Hard feelings from a power struggle between two committees in Warren County government still linger as evident by a verbal altercation between two commissioners this week.
Safety Committee chair Ron Lee and Corrections Partnership Committee chair Joseph Stotts exchanged words during Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Warren County Commission over failed email communication between the two.
“I don’t do emails,” said Lee. “Mr. Stotts has my phone number and has called me before. If he’s got the wherewithal to call me and ask me a question, I’ll be glad to answer it. If he doesn’t, then he just needs to shut his mouth.”
Stotts replied, “There is no place in this courtroom or in any committee meeting for any commissioner to be telling any other commissioner to shut up or to be quiet or using derogatory language like was used just now by Mr. Lee during this commission meeting and that has been used by him in previous meetings of the County Corrections Partnership toward Commissioner (Steven) Helton. It should not be tolerated.”
The comments came after Stotts questioned Lee’s lack of reply to an email which was dated Jan. 22.
“Commissioner Lee, I sent you an email on Friday, Jan. 22,” said Stotts. “I’m going to read that email. I never received a response back from you so I’m going to ask you …”
Lee interjected, “Sir, I can tell you. I don’t do emails. The answer to your question is yes. OK?”
“I’m going to go ahead and read the email,” said Stotts.
Lee, “That’s fine.”
“Does the committee review updates from the Sheriff’s Department that fall outside the budget? For example, are there discussions about rehabilitation programs that might be beneficial to the jail? Are there typically discussions around recidivism rates at the jail and programs that have been implemented to make improvements?”
Lee replied, “Once again, the answer is yes.”
For more than a year, the two committees have been embroiled in a power struggle regarding oversight of the jail. The Corrections Partnership Committee lost that effort and is now dormant. However, the committee could become active, if needed.
Lee was contacted by the Southern Standard and asked about the exchange after the meeting.
“No comment,” said Lee.
Stotts was also contacted.
“Because he cussed Steven out and has already talked down to me by calling me ‘son’ in meetings,” said Stotts when asked why he didn’t call Lee privately. “So, why would one put themselves in a phone call where you know you would be cussed out for simply asking a question?”
During the meeting, Stotts called for a “point of order” from Commissioner Blaine Wilcher, County Commission chair, regarding Lee’s language.
A point of order is a query in a formal debate or meeting as to whether correct procedure is being followed.
Wilcher provided Stotts a personal opinion, “As a District 4 commissioner, I completely 100% agree with you.”