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Unicoi board unanimously approves agenda policy; alderwoman’s husband told to leave meeting

Sue Guinn Legg • Aug 22, 2017 at 10:46 PM

UNICOI — There were two minor items of business on the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s monthly meeting agenda Monday, a liquor store license renewal and an zoning ordinance amendment, which were expected to make for an uneventful evening at Town Hall.

But in the latest in a series of heated debates between two at-odds factions in Unicoi, the board unanimously approved a policy on how items of business may be added to its agenda and Alderwoman Kathy Bullen’s husband was ejected from the meeting room.

Alderman Roger Cooper, who sent an email to the Johnson City Press on Sunday saying Mayor Johnny Lynch “uses censorship to control the board’s agenda,” on Tuesday said he has emails documenting that Town Recorder Mike Housewright told him “the mayor controls the agenda” and that Town Attorney Lois Shults-Davis “beat around the bush” and “refused to answer” his questions about Lynch’s authority to do so.

Lynch said Tuesday the board’s discussion of the agenda policy was initiated by Cooper’s dissatisfaction with how his request to add the town’s new Mountain Harvest Kitchen to Monday’s agenda was handled.

The problem, according to Lynch, was Cooper did not specify that he wanted to discuss the kitchen’s usage and fee policies, and a kitchen committee report was already on the agenda.

“The kitchen committee report was already on the agenda and he could talk about it then. It was duplicitous. And (Town Attorney) Lois (Shults-Davis) told him that,” Lynch said.

Town Recorder Mike Housewright said he personally drafts the board’s agendas and goes over them with Lynch five or six days before the meetings before sending the agendas out for publication.

Lynch said aldermen have always been able to place items on the agenda, but must do so five or six days in advance of the meeting to allow time for the agenda’s publication.

“Aldermen have been adding things to the agenda since the town was created 22 years ago. But we didn’t have a policy, and I voted for it wholeheartedly,” Lynch said.

Lynch said he instructed a deputy to remove Bullen’s husband from the meeting after he “stood up and had a fit” because Lynch had used the mayor’s gavel to call Bullen out of order.

Bullen said Tuesday she was the one who asked her husband to leave, and that he was out the door before the deputy got to him.

Lynch said, at that point, that the meeting had gotten out of control and he already had gaveled a woman in the audience out of order for heckling him when the incident with Bullen’s husband occurred.

“That meeting was ridiculous,” Lynch said.

”Kathy was making personal accusations that were more about personalities than (town) business ... I gaveled her out of order. And when I gaveled Kathy out of order, her husband stood up and threw a fit. So I had him taken out.”

Bullen said, “I was calling (Lynch) out because of how he conducts his business. He had called out a woman in the audience who said something to him and I had two men on the front row doing the same thing to me and he didn’t do anything. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Bullen said.

“My husband said ‘you can’t shut her up.’ (He) stood up to support me and I just told him ‘I appreciate it, but go the car.’ He went out the door and the deputy went out behind him. And that’s how that happened.

“I have a very good husband. He does that to protect me. He doesn’t like people to speak rudely to me.”

Bullen said, citizens of Unicoi read the agenda to see if there are any items of business that interest them so they can attend the board meetings to hear those items discussed.

She said the agenda’s routine list of more than a dozen committee and departmental reports does not assure an item is going to be discussed, and that business items need to be listed as such.

She said she had never personally added an item to the agenda in advance of its publication but had followed Robert’s Rules of Order for adding unpublished items of business to the agenda during the board’s meetings.

“Usually the way I add something is I just start talking about it,” she said.

Lynch said he was riled by Bullen and Cooper accusing him and others in town government of wrongdoing and had announced to the board and to the audience that, going forward, Robert’s Rules of Order would be followed more closely.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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