Harrison’s criticism of council mailings backfires

RIDGEWAY – During last week’s town council meeting, which amounted to little more than ‘he-said she-said,’ Councilwoman Angela Harrison, who had not attended the last three town council meetings, complained that someone had made public a letter of complaint written to town hall by Dr. Roberta Howard, Assistant Principal of Geiger Elementary School. Harrison said she was sure it was a council member who had made the letter public and that a citizen had then forwarded Howard’s letter to Fairfield County School Superintendent J. R. Green, complaining that Howard had written the letter.

While Harrison offered no proof that any of the council members had made the letter public, correspondence to the town government from citizens is generally public information and can be obtained by any citizen or the media with either a verbal re quest or a Freedom of Information request (Sec. 30-4-30 of the Freedom of Information Act).

Harrison charged that council members send out emails or other correspondence without first sharing a copy with her.

“So you’re saying you’ve never shared any of these complaints with the public? Councilman Dan Martin asked.

“Huh?” Harrison asked Martin.

“You’re saying you never shared any of these emails with the public? Martin repeated.

“I was just saying that…” Harrison began.

“I’m asking you,” Martin interrupted, “did you share any of these emails with anyone in the public?

“Yes” Harrison said. “But did I try to ruin someone’s life by calling Dr. Green to complain about freedom of speech? This is America. This is freedom of speech. We all have a right and none of us should be retaliated against because we’re speaking it. I feel retaliated against because I’m not being afforded the information that’s coming out of this council or from the mayor or anybody else. And people are getting accosted,” Harrison continued.

“No one should be standing on the porch and be accosted by anybody because they asked a simple question. If you’re telling people to go attack other people, things need to come to a stop. This is America, not Russia,” Harrison said. “You are messing with people’s lives.”

Harrison claimed she had been accosted, but did not give any details of the incident.

“So if I’m understanding this, you said you sent out a correspondence without letting council see it first?” Mayor Heath Cookendorfer asked Harrison.

“Yes, I did,” Harrison said.

“Who did you share it with,” Cookendorfer asked.

“The NAACP,” Harrison answered.

“That is the only one you shared information with?” Cookendorfer asked.

“Yes, that I’m aware of,” Harrison said.

Martin picked up a paper from his desk.

“I was given this the other day,” Martin said. “You posted on social media that you had forwarded an email to WLTX,” Martin said, and read from what he said was a copy of Harrison’s Facebook post: ’This is a sad day for Ridgeway. There definitely needs to be an investigation [in]to all the ‘mistakes’ in our system and all the complaints against employees that are ignored. The emails keep coming…’”

“Yep,” Harrison interjected.

Martin continued reading from Harrison’s post.

“‘This particular one [email] proves collusion. I stand against conspiracy,’” Martin read.

“Then you got a response from a citizen that said, ‘So did I. I sent it to all three [TV] stations, SLED and the FBI and more,’” Martin continued as Harrison talked over him.

“So you shared it [email] with WLTX-TV, the NAACP and our citizens,” Martin said.

“We can share anything we want.” Harrison said. “So, yeah.”

“So what I’m hearing is that you want us to provide all the information with you that we send out,” Cookendorfer said to Harrison. “But you say you sent an email to WLTX-TV, the NAACP and a citizen. Did anyone else on council see that document?”

Harrison pointed out that they now have the information she posted.

“You want us to provide you with our information,” Cookendorfer repeated, “but you don’t want to provide us with your information.”

In the end, Harrison agreed that she, too, would provide the town with any correspondence she sent out, saying it would be a joint effort.

In other business, council disclosed that the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints had scheduled a workday in Ridgeway for April 2019 and wanted suggestions as to where in the town their clean-up services might be best used.

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