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Let the people speak


July 17, 2014 Letters to the Editor

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Last week’s Butler County Commissioners meeting again accentuated the commissioners’ contempt for taxpayers during public comment time.

Last June, in a reckless move to stifle public input, the commissioners nixed the public comment period at meetings’ end, thus minimizing residents’ previous right to address commissioners on any subject.

Citizens are now allowed a mere three minutes to speak, and only at the beginning of the meeting; otherwise, the gavel will declare them “out of order.”

Since then, the public comment time has been regularly dominated by Commissioner Jim Eckstein and his secretary Margaret Aebersold, both county employees.

Aebersold speaks about anything on her mind, but nothing really pertaining to county governance. It’s then ludicrous when Eckstein walks down from the dais to address the other commissioners from the public speakers’ podium; this spectacle is asinine, unprofessional and juvenile.

At a recent meeting, after finishing his so-called “public comments,” Eckstein sat back on the dais and actually wanted to comment back to himself about his own public comments. What ridiculous and disgraceful behavior, and it’s being condoned at each meeting by the board chair.

Last Thursday, moreover, Chairman Bill McCarrier was quoted in the Butler Eagle as saying public-comment time policy “states any comments must be regarding issues that may come before the board.” Actually, the county’s written policy allows public input on any topic relating to the county — and not just on possible agenda items.

As taxpayers, all county residents have the right to address the commissioners at any public meeting about any concern. However, accusations, name-calling, inappropriate behavior, complaining, distractions and time wasting all originate from the commissioners themselves and not from the public.

It’s ironic that when County Sheriff Michael Slupe requested to give an activity report on behalf of his elected office, McCarrier denied it by ruling it as not pertaining to “county business.” An important sheriff’s update on warrants issued/served ruled as not being county business?

Boy, the chair’s authoritative attitude is now way out of control.

Taxpayers witnessed one elected official, McCarrier, denying another elected official, the sheriff, from speaking at a public meeting. An obvious political move as Commissioner Eckstein and his secretary can speak on anything with impunity.

In next year’s election, I hope voters elect three new commissioners who can work together for all the people and bring an end to the circus that the board of commissioners has become. In the meantime, chaos, waste and disorganization run rampant; and as public input is ignored or belittled, nothing really gets accomplished — other than bickering and namecalling — and spending just keeps going up.

A committee of county resident volunteers should immediately be formed and charged with writing a sensible county policy on public comment that protects and preserves the right of every taxpayer to give input into governance deliberations — input that the board chair absurdly claims as not being county business.

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