Individual removed from MSD meeting treated ‘respectfully,’ ‘politely’

To the editor:

After three separate columns and stories, it is time to view events surrounding an individual’s removal from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s September Board of Trustees meeting through a less-heated lens.

MSD — as do many public bodies — has a per-person time limit for public comment. This is to ensure everyone wishing to speak has an opportunity to do so, and the meeting itself is run in an orderly manner — a manner that is respectful of the public’s time and business.

While MSD does have a time limit, additional time is frequently allowed. However, at the September meeting, nine people signed up to make comment, allowing for less flexibility. The time limit, the number of speakers and the request to limit the length of comments were clearly stated by the board chair before hearing from the first speaker.

The fourth speaker provided a nine-page document to each board member. The speaker read from a letter that was part of the document. Reading the letter far exceeded the time limit and the comments were clearly not coming to a close. On two occasions, she was asked by the board chair to either speed up or finalize her remarks. On a third occasion, when she was told her comments had to be concluded, she replied, “I refuse to yield the floor.” In response to that refusal, security was asked to step in. The person then attempted to disrupt the meeting.

As for the meeting minutes, they are reflective of the proceedings and in full compliance with state law — specifically Section 610.020.7 of the Missouri Revised Statutes — and MSD’s Charter.

Yes, all public officials have an obligation to hear from individual members of the public and, at MSD, we make every effort to do so. However, officials also have an obligation to others in attendance at meetings. In dealing with this situation, the individual was treated respectfully and politely — at no time did any person from MSD speak to or treat her in a fashion that was rude, curt or could in any other way be interpreted as disrespectful.

Anyone that doubts this — or believes the situation was not handled properly — is invited to listen to the audio recording and come to their own factual conclusions.