McDermott’s response to her ejection from the Sept. 8 BOC meeting

Published 11:17 pm Thursday, September 11, 2014

Commissioner Michael Gage used the Sept. 8 meeting to accuse me, and the other members of the 2010 Board of Commissioners, of unlawful misconduct in what Gage publicly conceded from the podium was retaliation for the questioning and criticism of his board’s conduct in office.
Chairman Ted Owens abetted Gage in this effort, not only by failing to call him out of order for his indisputable violation of the meeting decorum, prohibiting Commissioners from attacking citizens or other commissioners, but also by refusing to allow me to respond to Commissioner Gage’s slanderous allegations.  Then, at Commissioner Tom Pack’s second urging, Commissioner Owens had me ejected from the meeting.
This was a clear abuse of office and a plain effort to silence my (and all other citizens’) First Amendment rights to comment on what we sincerely believe to be the continuing malfeasance in office by the majority of this Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Gage’s slander involved a 2010 meeting in which then Commissioners (of which I was one) discussed a possible settlement with a delinquent industrial taxpayer that provided jobs for county residents.  Our only intent was to help save the jobs during the recession.  None of the participants in that meeting (five commissioners, the then county attorney and the then county manager) was aware that the possible settlement was inconsistent with an obscure tax rule.

The present county attorney said, in the Sept. 8 meeting, that this was not surprising, given the rule’s obscurity.  When we asked the tax assessor about the action that was discussed (as the 2010 minutes clearly said we intended to do), he advised us it was not permissible.  The proposal was dropped and no action was taken.

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The current county attorney clearly said there had been no wrongdoing, yet the majority continued, ignoring her advice.   Commissioners Gage, Owens, Holbert and Pack were not at the 2010 meeting and had no first-hand knowledge about it.  I was there.  Commissioners Gage and Pack were allowed to speak at length about the 2010 meeting.  I was allowed to say nothing, even after Commissioner Gasperson asked that I be allowed to speak.  His request was ignored.

Chairman Ted Owens repeatedly refused to allow me any opportunity to respond, shaking his head “no” with an angry look on his face each time I silently raised my hand asking to speak.

The next day, I asked Ted Owens why he had refused to let me respond to Gage’s allegations that I, and the rest of the 2010 board, had acted unlawfully.  Ted said it was because of the “new rules”, that allow citizens to speak for only three minutes and only at the beginning of the meeting.  He said allowing me to respond to Gage would have broken the rules.  I reminded Ted that his majority had made the rules, and that they could have allowed an exception under these unusual circumstances.  He said they could not, and that they never would.

The Sept. 8 Commissioners meeting was, sadly, a politically motivated kangaroo court.  Only the “prosecution” was allowed to speak.  The accused was made to be silent, even to the point of having her hauled out of the room.


Renée McDermott,

Tryon, N.C.