During presentation to council
By Stan Welch
What began two weeks ago as a spat between District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd and several members of the Anderson County Council accelerated Tuesday night, as Floyd presented a prepared audio visual rebuttal to the Council and audience. The incident two weeks ago began in the most unlikely of circumstances. An item on the agenda dealing with the convention and visitors bureau came up. The proposal is for the county to sever its partnership with Innovate Anderson and the city of Anderson and establish an independent convention and visitor’s bureau. (CVB)
Floyd began asking a number of questions during the discussion, and Chairman Tommy Dunn began to engage her, telling her that the discussions about the proposal have been ongoing for more than a year. He intimated that Floyd’s sudden interest would have been more effective if she had become involved earlier. Floyd responded that the meetings in question began too early for her to attend.
Tensions continued to rise between the two, and Dunn finally suggested that if Floyd was unhappy with the answers he was giving her, she should ask the county administrator or attorney. Floyd responded several times that she was not looking for a fight with anyone. She alleged that secret meetings took place about the issue, to which Dunn responded that the so called secret meeting was in fact an executive session, which he could not talk about in the open Council meeting.
Floyd announced that she would simply bide her time, claiming that every time she tries to get information she gets treated the same way by Dunn.
Later in the evening, during the allocations of funds to various organizations by the Council members, the tensions flared again. Floyd stated that she was donating five thousand dollars to help fund a baseball program for the children in her district. District One Councilman Frances Crowder also tried to contribute four hundred dollars to the cause, but Floyd rejected it, saying that her district didn’t need any help. Crowder responded that part of his district was also in the city limits, which was his motivation in making the offer.
Dunn interrupted, saying “Let’s don’t make a big deal. The guy wants to give four hundred dollars to the city of Anderson to help the rec department.” Floyd stated that the program was for the children of Homeland Park and not the city itself. As more members got involved, Dunn called for the question, a motion that is not subject to discussion.
When Floyd insisted on continuing to talk, Dunn pushed the vote through. That did not stop Floyd who continued to press her case until Dunn reminded her that the agenda item was for making allocations, and not general discussion. She again complained that Dunn treats her differently than other Council members, to which Dunn retorted, “No, Ms. Floyd. Keep on. You always just babble, babble, babble. So keep on.”
The final flare up occurred during Council members’ comments at the end of the meeting. Floyd repeated her charges that Dunn mistreats her and asked if it is because she is a woman, or a Democrat, or black. The charges were nothing new, as she has repeated them on and off over several years. Dunn, for his part, frequently points out that Floyd’s level of preparation for various meetings results in her having to ask so many questions.
Floyd added something new to the mix at the meeting two weeks ago, declaring her intention to file an ethics complaint with the state ethics commission. She offered no specifics on the details of the complaint. She then left the meeting early, as she has done occasionally in the past.
But she clearly was not satisfied. This Tuesday night, she requested thirty minutes on the agenda, ostensibly to discuss the convention and visitor’s bureau. Announcing that she felt she would be safer there than on the dais with the rest of Council, she moved to the lectern used for audio visual presentations, where she had a county staffer on hand to help her with her show.
She showed video clips from the last meeting, and charged that Dunn was yelling and screaming at her, a description that was unsupported by her video evidence. She attacked the rest of the Council, saying “None of my counterparts said a word to this man who was having a temper tantrum, and bullying me.” Again, the visual evidence failed to support the charges made by Floyd.
After approximately twenty five minutes without any specific mention of the CVB, Floyd ended with an impassioned declaration to the effect that she will not be bullied, that she is not afraid. By the end, she was breathless and appeared to be exhausted.
Asked during a break for comment on Floyd’s rebuttal, Chairman Tommy Dunn had only two statements. “First, if she’s been on Council for sixteen years, you would think she would know Roberts’ Rules of Order, which clearly state that the chairman has it in his discretion to take actions to keep the meeting moving. Second, I will simply say that my record speaks for itself, and so does hers.”
The Council responded to Floyd’s outburst by giving second reading approval to the CVB proposal. They also gave second reading approval to a proposed change that would stagger the terms of the Council, which currently is subject to the potential replacement of the entire council during one election cycle.