Cuffing and arresting a citizen – not exactly spirit of Open Meetings Act

Greene County Industrial Development Board members were not using microphones, and sat at a table where some had backs to the public. Throwing out, cuffing and arresting someone who asked them to speak louder so people in the back could hear? Not exactly the spirit of the Open Meetings Act.

Details are in The Greeneville Sun’s story this morning.

Photo by Kristen Buckles, The Greeneville Sun Eddie Bruce Overholt, of Cocke County, protests as he is removed from the July 18 meeting of the Greene County Industrial Development Board (IDB) by a Greeneville police officer after Overholt spoke out following a warning from Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles. Broyles, the chairman of the IDB, had just warned that anyone who spoke out at the noisy meeting following his caution statement to the audience would be removed from the room. Overholt then spoke up to ask that the board members talk loudly enough for their discussion to be heard by the audience. He was eventually charged by a Greeneville police officer with disrupting a meeting and resisting arrest.

Photo by Kristen Buckles, The Greeneville Sun
Eddie Bruce Overholt, of Cocke County, protests as he is removed from the July 18 meeting of the Greene County Industrial Development Board (IDB) by a Greeneville police officer after Overholt spoke out following a warning from Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles. Broyles, the chairman of the IDB, had just warned that anyone who spoke out at the noisy meeting following his caution statement to the audience would be removed from the room. Overholt then spoke up to ask that the board members talk loudly enough for their discussion to be heard by the audience. He was eventually charged by a Greeneville police officer with disrupting a meeting and resisting arrest.

Here is yesterday’s post that included video of the incident

Citizens may not have heard all the deliberations, but they certainly heard the message from Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles who ordered the removal.

UPDATE July 22, 2014: WJHL in Johnson City reported that the Office of Open Records Counsel as of yesterday had received at least 42 Open Meetings complaints.  Many citizens may not realize they can file a complaint with the OORC. Her opinion doesn’t have the force of law, but she will look into the complaint and based on her understanding, will contact the governing entity if she thinks a violation may have occurred.

I know several people are upset that they didn’t get to speak at the Greene County Industrial Development Board public meeting. As far as our Open Meetings laws, they don’t secure a right to participate in an open meeting. But a key open government issue in this case is the responsibility of the board — or any governing body — to ensure that its public meetings are audible to the citizens attending. In other words, is access to a meeting essentially “denied” if a governing body holds a public meeting but does not speak loud enough or use microphones, or otherwise make sure their deliberations can be heard? This is an important question in the situation in Greene County, but also for all public meetings held in Tennessee.

TCOG believes that governing bodies do have that responsibility to ensure their deliberations in a public meeting are audible. And that anything otherwise would be contrary to the spirit and the purpose of the Open Meetings Act.

Here is the latest Greeneville Sun story in which Mr. Overholt explains his treatment in police custody.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Cuffing and arresting a citizen – not exactly spirit of Open Meetings Act

    • Fisher Post author

      Thank you, Robin, for commenting. I know that several people have filed an Open Meetings complaint with the Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel. I think one key issue is the IDB board’s responsibility (and the responsibility of any governing entity) to make sure that their meetings are audible to the public that attends. To do anything otherwise seems to be in contradiction to the Open Meetings Law which exists so that citizens can have access to see and hear deliberations of a governing body.

      Reply
      • Linda Darnell

        I dont know what Allen Broyles had to hide if everthing was on the up and up. Or was it? Allen Broyles this makes you look suspicious.

        Reply

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