Resident calls out supervisor for his comments

Published 12:59 pm Saturday, March 31, 2018

To the Editor:

At the Board of Supervisors’ recent meeting on March 26, 2018, it became quite obvious that representing the citizens was not nearly as important as becoming defensive against the public, who have the right to make comments at such meetings. Mr. [Barry] Porter, the representative from the Franklin District, read from a prepared statement his opinion of the comments that were made at the February meeting. The statements that he read were insulting to the public, especially those who had made comments during the public comment section about the removal of Dr. Alan Edwards from the Planning Commission or other recent actions of the Board of Supervisors. Because Mr. Porter was angered by the comments, he admonished citizens “to choose their heroes wisely.” Is expressing an opinion or questioning a decision about any member of the Board considered to be hero worship?

According to Mr. Porter, he felt it necessary to chastise residents who made public comments by saying, “How can you be so callous to the people who serve so diligently? You also have some responsibility to express in a somewhat civil discourse.” Does this mean that Mr. Porter is saying that those opinions of the recent actions of the Board, and the manner in which Dr. Alan Edwards handled himself as a member of the county’s Planning Commission, were not expressed in a civil manner? It appears that Mr. Porter would prefer that citizens not exercise the right of free speech during the Public Comments section of the monthly agenda.

The implication was made that those who had expressed opinions about the removal of Dr. Edwards and the replacement on the Commission by Mr. Bruce Phillips knew nothing about the rationale for the decision. At that point, Mr. Porter openly criticized and made inappropriate comments about his fellow supervisor, Dr. Alan Edwards, and the role Dr. Edwards had as a member of the Planning Commission. As in most matters of personnel and in the interest of presenting a united front by the Board of Supervisors, the comments about the manner in which Mr. Porter viewed Dr. Edward and his performance should not have been made in a public forum. If members of the Board disagree, the matter should be addressed in closed session. The public statement that Mr. Porter read had obviously been given thought and carefully prepared. If any citizen had any doubt about the ability of all supervisors to work together, the matter was clarified in the response Mr. Porter read to the public. It is my belief that should anyone have made comments in the public forum about Mr. Porter and his handling of any of his responsibilities, they would have found that he would not have sat and listened as Dr. Edwards did.

The very public attack made by Mr. Porter against Dr. Edwards and the citizens who used their free speech liberty to make comments at the February meeting was inappropriate and quite obviously made in an angry, defensive mode.

Mr. Porter later verbally attacked Dr. Edwards saying that Edwards had violated several points from the Code of Ethics.

Mr. Porter later made threats during the meeting to “bring charges against him (Dr. Edwards) if that was repeated.” He further stated in his prepared statement (which appeared on Friday in the Guest Column of The Tidewater News,) that he worked with fine gentlemen and named each supervisor by name except Dr. Alan Edwards.

Perhaps there is a need to be reminded that all members of the Board of Supervisors must agree to a Code of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics also is meant to be followed by each supervisor including Mr. Porter who failed to recognize his responsibility to follow the Code of Ethics concerning his role in working with all of the elected supervisors. Citizens expect responsible behavior by all supervisors. Mr. Porter made the statement to Dr. Edwards that, “We don’t always want to be fighting you.” What gives Mr. Porter the right to speak for all of the supervisors by saying, “Please join us. Will you do that? We look forward to working with you.” At this point in time, it is glaringly obvious that Mr. Porter has difficulty working with Dr. Edwards, and is willing to malign his ability to be a respected member of the Board of Supervisors.

Dr. Carolyn C. Modlin