By Stan Welch
Every circus has a star, and Tuesday night, at the Anderson County council meeting, the star was District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd.
Feeling offended and oppressed by the actions of the Council Chair at the last meeting, Floyd sought and received fifteen minutes on the agenda to redress her grievances. It was simply Floyd’s latest in a series of numerous complaints about her treatment as a black woman on a largely white male council.
She made the most of her opportunity, during a segment of the agenda listed simply as Protocol. She began by reminding the Council and a sparse audience of perhaps a dozen people that she was elected in 1999 to fill the seat vacated by the sudden death of her husband, William Floyd.
“I was a respected member of this Council back then. I worked hard for the people in my district. I initiated thirteen community projects in my district. I started a house rehabilitation project long before the one we have going on now. I started the bus system so that people could get to where they were going. I did all that,” Floyd said. “ I started programs for senior citizens in my district too.”
But then, the political winds in Anderson County changed, and, according to Floyd, “In 2008, a new council started their agenda.” (2008 was the year that several members of the sitting council were defeated in the primaries, making it clear that major changes would come . That realization led former county administrator to launch a pre-emptive strike that resulted in his receiving a $1.2 million payout; a maneuver that Floyd played a major role in.)
“There were a lot of changes but I can handle changes. What I can’t handle is the shabby treatment that I receive on this council.” She went on to refer to the previous meeting, saying that the man she was talking to (she would not mention Councilman Waters by name) had said that the finance committee had voted on several items. “I called for a point of order because I know that committees can’t vote on anything. The whole council has to vote on things like that.”
“Before I could even get started talking, I was being yelled at and that gavel was tap tap tapping. The chairman took away my right to speak, and I can’t stand that.”
By this point, Floyd had left her seat and had come down to the court room floor in front of the bench. She moved back and forth from side to side, speaking as she went. “Roberts Rules of Order are what we go by. I can’t put up with people who don’t know what they are talking about. I can’t put up with the way I am treated. I really fear that someday, someone on this council is going to hit me. They will get so worked up that they will hit me.”
She went on to imply that she is fearful of confrontation in the courthouse building as well. “I stay away from the courthouse for weeks at a time because I don’t want to get into anything with these people on their power kicks.”
She then had an assistant run a video clip of the part of the meeting that she was referring to. The clip was hardly a smoking gun of parliamentary abuse. It showed Waters making the statement that the committee had voted on several items, at which point Floyd immediately called a point of order.
Chairman Tommy Dunn declined to grant that request, saying that he understood that Waters meant that the committee had simply and properly voted to recommend acceptance of its recommendations. He further stated clearly that the Council would address each item separately, and vote as an entire body, as the law requires.
When Floyd continued to protest, he did indeed gavel her down, saying that the council would proceed.
Floyd continued to pace the floor, and challenged the new members of council for failing to come to her aid during the original confrontation. She concluded by saying that seminars are needed to train the council in proper protocol.
Chairman Dunn immediately asked for an extension of the time allotted so that he could respond.
Council voted to extend the time, and Dunn explained to the council and the audience that as Chairman, it was one of his duties to understand Robert’s Rules. “A point of order is not called to ask to have the air conditioning turned on or the lights dimmed. It is a specific request to address a rules issue. Those who want to cite Robert’s Rules would do well to actually read them.”
The Council then moved through the remainder of the agenda, passing several ordinances and introducing several for first reading.
But the issue raised by Floyd was far from over for the evening. During the segment of the agenda reserved for council members’ comments, Mr. Graham and Mr. Wooten, the council’s two new members, both expressed their regret for Floyd’s concerns and their willingness to work with everyone on the council.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was less passive.
Wilson, who began her tenure on the Council at the same time as Floyd recalled a laundry list of incidents where she was subjected to much ruder and more abusive conduct by earlier councils. She mentioned such events as the council voting to allocate her recreation funds as they saw fit. She also recalled an incident in the council’s private office area where she says Floyd deliberately bumped into her on the stairs, causing her to stumble.
She also referred to the November 2008 meeting where Floyd played a key role in the buyout of Preston that subsequently led to years of legal action; legal action that continues to this day.
Floyd introduced Easley attorney Candy Kern Fuller, who subsequently led the legal assault on the county, as her “personal” attorney. Ironically, Floyd has consistently complained about the amount of money spent on those legal battles.