Tempers flared leading one commissioner to storm out during the Warren County Commissioners Meeting Monday night.
Commissioner Michael Martin had several questions for and comments to elected officials and department heads which led to heated discussions on at least three separate occasions prompting Commissioner Gary Prater to get up and walk out during the full court meeting.
Prater said, “I thought somebody should have escorted him (Martin) out of the meeting. I don’t come to County Commission meetings to hear a bunch of arguing, so I got up and left.”
Martin had questions for Les Trotman, who addressed the commissioners in the absence of Industrial Development Board representative Jeff McCormick.
“Why are we still paying him?” asked Martin, referring to McCormick. “Is Jeff McCormick leaving at the end of this month?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” said Trotman.
“Why? His 90 day contract should be up,” said Martin.
Trotman said, “It is a monthly basis. We each have the possibility of canceling that contract with a 30 day notice.
“It says 90 days. You said you would get rid of him and he’s still there,” said Martin.
Trotman said, “As soon as we find a candidate that is a suitable replacement, he’ll be gone. We can’t afford to be without a recruiter. It’s just that simple.”
Jason Simmons, Codes and Environmental Officer, was also asked questions by Martin concerning a property on Leesburg Road which has several abandoned vehicles lining the property.
“I’ve got a question about the junkyard. Why have you not gone to court about that? We have $145,000 to pay for litigation. It’s in our budget,” said Martin.
Simmons said he was unaware that money was in the budget for litigation.
County Executive John Pelham said, “I am not familiar with $145,000 for litigation that you are referring to.”
Prater said, “If we have $145,000 for litigation, we need to find out exactly where it’s at and how it can be spent because that’s a lot of money just to be laying around. If it’s laying around and Mr. Martin knows about it but none of the rest of us know about it we need to find out more about that.”
Pelham said he, too, was unaware of an extra $145,000 sitting in the budget specifically for the purpose of litigation. Pelham said he and Simmons have discussed the possibility of going to court and litigation would most likely go above and beyond what their retainer is.
“Now that’s not to say, we don’t have to take people to court, but, if there’s a way that we can work it out without litigation, we try,” said Pelham.
Simmons said, “Mr. Martin, if I may, I had a lot rather befriend these people and get them to do what they need to do than drag them to court.”
Martin said, “Well, I’m just following the policy. There ain’t no use having a policy if you aren’t going to follow it.”
The heated discussion between Commissioner Sally Brock, Chairman of the Health and Welfare Committee, and Martin was the straw that broke Commissioner Prater’s back. Prater got up and left during the argument that ensued across the courtroom. Martin sits on one side of the courtroom while Brock sits on the other side.
Brock reported to the commissioners that four or five dogs had been adopted from Animal Control at the new rate of $85 which includes spaying or neutering. She also said several animals had been taken to various rescues.
“You haven’t put down an animal since Feb. 1 up to March 15,” said Martin.
“Yes, and we don’t intend to either as long as we can find them homes,” said Brock.
“It states five days in the policy,” said Martin.
“It doesn’t say that, Michael. We have the option ...,” said Brock.
At this point, Pelham told Martin and Brock to address all comments to him, not each other.
Martin yelled, “I’m speaking to her because she is the chairman of the committee.”
Pelham said, “You will address me.”
“I don’t have to address you! I’m speaking to the chairman over there. Let’s look at the rules and policies,” said Martin.
Pelham said, “You will address me as the chairman of this court or we will end this discussion.”
Martin replied, “Then lets look at the policy! I’m tired of you trying to keep people quiet in this courtroom.”
County attorney Rick Stacy stood and said he had a copy of Animal Control’s policy with him. “The policy doesn’t say we’re going to put down animals after five days. The policy says ‘any dog or cat impounded that is wearing a current rabies vaccination tag shall be kept for a period of five business days and if not redeemed within such period may be placed up for adoption or humanely destroyed or otherwise disposed of.’ So all that’s saying is, we must keep the animal for five days or it could either be adopted or put down. We don’t have a mandatory policy that an animal must be put down,” said Stacy.
Stacy was reading Article XI, Disposition of unclaimed dogs or cats, located in Warren County Animal Control’s Rules and Regulations.
Martin said, “Why are you keeping them for more than five days then but aren’t taking more animals in? You aren’t doing the taxpayers any service then.”
Pelham replied, “We are making sure that we answer all calls on stray animals and animals that are considered dangerous and vicious. Something we are doing different is, we are seeing a high number of people who own animals and it’s owner surrender. They are calling Animal Control and saying, “We want to turn our dogs or our cats in.’ We can understand that there may be cases where people get older and have to go in the nursing home possibly or have sickness or another valid reason for an animal surrender. If that’s the case, we take it. But, for people who just say to us they don’t want their animals anymore, then and they want us to take them because they don’t want to try and find a home for them. These are the animals we want to stay away from and these situations.”
Martin said, “If you’ve got people with an animal, and you’re not going to take it, then what are they going to do with it?” They’ve not been spayed or neutered. Your going to have more animals running around.”
Pelham said, “Well, if you are the owner of the animal, you should be a responsible pet owner. If you took this animal and now you have no reason, justifiably, why you desire to turn it over to Animal Control, you need to keep your animal or find a home for it.”
Twenty-three members were present at the meeting before Prater left. Kenneth Rogers was absent.