There’s no denying political discussions can get heated. And sometimes the county council is no different. The meeting on Tuesday night began the same as any other, discussing council business and working toward discussions and decisions of items on the agenda.
Tensions shifted when council member, Ned Mecham made a formal response to a letter read by council member Tina Cannon, during the April 17 meeting, stating several concerns about behavior from four other council members. Cannon openly opposed the discussion, since it was not on the itemized agenda.
Mecham’s response addressed concerns about council members’ treatment of the clerk and treasurer’s office, stating, “I’ve heard many disparaging and demeaning remarks to our clerk and treasurers in public meetings.” Mecham continued stating he was personally witness to incidents of “extreme anger moments directed at county employees” from council members
Discussion continued when Cannon rebuffed remarks about accusations against the State audit, and denied making any comments regarding alleged illegal behavior of the council. She said, “my concern remains as a member of this council and as the only elected official with practical accounting experience…my concern remains for the citizens of this community that the proper [financial] controls are put in place.”
As discussions escalated numerous allegations against different council members were brought to the public. Specific allegations of council members misusing county funds and manipulating pay raises were brought to light.
When reached for comment, the state auditor’s office responded saying there is no investigation within their office as all information was turned over to the Morgan County Council.
The question of any open investigations was then brought to the County Attorney, Jann Ferris. Ferris stated, “there is no investigation going on from my office. I was witness to the discussion on the pay raises and nothing was handled wrong. If someone said certain council members manipulated spreadsheets for raises…it is complete lies.”
The meeting turned into a shouting match between council members, even drawing remarks from some of the public in attendance. The sheriff was forced to stand and diffuse the situation. Topics ranged from allegations from 2016 to present. It was reiterated there are no open investigations from the county attorney’s office, although Ferris stated, directed toward council member, Cannon, “I cannot open investigations I was a witness for. If you want to use another attorney’s office, let’s do it.”
Council member, John Barber had a final statement before the meeting adjourned saying, “I hope we start to get along as a council and we can address these issues with one another…because to continue to meddle in portfolio assignments has set us back 3 years. I think 2 things have to happen. We have to communicate better. And we need to get along. I am quite embarrassed about tonight. I just ask for common courtesy. Maybe we [county council] should have a work session before each meeting so we can air things out that are on the agenda. For me, tonight wasn’t business.”
Council chair, at large, Ned Mecham has included all documents discussed during the meeting in the council minutes for the public to review on their own, in the hope to be transparent.