Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 23, 2013

Council tackles decorum in special meeting

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council discussed “compliance with Robert’s Rules of Order and decorum of council meetings” during its special-called meeting May 17, following a request by Councilman Pete Souza.

“This council has regressed,” began Souza. “The decorum of the council has been less than admirable.”

Souza explained that Robert’s Rules of Order allows debaters to “condemn in strong terms the nature of the consequences. It is the measure, not the person.”

“Losing our temper here is unsatisfactory,” cautioned Souza. He then addressed Mayor J. H. Graham saying, “I believe you have an anger control problem. I would ask you to work on that please, sir.” Souza continued, “The other thing that bothers me is sometimes, in having the gavel, I don’t believe the control of the council is being done appropriately. If someone opposes your view you will let them cut into them.”

Souza requested that the mayor be neutral in dealing with all matters while running the meeting.

“While you’re running this council and the proceedings,” Souza said, “I ask that you treat everybody on an equal plane. You maintain the order of the meeting and do not let anybody bully, take over the meeting or in any way overpower another member of this council.”

Graham responded, “I think that is a fair request.”

“And each member of this council, including myself,” Souza continued, “I ask that we start entertaining the concept that we respect each other. While we are in this chamber, we need to start respecting one another.”

Souza also asked that in the future that a motion be made to adjourn the meeting, something that is currently not practiced. Souza said no second is required, simply a motion and then a vote is taken.

Before the meeting adjourned, Graham recognized Tony Perry of WIHG radio, who said he hoped to clear up some confusion stemming from a comment made by Souza in an interview for the radio station. Perry explained the interview came after the tabling of an agenda item on “arming city employees” and Perry said he asked Souza if he felt all employees should be armed. Perry said Souza said “No, absolutely not.”

When asked, Souza told Perry that his concern was that all firemen and police officers were fully in sync with city policy and regulations. Souza also said he was concerned about liability of the city of Crossville. Souza continued that “he did not want any cowboys running around out there.” Perry added that at no time did Mr. Souza indicate that he felt the current fire and police department were unqualified to carry weapons. He wanted to make sure all employees carrying firearms were in compliance with city policy.

The news story became a part of the regular May city council meeting under discussion when a member of the fire department took issue with the comment about cowboys. Perry said that while Souza said his attorneys had contact the station, they had not heard anything about the issue as of Friday’s meeting.

Souza responded to Perry’s remarks and said that his attorney had sent a letter to the station concerning the matter of the story and a post on the station’s Facebook page. Souza continued saying, “The word about cowboy stuff got totally out of hand. At no time have I ever seen, heard or believed that the police department has ever done anything improperly. Unfortunately, on two different occasions I saw acts by an individual that was not safe.”

According to Souza, in order not to single out any one person, he put together a package relative to the safety of all the armed people in the city. He said he gave that to the city manager to review.

“I want this issue over because it has affected the morale of the fire department and the police department.” Souza then recounted stories from his life while in military service to his country as a U.S. Marine, including incidents in which he and others were shot through accidental discharges of weapons. Souza said he had been shot twice himself and had five attempts made on his life in the performance of his duties outside of Vietnam.

“The arming of people is a critical component of maintaining order in this city,” said Souza. “There is no forgiveness of an accidental discharge. Every officer has to be aware of that at all time.” Souza concluded, “If I have to be made an ass to keep one man from being hurt, I’ll do it. Because the only thing I care about is the safety of our employees and our citizens.”