Council chair’s disdain for citizens shows through at meeting

‘Call the Tune’ by Mike Anthony

By Mike Anthony

County Council Chairman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, continues to show his disdain for the citizens he supposedly serves, not to mention council members with whom he disagrees.

As readers may recall, O’Mara summoned a police officer to force an Oakville resident off the podium after the resident told the County Council March 22 he had a few more things he wished to say beyond the council’s three-minute time limit on speakers.

As we noted, O’Mara’s ham-fisted response clearly was uncalled for and unnecessary. Equally inept was O’Mara’s response last week to a suggestion by 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, that a council Committee of the Whole meeting be moved from the council’s small conference room to the council’s chambers to accommodate the number of people present.

“I have a question, Mr. Chair. The room is full. Don’t you think we should move to the chambers so we can accommodate everyone?” Erby asked.

“No, we’re fine right here,” O’Mara replied.

O’Mara apparently was unconcerned that some of those present were forced to stand for the roughly 45-minute meeting. How difficult would it have been to move the meeting to the adjacent chambers, which has seating for roughly 240 people?

Perhaps a review of Missouri’s Open Meetings and Records Act would be in order for O’Mara, as the law states, “Each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public and of sufficient size to accommodate the anticipated attendance by members of the public, and at a time reasonably convenient to the public …”

Given that the committee planned to meet with county Election Directors Eric Fey and Gary Fuhr to discuss the countywide ballot shortages that plagued the April 5 election, it would be reasonable to surmise that such a meeting would attract quite a crowd — despite starting at 2:30 p.m.

We don’t know how anyone could consider a meeting in the middle of the afternoon “a time reasonably convenient to the public …”

The location and time weren’t lost on Erby, who said, “I think it’s terrible that we’re holding this in this room — with the number of people that we have and the level of importance.

“Also, the time of day that it’s held, there are a lot of people who could not be here in the middle of the day, so I think that was orchestrated as well.”

Capping the inconvenient location and time was the fact that the public was not permitted to speak.