Como Board agenda

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 15, 2011

Aldermen exclude two from agenda

By John Howell Sr.

Differences in opinion over the role of a meeting of the town’s mayor and aldermen surfaced during Tuesday night’s April meeting of Como’s elected officials when two people initially listed on the agenda as wanting to speak about “unfair treatment by the police department” were excluded.

Irma Cleveland and Rachel Powell were listed on the agenda that Mayor Everette Hill asked aldermen to approve at the opening of the April 12 meeting.

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Alderman Teresa Dishmon made a motion to accept the agenda. When her motion failed to find a second, aldermen discussed several of the visitors listed, including Cleveland and Powell.

“That has been turned over to an outside agency for investigation,” Como Police Chief Fred Boskey said, “and I wouldn’t recommend discussing anything about it in a public meeting.”

“So what y’all are saying, y’all don’t want to hear the ladies … ?” Mayor Hill asked.

“I don’t think we can if it’s getting looked at by someone else; we’re not a judicial group here,” Alderman Bill Mitchell said.

Boskey, replying to a question from Powell, said he had turned the investigation over to the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.

Alderman Forster Ruhl made the motion to accept the agenda with the exclusion of Cleveland and Powell “because of counsel from our attorney and our police chief.” Mitchell provided the second. The motion passed 4-0.

Hill returned to the subject late in the meeting, castigating his fellow officials.

“I think it was real disrespectful not to let them speak,” the mayor said. “Sometimes it would be good just to ask them what  they have to say before you cut them down,” he added.

The mayor said that he had met recently with 54 people about their complaints and “educated them about how to come to the board.”

“I told them, ‘There (is) no way I can let 54 people speak at a board meeting, but two of you can, but you can’t come in here hollering,’” Hill said. He told them to write about their complaint in a letter and present it to the board.

“That’s something I want y’all to think about in the future,” Hill said. “If people do have problems, how do people address them if they can’t come to their leaders.”

“What we’re concerned about is that you’ve got to watch what you say in these situations,” Mitchell said, “because we’re not … the judges here, we’re not a court. If we say anything, we might get hauled into court.”

Hill also urged citizens to take their complaints to the aldermen. “Everybody’s got an alderman.”

“I encourage y’all to go to your aldermen; knock on their door,” the mayor continued.

“When someone is able to stand up in a public meeting and complain about somebody without them able to stand up and defend themselves, it’s a one-sided argument,” Ruhl said. “To use this board meeting for that kind of forum is improper,” Ruhl continued, “complaints need to go through the proper channels; once those channels have been exhausted, … then they can address the board…”