The Alderson Town Council and Mayor Travis Copenhaver announced they would not be limiting public comment on the criminal charges filed against Copenhaver during the Thursday, January 13, meeting.
After a public comment on the issue, Copenhaver stated that he did not say he would restrict public comment relating to the criminal case filed against him, saying “I said that I would love to see that we not hear anything else and that … we do have the right to limit the public comment.”
In the December meeting, Councilmember Doris Kasley moved that “consideration of the matter of removing the mayor be ended and reconsidered only if and when the mayor is finally determined by the legal process to be guilty of official misconduct.” She continued, saying “any further discussion that this matter distracts from our consideration of other important business.” The council passed the motion in a four to one vote, with Councilmember Charlie Lobban voting against.
Later in the December meeting, Copenhaver stated “I will say this – if this vote passes, and this carries forward, it is our right to not hear any caller come and address council on this issue. If that is the case, this will not be open for public comment until such time. We do not have to allow sign in, we don’t have to allow people to speak. As Doris says, every month we hear the same banter.”
On Thursday, Copenhaver stated that his comment was a request for an amendment to Kasley’s motion, but that an amendment was not introduced or voted on.
“After answering several emails, starting with yours, the comment that I made was heard and it was reflected that we were going to limit [comment],” Copenhaver said. “I said I would like to. I made the statement, I will own it, I will fall on it. As I said, I’m sorry if anybody took it that it was indeed what my intentions were, but we did not amend Doris’s motion.”
“The council did not vote to say you couldn’t speak,” said Councilmember Ann Eskins.
After Copenhaver’s and council’s explanation, those giving public comments continued.
“We all got here and we all took that [to mean] that you all were not happy with things being questioned,” said Holly Gore. “I get that whole heartedly. … But in the position of council, you have said you will uphold the right of free speech. We might not like what that speech is.”
Sarah Alderson agreed.
“My concern was the statement that citizens speaking out was getting in the way of important business,” said Alderson. “Usually public speaking is at the end. You all have gone through everything on the agenda and… anything anybody speaks about here does not have to be acted on. … The things that you’re wanting to try to cut off, and that you were saying you didn’t want anybody talking about anymore, is an ongoing issue. … Our reputation is damaged, whether we like it or not and that is a concern of the citizens. Whether you want to hear it or not, that is town business and that is important. … You voted for that and you know what it sounded like.”
Alderson continued, pointing to the September Town Hall where members of the public called for Copenhaver’s resignation or Town Council action to remove him.
“You’ve been asked by the members of the town, you’ve been asked by Mr. Lobban to even just step aside,” Alderson said. “That would bring respect. … This is not a matter of liking you, or liking anybody else here, or what you do, .. or the matter of the rest of the job you do. It was requested because it is getting in the way [of] anything good we do right now. … I do feel for your family. I do feel for you, but I feel for all of us. I feel for the people affected by the actions that were taken … and all of our families trying to … make some excuse for it.”