New Ridgeway Council tackles old issues

Jones: ‘Release Bella.’
Harrison: ‘I’m Done.’

RIDGEWAY – About five minutes after the Ridgeway Town Council entered into executive session during their regular monthly meeting on April 12, Councilwoman Angela Harrison returned to the public meeting room, briskly gathered her purse and other belongings and announced, “I’m done!” She then walked out of the council chambers and slammed the town hall door loudly as she exited the building. Harrison did not return for the conclusion of the meeting. When asked about the incident, Harrison said, “I left for a very personal reason.”

Council had announced it was entering into executive session to discuss, “a contractual matter regarding audit proposals” and a ”personnel matter,” which newly elected Councilman Rufus Jones said regarded the uncrating of the town clerk’s dog during office hours and the removal of security cameras in the town hall office.

About 10 minutes after Harrison left the building, the other council members returned to the public meeting room and voted to return to public session.

Jones made a motion to uncrate Bella, Town Clerk Vivian Case’s service dog, who had been ordered crated [while in Case’s Town Hall office] by the former administration.  Jones’ motion also called for the removal of a security camera that was set by the previous administration to focus on the town clerk’s desk.

“I feel it’s a good thing to have the dog in there. She serves as a deterrent, and she’s not hurting anything being in there. Release Bella,” Jones said. “I also don’t think it’s necessary to have a camera directly over Vivian Case’s desk. I wouldn’t like every move I make to be watched. Vivian is a very trustworthy person. I think we should take that camera down and put it in another location in the Century House,” Jones said.

Council voted 4-0 in favor of both of Jones’ motions. The audience erupted in applause.

The Voice reported last year that Bella had been accompanying Case to work for four years when Herring’s administration tried unsuccessfully to evict the dog in January 2017. Herring claimed that she had received anonymous complaints about the dog and that the dog’s presence in Town Hall was not in compliance with the town’s dangerous breed ordinance.

However, The Voice discovered, after submitting a Freedom of Information request for the town’s dangerous breed ordinance, that the ordinance was specific to the pit bull breed, and that Bella was not incompliant with the ordinance since she is a Rottweiler.

Herring also sought to establish that Bella did not meet the requirements of a service dog.

To that end, council and the mayor spent more than $8,000 with attorneys last year trying, unsuccessfully, to prove, among other things, that the dog was not a service dog and that Rottweilers are a vicious breed. Council and the attorney did eventually make the concession that Bella could be uncrated for short periods of time inside the office if she was on a leash.