Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said the county’s public comment policy was followed when he ordered law enforcement officers to remove a man during a meeting last week.
“I don’t take back what I did,” Griesheimer told The Missourian Monday.
Villa Ridge resident Eric Reichert was making “personal attacks” against the county commission last week before officers escorted him from the building, Griesheimer said.
But Reichert said it was wrong for him to be removed from the meeting and that Griesheimer “overreacted.”
“I’m not a serf; I’m a citizen,” Reichert told The Missourian Tuesday.
The “decorum” section of the county’s public comment policy states that “any person who violates this policy may be removed from the meeting and/or barred from all future comments.”
It also states that the presiding commissioner has the authority to take whatever action is necessary to maintain order at a meeting.
Griesheimer said he felt that Reichert violated the public comment policy and therefore had him escorted away by law enforcement.
But Reichert told The Missourian Tuesday that he has the “moral high ground” in the matter because he did not do anything wrong, still had time on the clock left to speak and was not disrespectful.
Griesheimer is attempting to “frame” this issue, Reichert said. Griesheimer is only causing a problem for himself by not being open and transparent and not allowing a citizen to speak about county business during the public comment time at meetings, Reichert asserted.
Reichert was thrown out of last week’s meeting after making public comments about proposed changes to the county’s zoning code. In his comments, he said the proposed changes were an attempt to further the commission’s agenda. He also told the commission that the county’s public hearing process is a “sham.”
At the Tuesday meeting, Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz lamented the problems that arose last week.
Schatz was not at the meeting when Reichert was removed but said Tuesday that the commissioners and the citizens should address each other in a courteous manner.
“From a personal standpoint from this point forward I would like to see us move along with respect to the differences of opinion that people may have regarding what this commission does,” Schatz said.
Schatz added that he wants to hear citizens’ comments whether they are positive or negative. He would like to see the discourse between the public and commissioners be done in a way that is not adversarial or mocking.
“I think we’re all bigger than that,” Schatz said. “It just amazes me when I read stuff in the paper, and it doesn’t have to be there.”
This was not an isolated incident with Reichert, Griesheimer said. The commission has had problems with him and others over the past few years, he said. Those who disagreed with Reichert being removed from the meeting might have a different opinion if they had witnessed the way the commission has been treated by a few residents over the years, Griesheimer added. The commission deserves better than that, he added.
Griesheimer said he values people’s opinions but does not think most people would put up with what he has over the years.
He said the only criticism he’s heard on Reichert’s removal is that he did not do it sooner.
At this point, Reichert will be allowed to make comments at future county commission meetings, Griesheimer said.