News Ticker

BOC meeting gets heated

Vice Mayor Ray Justice shared some screenshots of District 4 Commissioner Jennifer Milele’s Twitter account Monday, in which he says Milele made or retweeted racist or derogatory comments based on race or religion.
“It makes me sick in my stomach to have to do this,” said Justice.
Justice said he received the screenshots in June from a constituent. He passed them on to City Attorney Gino Marchetti to see if they met the threshold for an ethics violation. Marchetti ruled they did not. Justice asked to suspend the rules during New Business to present a resolution that said the City Commission denounced racially-motivated, divisive or reprehensible comments. He said the Wilson County Commissioners had the same resolution when they dealt with something similar in 2018. The resolution did not specify any individual.
Justice made a motion to limit debate on the issue to two minutes a commissioner, citing the many items left on the agenda. Milele objected because Justice used his time during Commissioner Reports to address the issue.
“He wants to silence me, it’s clear,” said Milele.
Commissioner Bill Trivett suggested they allow for five minutes, the time allowed in Commissioner Reports, and that passed.
Milele was first to comment. She said it was a character assassination on Justice’s part because he didn’t like that she had challenged him in the past.
“These are a bunch of twitter shots, that are not racist,” said Milele. “There is nothing racist in here. You are used to getting your way, you are used to the public not knowing what you are doing. I have exposed his agendas, his personal agendas, he doesn’t like it.”
She said that the posts were opinion, and she thought any punishment could infringe on her first amendment rights. She also said the posts were taken out of context. She asked that a clause be put in the resolution that it didn’t apply to items that would infringe on things that went against a person’s first amendment rights or things that are taken out of context. It did not get a second.
“You’re low, you should be ashamed,” said Milele. “I am not a racist, I am not a hater, how dare you.”
Trivett said that he was frustrated by the situation. He said the materials that Justice handed out don’t tell the whole story, because he can’t see the full Twitter thread.
“There is a missing gap,” said Trivett. “I am not sticking up for either side. Our City is much better than this.”
Commissioner Scott Hefner and Mayor James Maness said that they are in support of the resolution. They said it doesn’t specify any individual and what is contained in it is a standard which elected officials should be held. Hefner said that they hold City Employees to that standard, so elected officials should be too.
“I thought these already applied to elected officials, forgive my ignorance on that,” said Hefner.
Maness said he didn’t see Milele’s tweets as a free speech issue.
“I know just thumbing through it, I wouldn’t have posted it for sure,” said Maness. “You are responsible for what you post on there…You can be held accountable to the voters, this is not a free speech issue.”
Justice read a few of the tweets in question in his comments. One he said says “Can a good Muslim be a good American? Can a good Muslim be a good American Soldier? Really? The answer is no.”
Justice then shared that Milele’s account had been suspended by Twitter.
“If that upsets you, I am terribly sorry, but I didn’t post these,” said Justice.
Maness asked Milele if people could go on her Twitter account and see the full context of her tweets. She said she cannot get into the account, not even to cancel it.
The resolution passed with Milele voting against it because they wouldn’t add her amendment.
In other business, the Board of Commissioners approved a change to the Final Master Development Plan to the Silver Springs Planned Unit Development to add four single family lots. Within that change, Hefner requested that any blasting could not take place within 500 feet of the entry door of any other residential home.
Since it is a PUD, the Board of Commissioners can request it. Justice said in 2005 when sewer lines were put in the north side of town, they made it so they couldn’t do any blasting. There have been many recent complaints from citizens about damage to their homes from blasting.
“I am not sure whether it is the right thing or wrong thing to do in this situation,” said Maness.
Maness said that if they aren’t blasting, builders will have to resort to jackhammering or drilling. Both have their negatives and positives.
“There are other alternatives to blasting, granted they are going to be noisy,” said Hefner.
Hefner said it was better than someone having their foundation cracked, pool damaged, or any of the other issues that have happened in the past.
The ordinance passed unanimously.