The county council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to deny a petition asking the council to change its mind on moving the Confederate monument off the courthouse lawn.
The petition for rescission called on the Talbot County Council to introduce a resolution to rescind its Sept. 14 decision to relocate the monument to a Civil War battlefield in Virginia.
Shortly after the petition was read, Councilman Corey Pack made a motion to deny the petition, which was seconded by Councilman Frank Divilio.
Councilwoman Laura Price took issue with the rapid pace of the process.
“I thought we were just having discussion because now the first person to get to make a motion … nobody else has an opportunity to make a motion,” she said. “I thought we were just discussing and asking questions at the moment. But like the game show, we have to press the button fast enough.”
Price and Council President Chuck Callahan reiterated concerns from the Sept. 14 meeting at which a council majority voted to approve the administrative resolution to relocate the monument on the same night it was introduced and without first having a public hearing. Callahan and Price had voted Sept. 14 against relocation; Council Vice President Pete Lesher joined Divilio and Pack in voting for moving the statue.
Council members split along the same lines over the motion to deny the petition.
“I think public process was important, is still important. And I certainly would have liked to have seen this resolution go through a public process, especially with information that has that has come to light,” Price said. “Again, I guess I didn’t hit the buzzer fast enough, because I know the way this motion to deny is going to go down. It’s been motioned, it’s been seconded, it’s going to go the same way as the vote did two weeks ago. And once again, the public is going to get shut out of this process. And I wholeheartedly disagree with that.”
“So it’s kind of a shame that the public didn’t get the opportunity to do this. And it’s not the right way to go, in my opinion,” he said. “And I guess we’re just gonna keep moving forward.”
Pack, as he did Sept. 14, said the county council had opportunities to hold public work sessions on the Confederate monument “(a)nd it was not, it was not, was not done. So I think it’s not fair, it’s not appropriate, to now say that the public has been shut out. So that I just take issue with that characterization.”
But Price argued there was a difference between a public work session and a public hearing on a bill or resolution.
“We’ve heard about the entirety of the subject for the last year and a half when people come,” she said. “And I appreciate them coming and speaking at the end of you know, at the end of our meetings, absolutely. We’ve heard from it. And we know that nobody’s opinion was going to change.
“But when there is a bill or a resolution on the floor, I believe in transparency and a public process to come and have your three minutes to speak to the council in this setting, as opposed to just a work session,” Price said.
The three residents who filed the petition for rescission were among several people who spoke during the public comment period of the Sept. 28 meeting.
Lynn Mielke, David Montgomery, and Clive Ewing questioned the process and asked at least one council member to ask the county attorney to draft a resolution to rescind the monument’s relocation.
Mielke said a May 28 legal opinion from the county attorney outlined the process, “which is that a council member … can introduce a resolution or ask the attorney to write a resolution consistent with the request of the petitioner, which is what we thought we would get a vote on today, not to be railroaded by an out-of-order motion to not consider the petition.
“It was wrong. It was the wrong process,” she said. “I think it was out of order under Robert’s Rules of Order.
“And I can only think of the saying that democracy dies in darkness. Well the sun’s setting on Talbot County,” Mielke said.
Ewing said he was “exceptionally concerned regarding the lack of transparency to adopt the administrative resolution to relocate the Talbot Boys statue out of state.
“The manner of how this action was accomplished brings into doubt the legitimacy of the process, which is why I and others have petitioned this council to rescind this administrative resolution,” he said. “I’m baffled why the majority of the council continues to disregard the input of and the questions from so many in the community in this matter. I am baffled why there was even a vote tonight on that, when all that was requested was that a single council person instruct the attorney to draft a resolution.
“I’ll humbly submit that that vote was taken out of order. Alright, I’d ask y’all to revisit that. And I think after this meeting, you certainly can direct the attorney to do just that,” Ewing said. “There’s no doubt there’s powerful forces most if not all, from outside the borders of Talbot County that have found their way to influence this council. Of course, local councils like this one, are intended to represent the interests of the actual local citizens, not third parties, not Annapolis, politicians, certainly not the well-connected individuals who have chosen Easton and Talbot County to fulfill their own vision and interpretation of history.
“I thank the members of this council who have acted in good faith and resisted the meddling of those who have targeted this county for their latest political or social cause,” he said. “For the remainder of the council, I certainly hope you will reconsider if it is truly in the best interest of the community at large to send this monument out of state. I submit to you that the vast majority of Talbot countians believe this monument dedicated to Talbot County men must remain in Talbot County.”
Montgomery said the petitioners “will submit the petition again, a new petition for a new number and ask the same thing and hope it’s dealt with properly procedurally, but maybe we could just move forward.
“All it takes is for one county council member in an open session or in writing to ask the county attorney to draft a resolution in form and substance like the petition requested,” he said. “So I would just like to ask one member of the county council to make that request between now and the next meeting.”