A disgruntled citizen left midway through the Kilmarnock town council meeting held Monday, Nov. 19.
Lee Spivey, a recent appointee as vice-chairman on the Kilmarnock planning commission, walked out of the meeting after taking issue with council practices.
Spivey believed that the council excluded the public from discussion of proposed changes to the town charter.
“I feel that the town’s public has been left out of this process,” Spivey told the council as he began to walk out. “You all may have made the perfect change, and I don’t disagree with you, but…maybe you should consider being a little more open to what the public thinks about things.”
Spivey’s comments came during a public hearing that concerned proposed revisions to the town charter. After Town Attorney Chris Stamm and Town Manager Tom Saunders described the proposed revisions to council and the public, Spivey expected that the council would open the matter for public discussion.
Instead, council entered a heated discussion over the legitimacy of the proposed revisions that Stamm had found to be legally appropriate.
Spivey told Mayor Raymond Booth: “I think you guys are all out of order. [The agenda] said the description of proposed changes was going to be by Mr. Saunders and the town attorney, and then you were going to recess for the public hearing, and then hear public comments, and then staff comments, and then you were going to close the public hearing, and then you were going to have town council review and action, which you’ve all just had.”
Spivey continued: “The public still has not had the chance to put their comments in, and you have not recessed it into a public hearing, so I’d say that conversation was totally out of order.”
He went on: “I’m not saying I disagree with the changes. My question is, are you sure you are running this the right way? I know you didn’t run [the public hearing] the right way.”
Spivey then turned to leave. Councilwoman Rebecca Nunn stopped him on his way out.
“At the VML Conference, I attended a charter [panel] and this is what they said to do: we put it in a committee…and then you have a public hearing,” Nunn told Spivey. “If you have any suggestions for changes, we’d love to hear him.”
Although Spivey did not have changes to suggest, he questioned the process in which the council tried to include the public. “You’re only having one public hearing,” he said in reference to the charter. “You’re not doing the normal things you do for other things like budgets where you have two, or where you have a public hearing at the planning commission where you’re doing a zoning change and then again at the town council. It’s only one little public hearing.”
When Spivey declared the council to be out of order: Booth, before opening the public hearing, said: “We have every right at the table to question description from staff.”
Spivey spoke during the public comments section: “Is this the proper way you alter a charter without the public having input? Do you just get together with a committee, and they decide on the comments, and they tell us the changes, and then you have the public hearing, where I would say the majority of the people in this town have no idea first of all what you’re changing, why you’re changing it, and what it does to them anyway, and now you’re going to approve it?”