MOUNT PLEASANT — Things got heated Monday among residents, board members and Village President Dave DeGroot during the public comment portion of a Mount Pleasant board meeting.
Kelly Gallaher, a village resident and local activist, was barred from speaking and has filed a complaint with the village. In the complaint, she states that DeGroot “does not possess the authority” to choose who speaks during public comments or require her to submit a written or oral apology to the board.
Multiple residents raised concerns during the meeting about the new project director being hired while the village is without an administrator.
Another exchange between DeGroot and resident Alfonso Gardner almost led to Gardner being escorted out of the Village Hall, 8811 Campus Drive, although he ended up leaving voluntarily.
When Gallaher tried to speak about the project director, DeGroot voiced his discontent with a previous incident with Gallaher.
“Before you speak ever again in these chambers, you have to have a way, way better idea of the conduct that is expected of you when you’re speaking at a public meeting,” DeGroot said. “The last time you spoke here, upon leaving the table and walking away, you dropped the F-bomb not once, but twice, and it was noticed by many people in these chambers.”
At that point, Village Trustee Jon Hansen interrupted and said “This is public comment, this is not public reprimand.”
DeGroot responded by saying “She is not speaking until some things are taken care of.”
Hansen and DeGroot both said that the other was “out of order.”
DeGroot struck the gavel and said to Hansen “You’re out of order. Once more and you’re gone.”
“Ms. Gallaher, you’re very fortunate that I did not hear your outburst because I would’ve thrown you out on your can,” DeGroot said.
Hansen interrupted, but DeGroot struck the gavel again and said “Number two for you,” but Hansen tried to make an argument saying “These are residents of our community.”
DeGroot warned Hansen by saying “If I hit this gavel one more time you’re gone for the rest of the meeting.”
‘Nothing to apologize for’
DeGroot turned his direction back to Gallaher and said if he would have heard her curse he would have had her cited or arrested for disorderly conduct.
“So having said that, you will not be speaking in these chambers again until I have heard an oral apology that’s suitable to me and the rest of this board,” DeGroot said. “Number two, I’m not going to hear an oral apology from you until I read a written one that has been delivered to me five business days before this board meets so I can check the credibility of it because you have had a long history of issues with the truth. Go back and sit down.”
Gallaher briefly addressed DeGroot and said she didn’t know what meeting he was referencing when this incident took place.
“You have accused me of something and I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Gallaher said. “So there won’t be an apology letter because I don’t feel that I have anything to apologize for.”
After the meeting, Gallaher said she found the interaction with DeGroot to be inappropriate, punitive and “childish.”
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Gallaher said. “It was very non-specific. I think he just doesn’t want to hear people talk.”
DeGroot said the public is given a chance to speak at the public meetings as long as they don’t curse; however, it is not the place to have a debate between board members and residents.
“If I’m going to be challenged at every meeting going forward, then I guess I’m going to have to get used to throwing people out,” DeGroot said. “At the end of the day, this is a business meeting and we debate and vote on stuff in front of the board, and I just can’t have the distraction of people shooting their mouth off.”