Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: There is a lack of civility at public meetings

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Nov. 19—In recent years there has been a growing trend at public meetings of a lack of civility and decorum.

Civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.

Maybe what is taking place locally is a carry-over from recent presidential campaigns where Republican Donald Trump referred to his opponents in unfriendly terms.

It has also escalated in political campaigns in Madison County and around the state where political action committees, not required to file campaign finance reports, attack candidates with ads that at times can only be considered as less than truthful.

Locally, there are groups and people using social media to disparage local officials, both appointed and elected. Some of the allegations are on the verge of libelous.

Recent meetings of both the Anderson City Council and the Madison County Council raised the lack of civility to a new level.

During the city council meeting, Council President Rebecca Crumes pounded the gavel and told Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr. to sit down while he was speaking.

"I'm not sitting down, I'm the mayor," Broderick replied.

But Crumes also directed City Controller Doug Whitham to sit down and admonished a councilman who had requested time to speak.

Madison County Council meetings have also become chaotic because of people commenting from the public seating while the council is conducting business.

A portion of a recent meeting revolved around the request of Coroner Dr. Troy Abbott for additional funding. Abbott and his chief deputy Katherine Callahan were in a contentious discussion with council members when President Ben Gale called on Callahan to quit talking.

Outgoing Councilman Jerry Alexander asked who the elected official was: Abbott or Callahan.

"You're not an elected official," Callahan responded.

As expected, that retort brought an immediate response from several council members that Alexander's term doesn't end until Dec. 31.

Callahan returned to her seat and continued to interrupt the meeting when Gale directed Sheriff Scott Mellinger to escort her from the building if she continued to interrupt.

What took place at both meetings would leave visitors or those conducting business with either government body to wonder what is taking place.

Calling people liars and interrupting meetings shows a lack of respect for everyone in attendance.

Both councils are supposed to operate under Robert's Rules of Order, a guide to parliamentary procedure. The problem is, those guidelines are not adhered to.

Officials and the public have the right to address elected representatives during public meetings.

It should be done with civility.

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at or 765-640-4863.