Chaotic Metro Council meeting sparks concern over whether parliamentary rules were violated

Chaotic Metro Council meeting sparks concern over whether parliamentary rules were violated
Eugene Collins (Source: WAFB)
Eugene Collins (Source: WAFB)
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It has been almost a week since the EBR Metro Council meeting went off the rails. In the end, roughly six people thrown out and one was arrested. The move has left many in the community shocked.

"I was disappointed all the way around that my words couldn't even leave my mouth before I was removed," said Eugene Collins.

Collins was among those tossed from the meeting. In video from the meeting, he can be seen approaching the microphone during public comment, then quickly being dismissed. He says it happened before he was even allowed to speak.

"When you look at the video, you see what happens," Collins explained. "The young lady before me got three minutes and I got five seconds, and that's my question to Mr. Wilson. What was the difference between her and I?"

WAFB's Scottie Hunter sat down with registered parliamentarian, Nicole Learson, to get her take on the meeting. She said the council is bound by Louisiana's public meetings law, which requires anyone be allowed to speak during public comment, but they must stay on topic.

"The rules and regulations are strictly set by that particular body and, of course, by the ordinances and statutes that govern them," Learson explained.

While the rules are clear, at least in two instances, Learson said the call to silence the speaker may have come too soon, including when local NAACP president, Mike McClanahan, addressed the council.

"A point of order was called during his introduction. He didn't actually get into what he wanted to discuss about the proposed item," Learson noted.

Learson said while speakers must remain on topic, shutting them down before they stray goes against procedure.

"That determination was made so quickly, I don't know if there was adequate enough time to determine whether or not that speaker actually had something to say that was germane to the topic at hand," she said.

Another concern from the meeting was fairness. It's something one speaker addressed head-on during the meeting.

"I said the same thing, but as soon as two black men said the words, 'Alton Sterling' and 'July 5th,' you guys violently grabbed them and removed them," said the speaker.

9News took the concerns to Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson, who said the accusations that he treated anyone unfairly are false.

"I think it was fair," Wilson said. "They're saying that other people were handled differently and that's not the case."

Wilson said some speakers were addressing a sewer item, while others were addressing an item about police policy during investigations. For that reason alone, he said, the time allotment was different.

"That's just part of the procedure. You stay on the agenda and you stay on the topic, but as far as individuals, you try to be fair and let everybody have an opportunity to speak at that meeting. It is an open meeting," he added.

Collins, though, does not buy it and said something needs to change.

"To me, that says that discriminatory practices are in place. I love this city to death. Baton Rouge is in my heart and I've been here all my life, but there's some things in our city that does need to change," Collins stated.

When asked if he remembers dismissing Collins before he could speak, Wilson said he did not recall.

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