Tuesday evening’s county commission meeting started off with high tension as one animal rights activist came down hard and heavy on Hendry County commissioners. The board opted to allow public comment at the beginning of the meeting for speakers pressuring the board to rescind permits to controversial primate breeding facilities in the southern part of the county.
Obviously insulted and unwilling to allow free rein to incivility, Chairman Michael Swindle cut the first speaker short after she dubbed him “Commissioner Swindler” and called the board “sociopaths,” accusing them of deliberate wrongdoing. Chairman Swindle allowed other speakers to go forward. All gave voice to their concerns without insulting and belittling the board.
Commissioner Karson Turner stated that the board should not allow itself to be “overwhelmed by hyperbole” and was appalled at the “level of ingenuousness” displayed by some speakers.
At the end of the meeting, County Attorney Mark Lapp explained that it is appropriate for the board to maintain proper conduct and decorum and could limit speakers.
The board unanimously voted to decrease its standard three-minute speaking rule for non-agenda public comment to one minute per speaker.
The board also considered the issue of prayer before meetings. Attorney Lapp explained that the Supreme Court has confirmed opening public meetings with prayer by “rotating clergy,” but not led by commissioners.