Letter: Tiverton gavel comes down on free speech, rescinds transparency

Posted 11/6/19

To the editor:

The replacement Tiverton Town Council’s second meeting on October 28 involved actions which should concern all Tiverton citizens and taxpayers.

First, the replacement president …

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Letter: Tiverton gavel comes down on free speech, rescinds transparency

Posted

To the editor:

The replacement Tiverton Town Council’s second meeting on October 28 involved actions which should concern all Tiverton citizens and taxpayers.

First, the replacement president Hilton’s repeated banging of the gavel – louder and louder, faster and faster — to silence councilor Donna Cook’s free speech. Cook, the highest vote receiver elected member of the town council, concerned that the AFL-CIO, the umbrella union for the Teamsters and AFSME, sent a mailing in support of the recall to replace Katz, the fair and tough negotiator who was handling the ongoing negotiations for the teamsters and AFSME, said it was wrong to have council members who supported the recall, and benefitted from labor’s involvement, now handling the negotiations.

At one point, an angry Hilton called a ten minute recess and, upon return, scolded, “we are here to do the people’s business,” and threatened to have any council member who refuses to yield to her out of order command escorted out of the room by the town sergeant. Thankfully, Cook refused to be silenced and, throughout the banging of the gavel, did make her ultimate, very important point of what is most assuredly the people’s business, stating, “what was now perfectly clear: No free speech”.

Then, following its “no freedom of speech” action, the replacement town council rescinded an August 26, 2019, elected town council unanimous vote on a policy created by Coulter and Katz for the unsealing of executive session minutes when the matter was concluded — the purpose of which was to further the interests of transparency and accountability in the town council’s management of the people’s business.

The town clerk, then and now, fought this policy because she had no system in place to track each executive session item. Replacement councilor Edwards, after much discussion of DeMedeiros’ motion to reconsider/suspend this unsealing policy, made the motion to rescind it, which passed on a 4-3 vote. Voting in favor were Hilton, DeMedeiros, Edwards and Perry. Opposed were Cook, Driggs, and Clarke.

Note, in the August 26 elected town council meeting, Hilton and DeMedeiros voted for the policy to unseal executive session minutes, but that was before the recall election,when they must have felt appearing to support transparency was important. Also note, the lack of a system in the town clerk’s office, historically and now, to index these minutes. This indicates a clear expectation that these closed executive session minutes were never going to be released, that the Tiverton citizens were never going to be able to see how the people’s business, for which the taxpayers have to foot the bill, was done. What is being hidden?

Nancy Driggs

Member, Tiverton Town Council

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