I am a disgrace. Is this because I believe my constituents deserve a voice, a voice that is professional, thoughtful and concerned about our community’s future?” Bishop said.

Response

Former councillor Merrill Ward publicly expressed his disagreement with Bishop’s actions.

Later, he said it’s the job of councillors to ask questions from the circle and said he was upset that a councillor would get up before a meeting was adjourned, sit in the audience and take up time intended for citizens to address council during the public comment period.

“All that was was theatrics as far as I’m concerned,” Ward said.

He said the matter Bishop was speaking on, the advertising funding request from the chamber of commerce, had been discussed and agreed on with the organization. eHe said Bishop was disrupting council because she wasn’t up-to-date, having been away for several weeks.

Ward said there are certain councillors who seem to question everything the warden does and Bishop should have challenged the chair and called a point of order if she felt she wasn’t getting her full allotment of speaking time. Ward said anyone serving on council who isn’t happy being there should leave and let someone else do the job.

Bishop responded to Ward’s statement by saying it’s not the role she dislikes, but some of the difficulties within council. She added she is surprised Ward appears to not respect that she has been elected by citizens to represent and wonders why it doesn’t bother him and others when councillors aren’t permitted to complete their comments.

“But mostly, I just hear his opinion, take a deep breath, and move on,” Bishop said. “I am not perfect, but I sure do care a lot about making the right decisions for the right reasons.”

Black River resident Andrew Steeves was approaching the microphone Feb. 4 when the chairwoman drew the public comment period to a close. Steeves said he intended to strike a more moderate tone.

Read Steeves' letter to the editor here.

“I’m always reluctant to see things at a meeting end on such a sour note,” Steeves said. “I think the responsibility for good government is in the hands of everyone around the table.”

He said getting to a point that an elected official feels they have “to go to such a silly extent to be heard” diminishes us all. Steeves said he thinks we have the ingredients for good government but councillors have to take the responsibility seriously enough to work for it and put personal feelings aside.

Steeves said Ward was upset, with reason, but laid it at the feet of one person and “that wasn’t the whole story.”

Warden’s response

When asked if she had ruled Bishop out of order for going over the allotted two minute time for public comments or for addressing council from the gallery after asking to be excused, Brothers said it was both reasons.

“I’m not sure a councillor can get up, sit in the gallery and speak during the public comment (period) whenever they choose,” Brothers said.

Brothers said agenda management is a major concern: a meeting could conceivably go on for more than a day, if every councillor spoke to their maximum time allotment on every matter.

In regard to Steeves not being able to make a comment at the end of the meeting, Brothers said she called three times for any more comments from the public before drawing the session to a close.

“I didn’t see him walking to the podium,” she said.

Brothers said the chief administrator worked with the chamber of commerce on the tourism advertising matter and pointed out that the organization is in support of council’s decision.

“I don’t understand the push-back on that item at all,” Brothers said.

Read about council's tourism advertising decision here.

To read Bishop’s written statement in its entirety, see the next page.

Organizations: Kings County Municipal Council

Geographic location: Black River

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • Ben W. Thomas
    February 10, 2014 - 16:56

    The sad thing is, all of you anti-Bishop advocates are hiding behind the internet and not even willing to share your full name. That is disgraceful and cowardly.

  • Brad P
    February 09, 2014 - 17:04

    Enough with the bad behaviour and negative media attention. Councillor Bishop your bad behaviour is taking the attention away from important issues if the day. You need to grow up and do some positive work in your community or as Merrill Ward said Resign!

  • Donna Morris
    February 09, 2014 - 10:54

    I have never attended a council meeting however I believe Municipal politics are important and at the grass roots level. From all that I read (on this site, and many other proment news sources) it appears that Councillor Bishop just just speaks to hear herself talk. If the Chamber of Commerce was happy with Deputy Warden Hirtle's motion then why would Councillor Bishop want to ammend the motion. Was her farm not in one of the ads? Is it not a conflict of interest that the Chamber of Commerce gave her farm over $40,000 last year? Should she have even been permitted to vote on this motion? I think Councillor Bishop should take a step back and really look at herself and the negative attention and conflict she is causing.

  • Jason E
    February 09, 2014 - 10:47

    The conduct of Councillor Bishop and Councillor Raven at council meetings is horrible and it is only these two women who don't know how to act properly. I do expect councillors to provide a high standard of service and councillor Bishop does not do that. Councillor Bishop did not run to be a municipal councillor she was put in because no one else ran, therefore she was not elected by the people of her district. Councillor Bishops voice is not repressed she talks all the time (she has always had a lot to say where I have attended council meetings) If Councillor Bishop wants to speak her mind as a member of the public she should step down and let someone do the work and represnt the people proper.

  • Joe Joudrey
    February 09, 2014 - 10:01

    In a democratic society the majority rules.Each district has a councillor (most have thankfully been elected - I believe Councillor Bishop is the only one that did not actually get elected) It looks to me like as it should be the majority is rulling on all of the important issues of Council and Councillor Bishop does not like it. Councillor Bishop you behaviour is an embarrassment and I challenge you to step down as councillor for district 10 and run in a election in your district. Then may the best candidate win!

  • Brenda L
    February 09, 2014 - 09:55

    I do believe the comments below are true that Councillor Bishop was not elected by the residents of District 10. How do you represent the people of your district when you do not have to run an election? How do you know of all the concerns and challanges of people that live in the district that are not your friends? I have called Councillor Bishop a few times and I could not get in touch with her and my phone calls were never returned. I gave up and call the Municipality where they were more than willing to help me.

  • Julie Andrews
    February 09, 2014 - 09:49

    I have been to a few council meetings where it is evident that a select few councillors are not prepared. This then leads to discussions and questions asked that the councillors should already be aware of. This leads to longs meetings and that is unnecessary. If a councillor attends a meeting fully prepared then they can get their point across in the alloted time. Municipal business is important and Councillor Bishop is taking away from the important issues that should be reported on with her bad behaviour, Councillor Bishop I ask you to be prepared for meetings and be a respectful municipal representative. Thank-you

  • ELECTED ?
    February 09, 2014 - 08:05

    COUNCILLOR BISHOP WAS NOT ELECTED, SHE WAS ACCLAIMED. NO ONE ELSE RAN FOR THE DISTRICT 10 SEAT, THEREFORE WE ARE STUCK WITH HER UNTIL SOMEONE WITH CREDIBILITY OFFERS. CONGRATULATIONS TO WARDEN BROTHERS FOR CONTINUING TO TRY TO RUN THESE MEETINGS ACCORDING TO THE RULES OF THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT ACT. IT'S A SHAME THAT THE DOG AND PONY SHOW CONTINUALLY TRIES TO TURN THESE MEETINGS INTO SUCH AN EMBARRASSMENT. MERRILL WARD HAS IT RIGHT. COUNCILLOR BISHOP LOST HER NOMINATION TO BECOME WARDEN. IT SEEMS SOUR GRAPES HAVE GOT THE BEST OF HER.