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Heated BOCC meeting leaves tension in the air

by LAUREN REICHENBACH
Staff Writer | August 16, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Voices were raised and insults were thrown at the Bonner County commissioners meeting Tuesday after a heated argument regarding the county’s Planning Commission left tensions high.

Bonner County Planning Director Jacob Gabell came before the commissioners Tuesday morning with a request to reinstate two of the Planning Commission members – Randall Stolz and Debby Trinen. Both members have terms ending soon and Gabell said the commissioners could either choose to reinstate them or post the openings for county residents to apply.

Commissioner Asia Williams suggested that rather than reinstating the two, the commissioners open the positions for applications to see if there are other residents more qualified for those positions.

“I know there’s no rule that dictates it,” she said, “but [it would be beneficial] to be able to have a good amount of people with varied backgrounds on the commission that are respective of their rural areas.”

However, Commissioner Luke Omodt disagreed, saying he did not feel comfortable switching out members of the commission while the county is in the middle of constructing its new Comprehensive Plan. To change members now, he said, “would be sending us backward on our course.”

Commissioner Steve Bradshaw agreed, saying the current commission is working hard and he feels it would be destructive to separate them at this time.

“At this time, we actually have a commission that is working quite well together; they're actually accomplishing a lot,” he said. “I have no intention of interrupting that by not reappointing them.”

However, Williams said she believes there are many Bonner County residents who have been equally as or even more involved in drafting the Comprehensive Plan than current commission members. Williams asked the other two commissioners why they refused to reinstate the Bonner County Fair Board members who asked to be reinstated, yet they were determined to reinstate these two board members without further discussion.

Bradshaw rhetorically asked Williams if the fair board and Planning Commission were the same. Since they clearly are not the same, he asked, why would they be treated the same?

“Different issues, different department, different thing,” he said. “We take each item individually as that item is presented. We have the authority to appoint, not appoint or reappoint. You have an opinion, I have an opinion, Mr. Omodt has an opinion. We have the responsibility to vote according to how we feel and what we feel is best for the county.”

Bradshaw then stepped down as the chairman of the board and seconded Omodt’s motion to reinstate the two commission members. Bradshaw called for a vote but Williams interrupted, saying she wasn’t done speaking, prompting Bradshaw to respond that she was, in fact, done.

Williams then asked for an appeal to the motion, which Bradshaw accepted and asked if there was a second to the appeal. This answer, however, didn’t satisfy Williams, who told Bradshaw that this was not how Robert’s Rules of Order was supposed to work.

“I realize you want to do away with Robert’s Rules of Order because you don’t want to follow rules,” he said. “But without rules, this is what we have.”

Williams responded, saying that the other two commissioners were also not following the rules of order as they should.

“My problem is that you two don’t follow it,” she said. “You use it to silence me.”

After a few more back and forth comments, Bradshaw called for a 10-minute recess.

When the meeting reconvened, Bradshaw called for a roll call vote, which Williams immediately contested, claiming she had not finished discussing the topic,

“We have called for a vote, we have discussed it,” Bradshaw said. “You have expressed your opinion, I have expressed mine, Commissioner Omodt has expressed his … I call to vote.”

A few minutes of arguing between the two led Bradshaw to seemingly lose his patience with the bickering.

“I am the chairman,” he yelled. “You will respect that. Do you understand how this works? That’s why you don’t want the rules of order; it’s because you don’t want to follow them. All you want to do is fight. You want to start an argument and fight and that’s all the hell you want to do. You will follow these orders or you will not. Your choice. You can be an idiot in front of these people all you want to.”

After multiple minutes of the commissioners again talking over one another about the proper way to conduct the meeting, Omodt read the rules of order stating that an appeal did in fact need a second in order to be considered. The room eventually quieted down once more.

“We want to get the business of the county done, which is in the best interest of the county,” Bradshaw said to Williams. “You want to start a fight. We’ve had the discussion. Arguing back and forth is not going to change the answer, Miss Williams.”

A roll call vote was finally taken, and the Planning Commission members were reinstated to their positions in a 2-1 vote, with Williams voting no.

“See how easy that went without a fight?” Bradshaw asked Williams. “Just doing your job is all it requires. I am doing my job the way I see it to be done. I am the chairman, and I will run this meeting, thank you, ma’am.”

However, Williams did not seem pleased with these comments.

“The chairman is not allowed to be disrespectful,” she said. “You get away with it, but it’s not the right thing to do. I’m not doing anything other than giving an opinion specific to the topic item and you are losing it for no reason because you don’t want to answer questions. Fine. Stop with all the hate.”

Bradshaw responded that he did not hate her, he simply hated how she behaved during the meetings. The pair again began speaking over one another when Omodt interrupted and asked if they could move on to the next agenda item, which they then discussed without further incident.